Yet another Welfare Green Paper will mean cheap labour, reducing costs, a Victorian notion of the ‘undeserving poor’ and creating a new market off the the backs of some of the most vulnerable in the UK,
They include proposals for
Disabled claimants and others
A requirement for all claimants in the employment and support allowance (ESA) work related activity group to undertake general work related activity
An overhaul of the medical certification system, as proposed by Dame Carol Black away from sick notes towards the controversial (and much derided) Well Note’
An full implementation of the Freud review devolving back to work powers to private and voluntary sector providers with providers to be paid by results)
drug users will be required to undergo treatment to overcome their addiction and get back into work
Increased funding for access to work and workstep programmes ( access to work will receive double its current funding)
Attendance of compulsory training with consultation on whether this will apply to those on IB, ESA and lone parents with children above the age of five
The possibility of allowing claimants to choose their back to work provider
exploring ways that disabled adults can be given greater control over the combined budget which the government spends on their support
In terms of Jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
New claimants will face mandatory back to work ‘group sessions’ and ‘skills health checks’, new "directed job search stages" and after six months ‘supported ‘job search stages where they must widen the scope of jobs they look for and sign on weekly,
There will be 26 week benefits sanction for non attendance or failure to take a job and even an additional two week sanction for failure to comply with an agreed activity in the claimant's action plan)
After one year claimants will be transferred over to a public or voluntary sector provider and required to do at least four weeks "full time activity", but which can be as long as needed if it is relevant in preparation for the goal of sustained work, after two years there may be full time work programmes with private and voluntary sector providers
There will be tougher sanctions for those who fail to take steps to get back to work or refuse a job
This is all very disturbing, while much of this has already been announced and the announcement that the 'Access to Work' budget is to be doubled is positive news, it is clear as was predicted by SWAN and others that we are moving towards a US style minimal, high surveillance and invasive welfare system: many of these reforms are very coercive indeed, the levels of conditionality and sanctions extreme and also are predicated on a buoyant job market. This is now looking unlikely as recessions hits. It is likely it will become treasury led as a vehicle to reduce public expenditure and will increasingly be just about getting the ‘welfare costs’ lower
It appears all parties support these reforms, reforms which are occurring right across the neo-liberal economies in Europe and beyond, taking their lead form the U.S. In an excellent article on Compass Online 'New Labour And The End Of Welfare’ Jonathan Rutherford' exposed the genesis of the welfare reforms and the Freud review, but also the links between the now global nature of welfare identifying global insurance companies, such as the rogue’US insurance giant Unum Provident and the massive influence they have with all Governments, etc. Welfare is now big business....
‘This annual multi-billion pound market and the creation of regional monopolies ‘would attract major players from around the world’ (p62-3, Freud Review). As Freud concludes: ‘The fiscal prize is considerable’.
The idea of welfare to work and claimants undertaking some community work may on the surface seem appealing to the average hard pressed worker, but is it right that people will be working for 1.60 an hour? This is similar to the Harz Laws in Germany and the ‘one Euro’ job, however these were faced by mass protests and are still being contested
One can also argue they have not been successful, In the U.S Clintonian ‘tough love’ welfare policies has led to a revolving poor of low wages, welfare cuts, coercion by private agancies, periods of ill health and in cases of addicts , prison as people try to survive. Significantly, in places like New York City, people on welfare to work programmes have replaced low income city workers, like gardeners, janitors, street cleaners, basic maintenance etc.
While a Canadian Govt report indicated their Welfare To Work programmes just didn’t achieve their aims. The report clearly showing there had been no increase in the numbers of employable welfare clients declaring employment income after leaving welfare. Many in fact had actually have died on the streets.
Many progressive commentators are calling these reforms ‘ a move to a new Workhouse*, something SWAN would certainly concur with: its is clear that claimants will have fewer rights and entitlements, be faced with unacceptable
survillance by private companies, face severe benefit sanctions etc, the Govt makes clear responsibilities will come before ‘entitlements’
SWAN has said before it support the idea of focussed good quality support to claimants who feel ready to accept it, but it must be without coercion, not be profit driven and in the best interests of the claimant. These reforms seem to be about cheap labour, reducing costs, a Victorian notion of the ‘undeserving poor’ and creating a new market off the the backs of some of the most vulnerable in the UK, therefore with some omissions these reforms do not fulfil those principles
SWAN urges all its allies to challenge these ‘reforms’ and write to James Purnell, their M.P’s, Unions, faith groups, charities, to apply as much pressure so these draconian ‘reforms’ are rejected….
The reforms may be surprisingly have largely been welcomed by the 'liberal' press: Guardian, Independent, as well of course the conservative press.
However, Labour M.P John McDonnell has come out strongly against them as has some unions, notably the PCS.