Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Work For Benefit: The New Helots.

with 22 comments

This article appears in the December issue of Labour Briefing – a left journal strongly critical of the present government. 

Work for Your Benefit: Labour’s New Helots. 

Welfare reform legislation is due to be one of this Government’s enduring legacies. From this autumn there will be two benefits: Jobseeker’s Allowance, and Employment and Support Allowance. Already there is pressure on medical assessors to channel those on Incapacity Benefit into the former, where many lone parents and others will also eventually join them. JSA brings a lower income – down to the standard rate of £64.30 a week, in contrast to £89.80, the starting point of incapacity allowance – and, after six months, puts claimants on the Flexible New Deal. This, being tried out in large parts of the country, will eventually replace all existing welfare-to-work schemes. For a year the jobless will be farmed out to private companies, intensively advised and obliged to carry out a minimum of four weeks of “work related activity” (they may be “advised” to do much more).

This sounds relatively benign. It replaces 13 weeks in “work placements” of dubious value or simply stuck in “training centres” (where the only “training” is sitting in front of computers “job searching” for work that does not exist) of the previous New Deal. However, the Government has learned nothing from its experience of farming out the New Deal to private companies, two of which at least have been accused of malpractice. The faith-led YMCA has also run schemes. Most have scraped through their contracts with low employment outcomes and feeble training standards. The approximately 600,000 claimants who have faced sanctions for not complying with every aspect of the schemes shows how they are used to punish people. If participants were in charge of inspections, the companies would fail in an instant – yet the DWP has been told to contract out its new scheme to the same bodies.

The new regime will closely regulate people’s lives. Partners of JSA claimants will also have to seek work actively. Those dependent on drugs and alcohol will undergo compulsory rehabilitation. There is no clear notion of what will happen if they fail, other than they will have no benefits.

Most worryingly, after two years unemployment people will be forced onto the Work for Benefits programme. This will involve full time activity in “training options, short term work trials, a remuneration subsidy for employers to take them, or voluntary work in the local community,” (DWP October 2009). With unemployment set to rise to 3 million by October next year, when this policy is enforced, they will have plenty of compelled “volunteers”.

Some argue that since JSA is supplemented by housing and council tax benefit, it is “fair” to work for this money. However, those further benefits are paid at varying rates, making the overall pay rates different between individuals – and still leaving them well below the minimum wage.

This all raises fundamental issues. First, why should those who through no fault of their own have no job be forced to do what has up to now been the task of those sentenced to do community service by the courts? Indeed, what will happen to community service orders when the long-term unemployed start to undertake similar “sentences”?

Second, this will corrupt the voluntary sector, parts of which are already gearing up for it. The character of the voluntary sector will change. The nature of forced labour is to give power to the employer while discouraging the worker, making them dependent on the goodwill of the employer. The rights of volunteers are not the same as those on paid contracts. Groups and no doubt individuals will profit financially.

Third, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that cash-strapped local government will see this as an opportunity to plug gaps in their services. A tied labourer is cheaper than a paid employee. In areas as disparate as home helps to environmental projects volunteering could become a new national service, replacing those working for real salaries.

Those opposed to welfare reform have to date had little impact on Brown’s take it or leave it decision that this is the direction welfare will go in. The umbrella initiatives organised by the TUC have petered out in well-meaning but ineffective lobbying by a coalition of “antipoverty” NGOs with some union support. There are now signs of a more militant approach emerging from unions of the unemployed and other groups. There are web sites promoting opposition and plans for a decent benefit system that could really cope with people’s needs. As mass unemployment returns pressure for change will increase.

 Labour looks set to leave behind a new class of helots – the work-for-the dole underclass. An incoming Conservative Administration will have plenty of conscripts for its plans for workfare. Both ideas were pioneered by the same person – once adviser to Labour and now the Tories, the exceedingly wealthy Lord Freud.

Andrew Coates

􀁺For more information, visit Ipswich Unemployed Action: https://intensiveactivity.wordpress.com/


Written by Andrew Coates

November 27, 2009 at 9:27 am

22 Responses

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  1. Another great post Andy!

    Where do I start… I guess from the beginning!

    Ipswich Unemployed Action and New Deal Scandal has been reporting on New Deal for some time now.

    For a quick explanation of the differences between New Deal and Flexible New Deal please see http://newdealscandal.wordpress.com/#comment-1132

    1) Sanctions are relatively unlawful punishment. While you are sanctioned you are technically still entitled to benefit, however, you receive no money although you have to sign on, this all due to something that happened months ago.

    This is a major concern how no politican has raised sanctions to a high level and questioned them at Parliamentary level.

    The system should be either being entitled or not entitled. If one week you lose entitlement for example because you didnt seek employment you should be signed off and banned from signing on for a week further (i.e. lose say 2 weeks money – benefit is done on a benefit week and paid every 2 weeks – the extra week is due to prevent people using such as a loophole) and not a sanction of up to 6 months.

