Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

The Lords Debate Workfare.

with 17 comments

Hat-Tip to Gerry Attric. 

House of Lords, 30th of March.

Baroness Thomas of Winchester (Liberal Democrat)

Ipswich Unemployed Action will take this up in more detail later.

For the moment these critical comments stand out.

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for explaining these regulations, which bring in four pilot schemes-two urban and two rural-for the controversial Work for your Benefit provisions starting in November this year for two years.

“The aim of the scheme is to test whether mandatory work experience, coupled with job search support, helps the long term unemployed find and sustain work”.

Hum hum hum,

There is a view that such schemes can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and failing to provide the skills and experience that are valued by employers. One finding from DWP research report 533, A Comparative Review of Workfare Programmes in the United States, Canada and Australia, by Crisp and Fletcher, is not a surprise. It was that workfare, which is similar to Work for your Benefit, was least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment was high.

Quite right, your Ladyship!

if the jobs are not there, they are not there, and no amount of Jobcentre Plus smoke and mirrors can find them. I wonder what sort of work placements will be offered to Work for your Benefit claimants. We simply do not know. I understand that companies have to sign a declaration that the placement will be in addition to existing or expected job vacancies.

We fear that there are likely to be cuts in the near future in public sector employment. Perhaps these work placements will be in that sector.

Perhaps her Baronessesses reads Ipswich Unemployed Action and Flexible New Deal!

Perhaps one sign of a confusion of policy is that, as the Minister said, Jobcentre Plus officers are encouraged to identify for early access to the Work for your Benefit scheme some claimants who have been unemployed for less than two years, if they think that they will benefit from it. However, these people, who might think that they are being singled for preferment or extra help, will actually be in a sanctions regime, as though they were demotivated and work-shy.

In other words,one feature of the scheme will be to allow the DWP to be nasty to those they don’t like.

WorkDirections, which is a well respected provider, suggested designing the length of the placement by asking the clients some simple questions at the action-planning stage. For example, what are the constraints that the clients are facing? What does the client need to gain? How long will it take to gain the relevant skills, knowledge or experience? How can progress be verified? In other words, a six-month one-size-fits-all placement is too inflexible.

More to the point what on earth do you get from these type of placements, and what about the barriers you’ll face having to put on a CV your “community service” – like a prison record.

last thing that we want is for claimants just to default on a placement and, by doing that, to receive a sanction because the particular placement was totally unsuitable for them.

What protection is there against exploiting oppressive employers, eh?

Finally, I am disturbed that claimants will be allocated randomly to the pilots. This seems totally at odds with the whole tailored-to-the-individual approach that the Flexible New Deal was supposed to give people. My honourable friend Steve Webb in another place, who is a social scientist, makes the point that a Flexible New Deal provider should already have given the claimant work experience during the two years that the claimant was unemployed. It seems distinctly odd that such a claimant might be randomly assigned to a Work for your Benefit scheme when their only problem is that there is no suitable job available. I wonder whether part of the reason for this whole scheme is to clamp down on those who are suspected of moonlighting-claiming and working on the sly.

Well, that’s one reason. The other is to get votes from the kind of plonkers who like dreaming up schemes to get people they don’t like sweeping the streets and tugging their forelock to the likes of many of the noble Lords and Ladies.


Written by Andrew Coates

April 1, 2010 at 9:04 am

17 Responses

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  1. Having read it, I also got the impression that the sole purpose of workfare is “to clamp down on those who are suspected of moonlighting-claiming and working on the sly”.

    They can’t comprehend how someone can survive just on benefits when they’ve been out of work fo so long!

    Gerry Attric

    April 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm

  2. I was reading that lol, decided to focus on sanctions… prevents a duplicate…

    Increased sanctions on workfare:


    – failure or refuse to provide information on previous work experience, skills, qualifications

    – misconduct sanctions (misconduct could mean anything)

    – failure to attend or being late

    – fail to actively participate in a “work experience placement”

    – a new type of “Jobseeker Direction” (JSD) like sanction. JSD’s have to be written notifications whereas workfare providers get the opportunity to give verbal instructions where failure to co-operate results in a sanction.

    – refusing to answer questions

    – failure to participate in “job search arrangements” (scheduled trips to jobcentre and recruitment agencies etc.)

    (not an april fool)

    Setting up workfare.me soon – going to dedicate a website into fighting this slavery!

    Looking for helpers etc. let me know if you are interested (open invite to all!)

    Flexible New Deal

    April 1, 2010 at 2:54 pm

  3. Gerry one of things people don’t seem to udnerstand is how low the Dole is.

    Here in Ipswich it costs £1.80 to take a bus. That’s £3,60 to go the town centre and back. It’s too far for most people to walk. Which means that anyone on our princely income of just over £60 a week has to think long and hard about the most normal thing in the world, going to town to shop.

