I’m currently tied up in a series of one-day courses and while they need to be studied for, they’re also very interesting indeed and give a good overview of what’s in the pipeline re debt, employment and benefits [the latter two the area I've been working in].
While all of us sign a confidentiality clause, there are certain trends which can be spoken about. One of them is the really appalling new trend in throwing people off disability, leaving them no option but to try for ESA and no hope in making the required points. This is the single most frightening because it includes the genuinely incapacitated.
This is where the gung-ho view “get the buggers off the public purse”, a commendable view in terms of those scamming the system, is anything but commendable when medical assessors are looking at someone disabled, e.g. crippled and because he can still move one hand, he’s fit for work, in terms of withdrawing his benefits. This one can be fiercely debated and I’m with those who want the scamming to stop but what about the genuine cases – the baby goes out with the bathwater and all for political brownie points.
Another one is the trend with the work programme firms of breaching their brief, which was to put people into sustained employment but instead forcing them, on pain of DWP sanctions, into non-jobs which last a few weeks or a month or two, causing two things to happen. Firstly, the non-job means that, even with WTCs and other discounts, the person is bringing in about half of what he was before – he loses his rental accommodation and it puts him on the council’s doorstep, where the new trend is “shared accommodation”, as the council has sold off half its properties to pay for the Iceland debacle or whatever. Then he ends up on the DWP’s doorstep again, signing back on.
Work for dole is something I have no issue with at all and the mechanics are thus: £2.25ph as against NMW of £5.90 or so. However, with housing benefit at maybe £400pcm plus council tax credits at maybe £900 a year, that comes out to £3.07ph plus £0.58ph and so the work-for-doler is actually getting £5.90 an hour in real terms but misses WTCs and other little perks. Still, it’s reasonable in terms of what NMWers are getting – people who went out and got those jobs.
The problem is that employers see the £2.25 and if they can get a good crop of dolers at that price, then why pay £5.90 and be subject to employment law? The question is whether they can get that but in the trying, what is that doing to our hopes of building up industry again in this country and to any sort of job security at the lower end of the scale?
Of course there is the historical solution – cause a war. Think the U.S. are patiently waiting just beyond the gulf, aren’t they?