    With New Deal is even more controversial. When you are in training you are exempt from actively seeking employment and being available for work. That means everyone on New Deal is entitled to their benefit regardless of behaviour. Any 2 week sanction (or 4 week/16 week for further offences) is plain wrong. For example, a New Deal sanctionable offence is “not actively participating in activities” – although there is law enabling the sanction for this, it isn’t a native condition of Jobseekers Allowance and jobseekers signed up to the Jobseekers Allowance and not to receive a Training Allowance that is done by Jobcentre Plus.

    So whereas you can be “exited” for refusing job search or not meeting your weekly target, being on New Deal relaxes the conditions so technically under law you aren’t even obligated to do any job search whatsoever.

    2) I have had periods of unemployment over the years and have signed on. I have never claimed housing allowance or any other benefits. There is also jobseekers who get the lower rate of just over £50 per week – so could be working for £10 per day. Think of the travel and food costs that has to come out of that.

    3) Yeah, it will be Community Service. There isn’t much under law to state that they can’t treat jobseekers as criminals i.e. both can do the same job – side by side. The issue here which is a Humans Right one is, you can’t force people to work – except under punishment such as Community Service which is an exemption. Unless they create a controversial law where unemployment is a crime subject to Community Service punishment they can’t force you to work for your benefit. The laws wouldn’t be worth the paper its written on.

    They have been planning this for some time even before Flexible New Deal. There is a reason why they have pushed back the dates of commencing this. I feel that there will be a compromise just before it is supposed to come in force. After all this is a pilot scheme (wont be nationwide) and is unlikely to be as mandatory as made out to be.

    4) Voluntary sector is already corrupt, but lets not go there. There are two types of non-profit (to my definition) Native charities with a cause (i.e. cancer charities, third world, rspca, nspcc etc.) and non-profit organisations with (or without) charitable status i.e. art trusts, YMCA Training etc.

    I can’t see anyone forced to work deliberately doing wrong against a native charity but all other non-profits will be destroyed by this. The problem is it will force jobseekers into hardcore Community Service jobs… litter picking, cleaning up dog litter, painting fences… typical council jobs that always need doing – because no non-profit organisation is willing to have “liabilities” giving their organisation a bad name. These organisations will just refuse to sign on for it.

    This means loss of jobs at the Councils – which doesn’t help the problem just makes it worse. With unemployment growing again and banks recovered, before you know it we will dip into another recession and the economy will take an almost fatal blow and we will then be stuck with accepting the Euro as currency.

    5) I am working on an alternative; a solution to unemployment which is almost opposites to Labour’s and the Conservatives plans. Watch this space.

    Flexible New Deal

    November 27, 2009 at 12:32 pm

  2. Thanks Flexy, this was made for a wider audience, and lacks the kind of detail you have made it your business to unearth.

    We always need more detail from real experience. That’s our trade mark: base everything on what happens on the ground.

    Hope to hear from more people with them.

    Andrew Coates

    November 27, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    • Yeah I am trying to make sure that any generic term that a jobseeker with bad experience may search for shows on of our sites.

      A very good article nevertheless!

      Flexible New Deal

      November 27, 2009 at 4:58 pm

  3. the first three lines’ of the above post is enough,i am seeing my gp with a view to transferring to employment support allowance,the reason the job centre are the cause.

    you cannot expect to treat people the way they are treated and not expect an effect on peoples health.

    the job centre through there reckless practices are the cause of my visit.blatantly breaking laws and rules while offering sham “job seekers charters” or job seekers agreements that are to all purposes meaningless. i have had enough.

    this all means the chances of employment are slimmer all the time,i dread health questioners this organisation has done its best to make sure that this continues to be an upheld view.


    November 27, 2009 at 6:14 pm

  4. If I went into possibly dangerous territory I would give details of what I refer to obliquely as the corruption of the Voluntary sector.

    Suffice to say that there is a c*nt, who is one of those responsible for the ‘volunteering’ in Ipswich who hates ‘foreigners’ and people on the dole. Hey, he hates us lot. A dyed-in-the-wool fascist in short. He will talk of his loathing of foreigners at the drop of a hat. And us on the Dole, after. We are scroungers -except him. He is ensconsed in the CSV, Media Centre. Portman Road. In great pomp. To my knowledge they have not got rid of this person (I use the word person loosely).

    Coatesy no longer has anything to do with CSV.

    Andrew Coates

    November 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

    • Thats interesting, because CSV Media (stands for Community Service Volunteers – in case anyone else wondered) in Portman Road is used by a lot of different people from all walks of life.

      I forgot about CSV… do you think/know that they will be part of the Work for your Benefit scheme?

      I was refered to CSV media by jobcentre plus at stage 3 to gain experience. I declined it because it was voluntary (although jobcentre made a fuss about it) to gain work experience. I couldn’t see how it would improve my actual experience in a workplace.

      I have worked there as a volunteer before on reception, ICR FM, MV etc. didn’t mind it at all, CSV also gave free lunch from the van, but employers aren’t looking for that on CV’s etc. You soon become just a figure in your own right. That is… everything is the same day-in-day out, you do it for your benefit (of gaining experience), not theirs… as someone else will do it if you don’t, you are very limited with discretion and not really involved in anything that really “make[s] a difference”. I find it difficult to get satisfaction from it thats all.

