Workfare gets less people into work

The ConDem and Iain Duncan Smith in particular have trumpeted their desire to bring about ‘a change in culture’ by stopping ‘skiving’ from benefit claimants. Anyone who has been unemployed knows that this whole scenario is a fiction, made up by rich people to dump the blame for economic crisis and joblessness on those that are its victims. 

Their solution, the Workfare programme, brings in private companies with contracts to place claimants in work. They receive start up fees for each claimant of up to £600 but provide very poor, if any, training and support. If the claimant gets a job under their own steam in this time, the company receives a payment while the claimant receives nothing. If the claimant does not manage to find a job, the company loses nothing at all. 

In any year, the Department of Work and Pensions would expect 9.2% of claimants to find work. Last month, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons reported that Workfare had only managed to place 3.6% of claimants in work. This badly missed the target set by the government of 11.9%. It means that the Workfare programme has not only failed to meet its targets but is actually worse than the government doing nothing at all.

Of the private companies raking in public money for this programme, not one managed to meet its minimum target with the best only placing 5% of claimants and the worst 2%. This means that the best is twice as bad as doing nothing at all while the worst is five times worse. 

Remarkably, a company providing these exceptional services for those under 25s on Incapacity Benefit managed to place none of its claimants in a job lasting six months. We have to give it to these companies and this Workfare programme - they really have to work quite hard to be this useless. 

The rub is that this spectacular mess of a policy that does nothing to get people into work actually will cost an extra £3 to £5 billion over 5 years. This money could have maintained benefits that have been abolished or it could have been invested into creating jobs directly rather than making companies rich that are providing no jobs. 

The reasons why this programme has failed so abysmally and cost so much is that there has been no real ‘change in the culture’. The government is still giving money to private companies often owned and run by their buddies and party donors without genuinely being interested in helping the poorest in our society. The whole Workfare programme amounts to a gigantic rip off of the public purse while lumping blame on the unemployed. 

The truth is that there are no jobs in the economy that are going to last at the moment. ConDem policies have led to an unprecedented economic contraction lasting five years so far. As the loss of confidence marked by the loss of the AAA credit rating continues, the pound will fall and economic problems will grow. The government should be investing in job creation projects, public services and infrastructure but is cutting all these instead, destroying more jobs. 

Another reason why there are no jobs is that there are a record number of people forced into unpaid work for companies such as Superdrug, Argos or Shoezone. In the last year, 166,000 were working in unpaid jobs so depressing wages for the rest of us. The figure is the highest since Gordon Brown’s New Deal in 1998, when you at least got a subsidy for the unpaid work. It means that no one has money to spend and so more jobs are lost. This is part of a deliberate government policy to freeze wages and lower living standards that started under the Labour government in 2005.

by Chris Chilvers
Respect Party National Secretary