    I live just by the centre, so that’s one problem I don’t have. But I could give plenty of others based on money.

    Andrew Coates

    April 3, 2010 at 9:02 am

    • Andrew I agree totaly, the lack of affordable transport is a major barrier to employment. Up here in Lowestoft it seems that when the government gave out the free pensioner bus passes regardless of income they never funded it properly and the cost to make up the deficit has fallen on the remaining paying bus users (who lets face it can least afford the sky high price hikes as if they were that loaded wouldn’t be forced to travel on the bus in the first place). At present I’m trying to seal a job with an employer about 7 miles up the road from me, they keep repeatedly calling me in to discuss the job and as I have to get their by bus the cost is crippling me.The cheapest I can do it on the bus is with a day saver ticket which costs £5.50 a go, Chances are that if someone got a workfare placement it would probably be on an industrial site on the edge of town where most the firms are so they would be looking at £5.50 day saver cheapest option just to get across town back and forwards, there’s no way you could live if you lost £27.50 on travel alone for 6 months out of your JSA.

      Lowestoft's Finest

      April 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    • To put it into perspective if my memory recalls me correctly its only around £2 cash for a bus ticket in London – a much greater network of bus routes – and places to go! lol

      Obviously, the business model is different with all the extra people transported around (population, tourists etc.) and income isn’t solely from fares but my point is if the buses have the same capacity, cost the same to buy/lease, driver wages less in Ipswich, fuel costs the same (or less) in Ipswich… why are the fares soo expensive here?

      It is simple: supply and demand… a basic concept that (for example):

      100 x £1.25 = £125
      60 x £1.80 = £108

      Why different volumes? If more people can afford it and/or the service is great value for money – more people will use the service. I think the costs has encouraged more people to ride bikes… (I hate bike lanes!)

      Talking of the London model again… children dont pay for fares (<16), young people get discount (similar system here I guess with explore(?)), those on New Deal with a card gets 50%/child rate … We wouldn't have capacity for free fares but they could be reduced.

      A simple idea of requesting the unemployed to show their signing on book to get reduced rate (for days when signing on) would be a nice start.

      Flexible New Deal

      April 3, 2010 at 12:59 pm

      • Is the bus transport in London still provided by the nationaly owned London Transport as I wonder if this has also got something to do with its low prices? as up here in Lowestoft we have two private companies on the same routes who seem to have come to some kind of unofficial agrement between themselves meaning that their prices are sky high and suspiciously at certain times one will stop running buses on some routes while the other will mysteriously run more, this seems to alternate between them. Yet they won’t honour each others return tickets for the same route.I also wonder if government subsidies and local and county council subsidies effect the huge discrepencies in prices across the country. I know that the free pensioner bus travel funding payement to different individual bus companies was based on a massive under estimate from the government so this created a huge shortfall in revenues that got passed on to the remaining paying customers to make up. This seems to be born out by the observation if I get on a bus here 70% of the passengers are pensioners traveling for free but I doubt if they make up more than 20% of the population here, but if I get on a train here I doubt if it is more than 20% pensioners as they have to pay full whack on trains. Something is deffinatly amiss with my local bus companies travel as the cost for me to go to Norwich (20 miles away) return on the train is £8, yet the cost to go just 7 miles up the road on a bus is £5.50 and thats with the cheapest day travel ticket. Surely it costs more in reality to run a rail network then a bus network so I just can’t see a justification for my local bus prices especialy as Lowestoft and neighbouring Gt. Yarmouth are acknoledged to be both unempolyment blackspots and some of the most deprived areas in the country so its not like we have money coming out of our ears up here.

        Lowestoft's Finest

        April 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm

      • no its not it was privatised to individual companies in the mid 90s,although travel card/oyster cards operate as if its all one,the operators are accountable to transport for london.


        April 3, 2010 at 4:09 pm

      • Its TfL (Transport for London) which is Government body under London Mayor (?) or something.

        The buses etc. are provided by private companies like Ken said.

        Ouch… thats pricey indeed LF!!

        Flexible New Deal

        April 3, 2010 at 4:26 pm

  4. It would be interesting to get some clarification on what exactly they mean by “all work placements need to be in addition to any existing or expected vacancies”.

    Average Joe

    April 3, 2010 at 9:38 am

    • Its obvious… work placements are not to displace people in real jobs or to fill future vacancies.

      Work placements on New Deal (thats like 1st Generation of modern labour policy, with FND being 2nd Gen, workfare 3rd Gen) did away with “expected vacancies” as the work was filled for free.

