A press release issued by the Department of Work and Pensions this afternoon outlines tough new sanctions on the unemployed, using inflammatory language. The press release states that the long term unemployed will be ‘targeted by a hit squad’ of ‘specialists’ where they will either find work or lose their access to benefits.
The Government has a whole host of programmes purportedly in place to support the jobless back into paid employment. Workfare refers to all of the programmes which are mandatory, long term and paid less than minimum wage.
Earlier this year, as all but one of the WorkFare schemes were found to compel a person’s labour and deemed illegal by the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice. The response of Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, was that the regulations would simply be redrafted, the work programmes continued and not a penny would be paid out in compensation.
True to his word, the department did rewrite the regulations by mid-afternoon and presented them to parliament for approval the same day. This now becomes an Emergency Law. The DWP is seeking to ensure not only the continuance of workfare, but that previous victims will not receive the compensation in returned benefits promised to them by the court verdict.
While the court says the schemes are illegal, all people subject to them are free to leave and all those who’ve had their benefits withdrawn are entitled to recompense – the government simply says no. Don’t like the verdict? Change the Law.
The announcements today lay out the new approach, which amounts to harassment of those unemployed people who find themselves subject to workfare.
The New Regime
The DWP seems to have concluded that compelling the unemployed to offer their labour to corporations for no more than the social security payments they are entitled to as citizens of this country is not punishment enough for being unemployed. Today they announce a new penalty scheme applicable to anyone who has been through the workfare programme. These sanction include:
- An end of term report following their Workfare period
- The loss of all social security support
- Visiting a job centre advisor every day
Claimants will be expected to be on a training scheme or a new workfare scheme within days of finishing on the Work Programme – losing their benefit if they fail to comply.
Every person completing a Workfare programme will be required to register with Universal Jobmatch, and allow their adviser to check their work search activity online.
The sanctions regime will see anyone failing to comply with mandatory activity lose benefit for 4 weeks for a first failure, with penalties of up to 3 years for ‘serial offenders’.
Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said:
“We’ll be stepping up the pressure on claimants, who will be expected to attend the Jobcentre more frequently, with rigorous monitoring to ensure they are doing everything they can to find work.”
Punishing the Poor
These ‘inducements’ amount to nothing more than the state forcing its’ poorest constituents to accept the lowest wages and the poorest conditions on offer, as the social safety net is torn away. It is a gift to corporations, who have already been reducing the wages of UK staff for more than a decade. The government can redirect yet more funds from public good to private profit, whilst the corporations can get either tax payer funded free labour through workfare, or pay poverty wages to those escaping workfare. It is yet another decision against the interests of the majority.
You can read the full press release here.
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