Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Work for Your Benefit: What it Will Mean.

with 17 comments

From here.

DWP Caxton HouseHere’s a tasty little research report, which has been commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions themselves, the report is entitled: A comparative review of workfare programmes in the United States, Canada and Australia’ (report 533) 

This report examines the impact of workfare schemes that mandate participation in unpaid work activities as a condition of receiving social assistance (‘work for benefits’).

It finds that: 

  • There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers.
  • Subsidised (‘transitional’) job schemes that pay a wage can be more effective in raising employment levels than ‘work for benefit’ programmes.
  • Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.
  • Levels of non-participation in mandatory activities are high in some workfare programmes.
  • Workfare is least effective for individuals with multiple barriers to work.
  • Some states in the US have scaled down large-scale, universal workfare programmes in preference for ‘softer’ and more flexible models that offer greater support to those with the most barriers to work.

Our Community Allowance model, which are keen to pilot and campaigning DWP to enable us to do so, would offer people the opportunity to try out small bits of work PLUS they would get the support that is so essential.

The DWPs current direction of travel is to get people on benefits to ‘sing for their supper’. This is very worrying. From our own experience at Community Links we think it simply will not work.  It will push more people off benefits, forced to fend for themselves, possibly by doing cash-in-hand work. (See previous blog entries)

It’s not just us saying it … it’s in their own research. A bit more evidence based policy making please.

We, by contrast,  are opposed to all Work for Your Benefits schemes.

Ipswich Unemployed Action adds that:

  • These schemes will be run by companies and organisations who already have a poor track record dealing with the unemployed A4E, Reed International, for example.
  • There are no  normal workers’ rights over dismissal and many other areas (except Health and Safety) for those on Work for your Benefit. Are there union rights? Are there rights to refuse to carry out unsitable tasks?
  • There is no provision to make sure work for benefit employees do not replace (indirectly or directly) those working for a real wage.
  • There are no real wages.
  • There are obvious areas where bullying and unsuitable placements can take place.
  • This will create a massive downward pull on normal pay. Why get somebody to work for a council when you can get someone for free from the Dole. The Government, the Liberals and the Tories talk about the need to cut public expenditure. Look at Suffolk County Council. It is going to reduce its numbers of  paid workers. But they still need services.  Solution? It will recruit unpaid ones.
  • When employment agencies like Reed are exploiting the situation they can be obvious conflicts of interest.
  • Benefits are already well below the minimum wage and are below levels considered a reasonable standard of living.
  • The system is based on compulsion. It is forced labour – the most inefficient kind of labour ever known.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 26, 2010 at 10:24 am

17 Responses

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  1. I think that the government could get far better results and far more sucess by knocking the whole flawed workfare idea on the head and start looking at the whole concept of helping people back to work from a fresh starting point. Instead of infantilising everyone try empowering the unemployed who wan’t to get back to work by addresing the actual everyday barriers to employment we face daily such as prohibitive travel costs, why don’t the government just pay your public transport to interview costs then if you are sucessfull and take a low paying job pay your public transport to work, so you can afford to do it? Likewise rather then unsussessfully paying private companies to find the unemployed phoney placements with little chance of a job at the end, why not scrap the 16 hour rule so people could work part time, wouldn’t loose touch with employers and be idealy placed when the employers wanted to take on fulltime people? These are just a couple of basic ideas but if the government hasn’t grasped these problems no workfare sceme in the world is going to be sucessfull as it just chucks peoplebackon the dole to facethe same hurdles. Why not just confront those first place?

    Lowestoft's Finest

    March 26, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    • But its not really about “empowering” the unemployed, is it? More about keeping them in their place.


      March 26, 2010 at 3:52 pm

  2. Yes indeed Flexy. I am sharing your sturdy research even further!

    Andrew Coates

    March 27, 2010 at 11:52 am

  3. i had this when i was on new deal the “advisor” was whinging that i was not in the job centre,if i hadn’t spent so much time in that useless “placement” perhaps more time could be spent job searching.not only that the manager was blatantly trying to abuse new deal participants openly complaining that the providers stated that they were not in a position to force to work over the christmas period,they “the placement” wanted as much as they could get.

    it is perfectly true to call this a weak labour market.

    past experience of these forced labour schemes shows bullying abuse and humiliation to to be rampant against those who are “mandatory referrals” to outside bodies’.


    March 29, 2010 at 11:51 am

  4. the government is notinterested in helping people get work infact they have hindered me and my prospects. I would of done at least 60 hours of CPD work and I had a crack jobsearch helper from action for blind people a person i was visiting voluntary. In the four months since going to A4E My jobsearch has gone down hill and I have had no interviews. People use your sense it is not about helping unemployed people. It is about beeaurocrats wanting to make their mark on a system. The americans and australians got scheme and they fail. why on gods name aint the government taking this on board


    April 5, 2010 at 11:59 am

    • Unemployment has been a problem in every decade and has affected every generation.

