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Workfare: it’s failed, but that won’t stop this government

real crime is workfare, pic by Boycott WorkfareAs from this week, if you’ve been out of work for a year, you’re put through the Work Programme for 2 years and then if you emerge with no job, as many do, you’re into workfare disguised under the deceitful title of Help to Work. What this means was spelt out by Osborne at last year’s Tory party conference: “We are saying there is no option of doing nothing for your benefits, no something-for-nothing any more”.

This blithely ignores the fact that people are not actually getting something for nothing at present at all; you only get unemployment benefit (at the derisory level of £71 a week, the lowest in Europe) if you’ve contributed for a substantial period in national insurance contributions. You are certainly expected to try hard to get a job, but not punished if you can’t find one and certainly not denied the benefit you’ve earned if you’re five minutes for a job interview (as regularly happens now through ‘sanctioning’). Osborne then went on with his workfare prescription: “They will make meals for the elderly, clear up litter, work for a local charity. Others will be made to attend the jobcentre every working day”. But does it work?

As it happens, the DWP for once did a proper control study to find out involving 15,000 unemployed people. Some were put through 26 weeks of ‘intensive Jobcentre Plus support’, some were subjected to the workfare ‘community action programme’, and the rest were put into a control group who didn’t have to do any of these things. Very significantly, exactly the same proportion of the control group (slightly under a fifth) found work as those forced to do community work. In other words, workfare made no difference at all. But the DWP and Osborne are still going ahead with this £300m exercise even though they know it doesn’t work.

But there two other aspects to this saga which are never mentioned, but very relevant. One is that whilst the unemployed are expected to do all they can to get a job, the government (Osborne) are expected to do all they can through their economic policy to ensure the jobs are created to enable the maximum number of jobless people to get those jobs. Osborne however is deliberately prolonging austerity which massively restricts those jobs.

The other aspect is this: if Help to Work is the rubric to require unemployed people to perform the duty of workfare, the Labour Party should introduce a Duty to Contribute to require the rich – through specially targeted taxes – to make a proportionate or progressive contribution. Given their extreme wealth, the least they to fund essential national needs such as the NHS, housebuilding and infrastructure.


  1. PoundInYourPocket says:

    And will Labour see that access to benefits should be a “right” rather than used as a tool to control behaviour, or will it just retain the present system ?

  2. David Ellis says:

    Workfare is not about getting people back into decent paid employment so naturally on those terms it will always fail as all woefully expensive and futile `job creation’ schemes must. Where it succeeds is in the humiliation and torture of the poor and unemployed for the benefit of the Daily Mail brigade and more importantly for the Old Etonian British Ruling Class in funneling public funds into the pockets of their scam-running school chums thereby maintaining the pretence that capitalism is still somehow profitable rather than parasitical and lining their own pockets. From a Tory perspective it’s a roaring success.

  3. Robert says:

    These days I expect Miliband to buy the Sun and the Mail read them see what the comments are and then say something like, well labour will cap it and then wait.

    Those caps are handy they mean labour do not have to make a policy or decision.

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