      I am rather disappointed that CSV hasn’t got rid of that c*nt. Not sure if I know of “it” though…

      Flexible New Deal

      November 29, 2009 at 8:43 pm

  5. by reading flexible new deal the tone suggests your more likely to land a sanction then earn a living is whats expected.


    November 30, 2009 at 2:49 pm

  6. I think its defintely more likely to land participants in a sanction than gain participants a sustainable job.

    Flexible New Deal

    November 30, 2009 at 4:05 pm

  7. This is the problem Ken.

    We have to even bleeding think of this when we are trying to get out of being unemployed!

    Flexy, I’m surprised as well, given that most of them seemed to be okay.

    Andrew Coates

    November 30, 2009 at 5:02 pm

  8. the problem is your facing unemployment battling its consequences,and also battling people who are supposed to helping which in reality they are not.its no good trying to force and bully people on benefits to do unrealistic things’ especially with benefit levels at such a low level,it costs them nothing to make life difficult through petty sanctions,threatening behavior and placing jobseekers under the cosh through abuse.

    i havent had any experience of this flexible new deal certainly if its anything like the last which was totally useless,where paper and a pair of scissors where plenty in evidence,the way we were treated its no wonder they were not plastic.

    theres mention of some liking this flexible new deal however they have just started and trouble appears quickly,i remember my “placement” on new deal all nice to you stayed then the abuse started,the provider was happy to let this continue and not relocate to please the job centre,i was told on a heated exchange on the phone if i walked out my money would be stopped.

    these forced programs should be banned,they have no real use and are in reality bully camps’ to vulnerable unemployed people,this should not be tolerated in eu law.


    December 3, 2009 at 2:47 am

  9. I note btw that my letter from the TNG programme is that I have to turn up with not only my dole card, my CV, but also a driving licence/passport/birth cert/medical card.

    Andrew Coates

    December 5, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    • Hi Andy

      Yes… this is to prove that:
      a) you are the person the claim is for
      b) you are entitled to claim JSA
      c) you are who you say you are

      They can’t legally request you to provide such identification. I have to state that the intention is to terminate claims of genuine people who:

      a) forgot their ID
      b) dont have the ID required
      c) lost their dole card or ID

      I argue that Flexible New Deal providers have:

      a) got the power to directly apply for sanction


      b) Flexible New Deal is a training course

      c) subcontractors do not manage or pay your benefit

      d) subcontractors have no legal basis of vetting people to see their entitlement.

      Anyone who has their benefits axed or a sanction for such purposes should sue the company involved.

      To clear up confusion – anyone be it person or company has the right to report anyone who isn’t entitled to claim benefit who are claiming benefit because everyone has the right to report crime and the crime here would be benefit fraud.

      However, to claim benefit, you still have to sign on every 2 weeks and Jobcentre Plus still administers it.

      Flexible New Deal providers are contractually obligated to check for entitlement. This is contractual obligation and not one in statute law.

      If they have a genuine basis to report someone to Jobcentre Plus because (for example):

      1) someone attended on behalf of someone else
      2) they have adequate belief that someone attended straight from work
      3) someone calls someone a completely different name

      etc. They are fine.

      But they have no basis to terminate your benefit or sanction you when you have already been vetted by Jobcentre Plus and have a benefit claim for over 6 months (or even as much as 12 months) just on the basis of them not being entirely sure to trust you due to lack of ID or similar.

      Flexible New Deal

      December 5, 2009 at 5:53 pm

  10. A TNG staff member let slip to me last week that I am being made to attend a training course in order to make up my hours (I think the minimum is 3 hours per week). So much for ‘Flexible’ New Deal where they are supposed to target the course to meet my needs.

    Average Joe

    December 6, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    • I would be grateful if you have an mp3 player (that can record) or digital dictation machine to record your conversations with them.

      I would be happy to publish them.

      Flexible New Deal

      December 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

      • Can’t help you with that, sorry. I have just read the latest blog update on your site though and almost exactly the same thing happened to me back in August. I will post the details in your comments.

        Average Joe

        December 6, 2009 at 7:34 pm

      • Cheers look forward to reading it.

        Flexible New Deal

        December 6, 2009 at 7:54 pm

  11. I have the concern that TNG is worse than YMCA Training…

    I guess we will see!

    Flexible New Deal

    December 7, 2009 at 11:14 am

  12. […] from Ipswhich Unemployed Action Welfare Not Workfare Search […]

  13. Make the lazy scum work for their benefits instead of sitting on their fat arses all day

    Uncle jim

    April 29, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    • wait while they come for you.


      July 1, 2010 at 2:53 pm

  14. wait for the announce by david cameron today. then the budget. some providers may get hit where it hurts their pockets

    doodle bug

    June 7, 2010 at 7:32 am

  15. Jim,

    I like fat arses, like Shakira’s: http://www.shakira.com/

    What is you has against ’em?

    Andrew Coates

    June 7, 2010 at 10:28 am

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