      Most New Deal providers had a deal with employers to provide regular placements… even Tesco benefit from this – they provided thousands of WP “vacancies”, surely this replaced potential future jobs…

      These words are to be taken with a pinch of salt just like peeps are supposed to get work experience on New Deal but Dencora House detention centre inmates were doing fulltime job search…

      It is also hard to find evidence that proves jobs have been lost set-in-stone. Government will just make excuses – make the assumption that the extra unemployed people have just chosen they dont want to work – and back to the drawing board again think of ways to bully, punish and persuade unemployed not to claim.

      In Ipswich most of the town centre are shut down shops… both shopping centres have empty places too… Woolworths and even Littlewoods are still shut… I was then shocked to try the direct.gov.uk job search and find only 100 jobs for “all” types of vacancies in Ipswich.

      It took ages for Premier to go underneath the Council building… and many units there are still empty.

      So many people needing jobs (not just unemployed, but the children who will be hoping to enter the job market in 5-10 years time) but there is no strong infrastructure to keep jobs here. Shops come and go; insurance companies can pull out and relocate elsewhere cheaper etc.

      They have tackled this by creating a uni… and a new 6th form centre… hoping these young adults will stay in education and not look for work. I think they should have a choice rather than be forced into that route because no jobs are going. Makes the pathetically poor £3.57 (?) 16-18 NMW a joke in comparison.

      Now that Ipswich is rather close to London and got a uni, it has impacted on the costs of places to rent etc. empty flats and apartment laying empty because they wont lower the price to have them occupied.

      Sadly, you would think both the Government (Chris Mole MP) and Local Government (Council) would have tackled this… nope. I dont even recall Chris Mole ever looking into unemployment, poverty and empty properties.

      Flexible New Deal

      April 3, 2010 at 12:32 pm

      • the direct.gov website is a complete waste of time,the jobs are totally different to whats shown in the job centre and appear to be largely out of date.
        the job centre site is closing,those that used it were saved the stress visiting the local job centre and the hassle that entailed of walking through the door the atmosphere and the bother of the security people loitering around you.

        supermarkets particularly 24 hour operations will be the first to take advantage this workfare,they have in reality difficulty recruiting and retaining staff due to the hours’,also the controversial sunday opening hours where family and religious conflict with “the needs of business”,those places are best avoided as its an opportunity to bully the those who they can the easiest.


        April 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm

      • Ken, I am shocked. I thought they were pulling the job search only… seems the entire jobcentre plus website has gone.

        Flexible New Deal

        April 4, 2010 at 12:32 pm

  5. Andrew and Flexi, thanks for the info on bus fares in Ipswich, it’s expensive compared To Edinburgh. Here it’s GBP 1.10 single or GBP 3 for unlimited travel, and you can save more by buying a weekly or 4 weekly ridacard – that’s assuming you can afford to buy one of course.

    I also think the unemployed should be given reduced travel, than being expected to pay a disprotinate

    Gerry Attric

    April 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm

  6. Andrew and Flexi, thanks for the info on bus fares in Ipswich, it’s expensive compared To Edinburgh. Here it’s GBP 1.10 single or GBP 3 for unlimited travel, and you can save more by buying a weekly or 4 weekly ridacard – that’s assuming you can afford to buy one of course.

    I also think the unemployed should be given reduced travel, rather than being expected to spend a sizable chunk of their JSA on bus fares

    Gerry Attric

    April 3, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    • Yes, atleast allow the unemployed to claim back travel costs when signing on.

      Jobcentre Plus will reimburse (if you ask) travel costs for all appointments they create – but still wont for signing on.

      I worked out that on average jobseekers were paying around £2 per week on travel just to sign on (£4 each 2 weeks) this is rather a significant amount for “self-sufficient jobseekers” (anyone who pays their own way without support) even those who get housing allowance.

      Flexible New Deal

      April 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm

  7. people who live on jobseekers allowance are priced off public transport particularly national rail,yes london has a regular bus service oyster card is £1.20 capped at around £3.90 for the day however those outside are not so lucky with early finish,rural locations not served by public transport,and only school days’ service at certain times’,however some at the job centre do not see this as a barrier,touting stupid reasons for sending people for these vacancies’ regardless.


    April 3, 2010 at 2:37 pm


    Of all the MPs the only ones I have heard that are opposed to Workfare (work for your benefits) are the Liberal Democrats.
    Also their policy of no tax on the first £10,000 of earnings will help those working on the minimum wage, or those obiliged
    to work for the minimum wage.


    May 3, 2010 at 7:23 pm

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