      The Government are trying to tweak the most of reducing the problem. They have never tried to eliminate unemployment over any long period of time – they invest in education to delay later generations entering the labour market – forcing those out of a choice of to work or learn… they are even attempting to raise the leaving school age to 18… making it compulsory!

      Their statistics of unemployment is based on people who claim beenfits.

      Also the economy always comes before people – money crimes normally have longer sentences than crime against the person such as fraud and major theft can have a bigger jail term than rape and murder.

      The quick fix solution is…

      1. Discourage, bully and force people off benefits… those who remain on benefits: stick those people on workfare where they will become “in training” (i.e. no longer officially unemployed.)

      2. Create sanctions for almost every possible “offence” to reduce the amount of taxpayers money being spent on Social Security.

      The issue of unemployment hasn’t been touched – voters are happy thinking its not a “lack of jobs” issue but an issue of people not wanting to work. MP’s are happy as there is now more money for them to steal…

      Flexible New Deal

      April 5, 2010 at 4:08 pm

  5. I sincerely hope, Chris Mole who refused a pay rise as an election PR stunt, will find himself not elected this time around and have lost out on taxpayers’ money.

    Flexible New Deal

    April 15, 2010 at 10:20 am

  6. Yes actually red has hit thenail on the head. the government has got to pick on a laime target. and what better than people on benefits I think most ountries call that cowardice


    July 31, 2010 at 8:30 pm

  7. I keep hearing the sentence, “Barriers to employment.” What a silly and patronizing phrase. The barriers to employment are, 1. No jobs, 2. Companies being relocated abroad, 3. Bad leadership from British Government, 4. E.U. regulations, 5. British Government regulations, 6. Cheap labour from abroad, 7. etc.,

    Neil Duran

    September 6, 2010 at 12:14 pm

  8. Your have also forgot the following

    mental ilness

    I bumped into a quality assurance person today at beacon and i gave her what for.


    October 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    • Depressed and desperate for help, this woman admitted herself to a psychiatric ward – what happened next will horrify you…

      Three-quarters of Britons suffer from depression at some point in their lives. While this is often managed with counselling and medication, every year many people end up in hospital on psychiatric wards. But are they really the best place for such patients? Writer KERRY HIATT, suffering from terrible anxiety, admitted herself and was traumatised by her experience. For the sake of the other patients, we are not identifying the hospital.

      A huge television set dominates the dimly-lit room. It’s 1pm, but children’s cartoons are on a continuous loop and the people slumped in armchairs stare numbly at the flashing images.

      Opposite me, a man in a worn suit and stained ­overcoat empties a handful of old cigarette butts from his pocket on to the coffee table and examines them.

      As I timidly look around, I see a toothless older woman staring at me, a snarl curling her lip. I turn away but out of the corner of my eye, I catch her ­making obscene gestures.

      The walls appear to be covered with hand prints and unidentifiable smears; the only decoration a ­handwritten poster listing banned items; nail clippers, razors, ­tweezers, lighters, medication, belts, shoe strings, spiral bound notebooks, jewellery and underwired bras.

      Two cagey-looking men are exchanging money in the corner and my heart begins to race in case I’ve ­witnessed something I shouldn’t have. I hear the front door slam and lock automatically as the staff come and go. Am I in prison? In fact, I’m an inpatient at a mental health unit in London.

      Just a week before, I’d been leading a normal life. In fact, life was good: I had a wealth of great friends and had recently married. My husband Joe and I were ­living in a beautiful rented home in ­London, and my career as a journalist and author was ­flourishing; Joe, a web developer, was also doing well.

      I was on top of the world, until, seemingly overnight, everything changed.

      It started with feeling I couldn’t get out of bed for work one Monday morning — but after a few days of exhaustion, slumped on the sofa, I began to feel overcome by feelings of worthlessness, failure and inexplicable guilt.

      I kept having this image of myself lying in a bathtub with slashed wrists. I would shake uncontrollably, twitch nervously and had ferocious nightmares — when I managed to sleep.

      Work emails went unanswered, calls from family and friends were ignored and if my husband tried to suggest something to make me feel better, he would experience the wrath of a temper I didn’t even know I had.

      I couldn’t help myself. Nothing had changed in my life, yet I was hopeless and wanted life to end.

