Sunday, February 22, 2015

More workfare, less pay #GE2015

Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre to support Tony Cox and affirm claimants' right to be accompanied
Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre to support Tony Cox and affirm claimants’ right to be accompanied

This week the Conservatives announced in their manifesto they would introduce a new ‘community’ workfare scheme, specifically targeted at young people.

This is odd because chancellor George Osbourne had already launched just such a workfare scheme last year – and neither David Cameron, Osbourne, nor the media appear to remember it. Our first thought was that Cameron, Osbourne and co have been quaffing the Bolly to the point of extinguishing a massive complement of brain cells and memories.

However, there’s more going on here than over-indulgence in expensive champagne.

What does this workfare reboot really tell us? That workfare as a policy must be in enormous trouble if it has to be rebranded and relaunched on a yearly basis. Successful polices don’t need constant spin and retreads. And this tells us that the public is just not buying workfare. But then why would they when it replaces  jobs?

But then this latest ‘new’ workfare announcement is just more poorly thought out PR masquerading as a manifesto policy. A large number of workfare schemes already exist, and it is a proven fact that they do not work. They are very expensive failures. The Work Programme for example is a £5 billion failure, while the existing Community Work Placement scheme costs £235 million alone and is faltering badly with over 500 charities pledging not to take part in the scheme – and with more signing up every week.

More recently, the DWP evaluated the London Mayor’s ‘Day One Support for Young People’ (DOSfYP) workfare scheme. The DOSfYP scheme, like this new community workfare scheme presently touted by the Tories, was also targeted at young people. It cost £12 million and its chief outcome was to deter young people from claiming JSA – while making no difference to young people’s employment chances at all (see p. 28 of the evaluation here).

This post-election workfare scheme will be backed by benefit sanctions, which the Trussell Trust has linked to the huge increase in the use of foodbanks.  Among other things, workfare schemes deter people from accessing the welfare payments that they are entitled to. We see this in the fact that disengagement is now a real issue at local level, with one million unemployed people not claiming any benefit and ‘falling between the gaps’.

Our campaign has shown that once people discover a charity is using workfare, it becomes immensely damaging for its brand. People now know that implementing workfare means implementing poverty. The 500+ signatories of the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign also demonstrate that workfare is not what the third sector wants or needs.

Nobody, not least young people, should be sanctioned, stigmatised and sent on workfare for what are wider political and economic policy failures. Workfare and sanctions are social disasters and nobody – especially the third sector – should be involved.

Feel the same as we do? Then take action on the 25 February in solidarity with a member of the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network who was arrested coming out of Arbroath Job Centre. His only crime was advising a claimant of her rights.

Boycott Workfare