      I had no idea why this was ­happening — and I was terrified, but of what I didn’t know. I had suffered from depression for years and, at 22, was put on an antidepressant, ­Citalopram; with this, my moods ­settled with just occasional bouts of feeling low.

      But this was the worst bout of depression I had ever experienced.

      With my close friend Cathy, Joe took me to our GP — me wearing my pyjamas and panicking about the thought of being outside.

      Shaking and sobbing, I begged my doctor to tell me why I was feeling this way. But, instead, he asked whether I’d had any suicidal thoughts and whether I thought I would act on them. I admitted that I had and that dying seemed like the simplest answer.

      I knew they weren’t the answers a normal person would give, but I was beyond caring. I just wanted ­someone to take care of me. Wasn’t this what every TV show, magazine article and online support group instructed you to do when you were considering ­suicide; seek help?

      My GP, a young doctor, conferred with his colleagues and decided I should be transferred to the nearby mental health unit.

      I was afraid, but Joe and Cathy were incredibly supportive, telling me that being in the unit would keep me safe until I felt better.

      From the outside the building looked like any other hospital, ­complete with a bright, clean waiting room and smiley receptionists. I had a long talk with one of the emergency assessment team in a cosy room.

      The doctors’ conclusion was that I was suffering a breakdown and was a high suicide risk, and needed to be admitted to 24 hours-a-day ­psychiatric care for a few days to be ­supported through the worst of it.

      I was flooded with relief. This was a breakdown, it was temporary and ­people were going to support me. I was safe and I was going to be OK.

      The relief was ­short-lived. Escorted to a ward on another floor of the building, where the door slammed shut and locked behind me, I encountered the real hospital.

      The air was stiflingly hot and smelled of unwashed bodies and cooking. Men and women roamed the halls aimlessly, some screamed and shouted, while others stared into the distance with an alarming lack of awareness.

      Some looked like the normal well-dressed types you’d see on any High Street — but others wore filthy clothes and were extremely dishevelled.

      Needing to calm my nerves, I asked if I could go outside for a cigarette. Without speaking, a casually-dressed nurse pointed to a door, which led to a small, cramped outdoor cage.

      The moment I stepped in, three male patients — one in his 20s, the others middle-aged — followed me.

      I was shocked by their stained clothes, unwashed hair and filthy hands. They began to paw at me and, although I asked them to stop, they forced me back into a cramped corner, blocking my escape.

      They demanded my cigarettes, and I handed them over, seizing the chance to flee to the nurses’ station.

      A nurse listened to my story with a slightly sceptical look before leading me to a women-only lounge with two sofas and a TV. ‘You’ll be safe here,’ she said slowly as if talking to a child. Did she think I had made it up?

      ‘I’ll keep an eye on the door to make sure nobody comes in. We don’t have any available rooms so you’ll have to stay here until we do.’ She closed the door.

      I wept. I loathed myself for being so afraid. But I felt so alone and ­vulnerable in a place where I had truly believed I would get help and be safe.

      Still suffering from my crippling depression, I cried so long and so hard that I wondered whether it was ­actually possible to die from sadness.

      When I tried to find a tissue in my handbag, my fingers brushed against something sharp stashed at the ­bottom. Emptying the contents, I found a pair of tweezers, some antidepressants and various generic painkillers.

      I was supposed to be safe from myself here, yet I had everything I needed to inflict serious personal damage.

      Curling up on the sofa, I closed my eyes and tried to forget about the bag’s contents.

      I awoke hours later to a shirtless, barefoot man hovering beside me, unbuttoning his jeans.

      Paralysed with fear, it took a few seconds for me to scream, which startled him and attracted the attention of a passing male nurse who pulled him away and ushered him out of the lounge.

      ‘Your room is ready now,’ was all he said to me. ‘I’ll show you where it is. It’s on a women-only corridor, you’ll be OK there.’

      My heart was thudding as he led me to a room. At least it was clean; ­containing a single bed, wardrobe and a desk. I might be safer.

      ‘I’ll need to look through your things and take anything that might be ­dangerous.’ I emptied my bag allowing everything — pills and tweezers, too — to clatter on to the desk. ‘I’ve had these things for hours,’ I told him. ‘I could have hurt myself.’

      ‘Did you?’ I shook my head and he shrugged before departing with ­anything that could be considered dangerous. ‘That’s all right then.’

      Within seconds of him closing the door, male patients swamped the glass window to stare in at me. Clearly no one was bothered about enforcing the women-only rule.

      Too afraid to sleep, I lay down and pulled a sheet over my head.

      Sometime later, my door was flung open by a woman trailing a ­suitcase behind her.

      ‘What’s this b**** doing in my room?’ she screamed, ­glaring at me. ‘I only left this morning and you’ve given my room away.’

      No sooner had she left, a nurse came to tell me it was dinner time.

      By now I was ­constantly shaking with nerves. She told me ­eating would make me feel better.

      In the main lounge, other patients were already queuing for food. ­Listening to their ­chatter, I was shocked to discover that some had been living in the unit ­— a small space with no real outdoor access — for as long as nine months.

      At the kitchen window, I received a huge mound of pasta covered with watered down cheese sauce and four green beans. A ball of instant mash potato was slapped on the side, and a wedge of cake so hard and flavourless that it was difficult to chew let alone ­swallow. It’s hard to see how anyone could start to feel better on this diet.

      Plastic cutlery was thrown and ­people wailed at the dining tables.

      We ate unsupervised, the staff ­gathered in their office — joking and eating their ordered-in pizzas, which had just been delivered.

      The woman who claimed I had stolen her room glared at me with ferocious intensity.

      She and several others ­noisily berated my atrocious ­behaviour. I tried to avoid making eye contact with her.

      Another woman, maybe in her early 30s, wore fashionable ­pyjamas and a dressing gown, warned me to eat everything and try to stay in the communal areas or ‘else the staff will think you’re in a bad way’.

      A man who’d been living on the ward for six months and was allowed day release was regaling others with tales of the gun he had bought on a nearby council estate. When another patient alerted him to ‘the new girl’, he sneered: ‘She won’t say anything. It wouldn’t be worth her life.’

      To say I was relieved to see my husband and best friend walk through the door for visiting hours is an understatement.

      But the moment they arrived, a beaming nurse ushered me into a room to take my blood pressure and weight. ‘Everyone has to be assessed when they arrive,’ she smiled, despite my explaining I’d been there all day.

      When I finally sat down with my visitors, another nurse bounded up with a welcome pack full of ­toiletries and information on ‘my stay’ making it sound more like a jolly hotel jaunt.

      The staff had barely spoken to me throughout the day, let alone offered me any support, despite being on suicide watch. But now visiting hours had arrived it seemed everyone was on their best behaviour.

      Shaking and tearful, I told Joe of what had happened in the past 12 hours. He made straight for the nurses’ station and demanded to see a doctor.

      The doctor was sympathetic and apologised profusely, ­explaining the unit was for ­anyone in the local area who had some kind of mental illness; those suffering from depression were grouped with schizophrenics and others.

      She said I was not the kind of person ­— young, attractive and professional — that was usually admitted, so I was bound to ­generate curiosity among other patients.

      That didn’t explain why my neighbour at dinner was on the ward. But, frankly, I wasn’t in a state to argue her case and ­gratefully accepted the offer of care from a home treatment team to help my anxiety.

      The team would be on call 24 hours a day, would turn up at ­random intervals, offer ­counselling and change my medication if they saw fit.

      The home treatment team were, in fact, fantastic, and I felt ­incredibly well cared for.

      They visited me several times a day; they prescribed Lorazepam — a drug used to treat anxiety — and, after three or four months, I settled back into my old lifestyle, going back to work and socialising.

      But I know I was one of the lucky ones. So many people ­isolate ­themselves when they feel depressed, and it would be very easy to find yourself ­completely alone on a mental health ward with no visitors and no outside help.

      When I spoke to MIND — the mental health charity — about what happened, they told me it was not uncommon for people to report similar experiences.

      How utterly terrifying — the awful things I went through could really happen to anyone.

      But I had Joe to fight my corner. Without him, the staff might not have listened to me or believed what had happened.

      A year on, I still can’t forget the fear of that experience. It ­certainly won’t stop me seeking help, but I am convinced that a mental health ward is not the best place to receive treatment for depression.


      Daily Heil

      October 5, 2010 at 10:16 pm

  9. depression is a terrible illness it can strike at anytime to anyone,creep up on you and has a number of triggers both personal and the economic situation someone finds them self in.its not the ideal situation for people to be in job centre’s where the anxiety levels are high and find often unhelpful unnecessary attitudes.it would be interesting to know how many face this are taking anti depressants’,my experience the job centre ordeal extends the need for medical support.

    the offices are are in a terrible state what few job points there are more then half of these are not working at one time and others crowded,matched only by the lack of full time vacancies when accessible.waiting to sign is not a pleasurable experience which does nothing for anxiety levels’ while sitting pondering on the situation and watching the dust levels rise under desks that aren’t cleaned.

    despite all the talk the reality has been and is a continual process of fortnightly job centre visits and signing,no one would want to enter the place unless they had too,this combined with coping with illness that is never far.the two don’t mix well.


    October 5, 2010 at 10:51 pm

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