Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Theresa May, from “no” more Welfare Cuts, to…..Cuts.

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Image result for welfare cuts

Those with memories as long as fruit flies, that is pre-Brexit honest healthy fruit-flies fed on EU straight bananas, not the cheap and nasty type now breeding on rotten apples in the Tory-Trump Brexit land and driven to work till they are 92 years old, may remember this:

No more welfare cuts to come under Theresa May, says minister. Independent. 18th of September 2016.

Damian Green, the work and pensions secretary, hints at end to austerity agenda, promising no further raids on benefits.There will be no more welfare cuts under Theresa May’s government after those have already been announced, the work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, has announced.

Strongly hinting that the government’s austerity agenda was over, Green told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show planned cuts would continue but there would be no further raids on benefits.

Today we have this,

A recent report from the left-leaning Resolution Foundation think tank warned Tory policies are causing “the biggest increase in inequality since Thatcher”. Their research found that the rollout of more than £12bn of welfare cuts, coupled with poor wage growth, means household incomes after housing costs are set to grow by just 0.5% a year between now and 2020.

The Resolution Foundation also warned that the incomes of the poorest half of households are set to fall by an average 3%, while the richest look set to see income gains of around 4% over the remainder of this parliament.”

Then,

Commenting on the research, Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation, said at the time: “Britain has enjoyed a welcome mini-boom in living standards in recent years. But that boom is slowing rapidly as inflation rises, productivity flatlines and employment growth slows.

“The squeeze in the wake of the financial crisis tended to hit richer households the most. But this time around it’s low and middle income families with kids who are set to be worst affected.

“This could leave Britain with the worst of both worlds on living standards – the weak income growth of the last parliament and rising inequality from the time Margaret Thatcher was in Downing Street.”

And a couple of days ago this:

£3.7bn in cuts to disability benefits needed to help cut the deficit, says cabinet minister

Despite cuts Conservative chairman Patrick McLoughlin claimed ‘we do very proudly in this country’ at helping disabled people

A cabinet minister has rebuffed calls to cancel more than £3.7bn worth of cuts to a disability benefit, setting the scene for a showdown in Parliament.

Patrick McLoughlin said ministers had to view the funding, which would go to people with conditions including epilepsy, diabetes and dementia, in the context of a wider need to reduce the UK’s budget deficit.

Ministers have said the Government will introduce emergency legislation to tighten the criteria of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) after they were ordered at tribunal to cover a broader spectrum of claimants, leading to the £3.7bn in extra spending by 2022.

While charities have warned of the impacts of the cuts, Tory party chairman Mr McLoughlin told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are spending as a country over £50bn a year supporting people who have got disabilities in this country.

“I think we give, overall, very generous schemes. There are changes that come about as a result of tribunals and we have to look at that.

“But as far as supporting disabled people, I think overall we do very proudly in this country.”

Asked again about the changes, Mr McLoughlin said: “We will obviously listen to what people say and look at the proposals that come forward, but overall we are still spending as a country over £60bn more each year than we are getting in as a country and we have got to look at trying to balance that budget and reduce that deficit.”

Disability benefit change shows Tories are still ‘nasty party’, says Corbyn Guardian.

Labour leader accuses government of ‘sneaking out’ news that it was overturning tribunal rulings on personal independence payments

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Theresa May of turning the Conservatives back into “the nasty party” by quietly announcing a change to rules on disability benefits.

The Labour leader told prime minister’s questions that the government had “sneaked” out the announcement that it was overturning two tribunal rulings on personal independence payments, including one that found people with extreme anxiety should be given the same status as those who are blind.

May responded by saying the pensions secretary, Damian Green, had made a written statement to parliament, briefed officials and called the office of his Labour shadow, Debbie Abrahams, only to get no answer or any response for four days.

Corbyn responded by disputing that anyone had tried to contact Abrahams’ office, and called the decision over the personal independence payments, known as PIPs, “shameful”.

Recalling May’s speech to the 2002 Conservative conference, when she warned it must shed its reputation as “the nasty party”, Corbyn noted comments over the weekend by George Freeman, the Tory MP who heads May’s policy unit.

Freeman said PIP benefits should go to “really disabled people” rather than those with mental health problems. Corbyn asked: “Isn’t that proof the nasty party is still around?”

May stressed Freeman had apologised for his comments. And she argued repeatedly that the reversal of the tribunal decisions did not amount to any sort of cut.

Expect a cut in some people’s potential benefits.

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Job Centre Closures in Glasgow: More Loom.

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Devastation writes,

SERIOUSLY BAD NEWS

Sharp readers will remember the plan announced in 2015 to shrink the “estate” of the DWP by 20% over the next few years.

Well, here are some examples of this move in Glasgow – where a whopping HALF of all Jobcentres will close!!!!!!

This is devastating news, because thousands of claimants will now have to travel many expensive miles and miles to their nearest designated Jobcentre – and woe betide them if they’re late!!!!!!

Even if claimants are fit enough to walk in order to save on travel costs – and many aren’t – what happens in bad weather? Trudging through rain, hail or snow on a 7 or 8 miles return trip will be no easy task.

The BBC says (just now)

Half Glasgow’s Jobcentre Plus services to close under DWP plans.

Benefit claimants in Glasgow may have to travel further for employment services under UK government plans to close half the city’s 16 job centres.

The Scottish National Party described the proposal as “morally outrageous”.

It said those from the poorest areas would face higher travel and phone costs, making it harder to seek work.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the closures would save public money and reflected an increase in use of online and telephone services.

Under the plans, there would be no job losses among Jobcentre Plus staff and claimants would not have to travel further than four miles or 40 minutes.

Denise Horsfall, DWP work services director for Scotland, said it was now easier for claimants to access Jobcentre services “whether that be in person, online or over phone”.

“By bringing together a number of neighbouring jobcentres we’re continuing to modernise our operations while ensuring that our premises provide best value to the taxpayer,” she said.

The DWP said there would be a public consultation in areas where customers had to travel more than three miles or more than 20 minutes.

Is this, people ask, the foretaste of a full on-line service?

Damien Green’s future of no “stable hours, holiday pay, sick pay, pensions..” or accessible Jobcentres? Or indeed JSA?

In the meantime closures mean long journeys, already a problem in rural East Anglia.

And not every is on-line.

Full story.

Eight job centres to shut in Glasgow as Tories use Scotland as ‘guinea pig’ for callous cuts.

The Tory government has been accused of using Scotland as a “guinea pig” for more callous attacks on the poor.

The Record can reveal that plans are afoot to shut down eight Jobcentre plus offices in Glasgow,including those in some of the UK’s most deprived areas.

The move appear to contradict DWP guidelines which say that job centre closures should not take place unless alternative premises are less than three miles away or no more than 20 minutes in public transport.

Opponents believe the closures will lead to further misery for those already facing draconian benefit sanctions as the Tories drive home crippling austerity measures.

And whistleblowers who contacted the Record believe Glasgow is being used as a template by the Government amid secret plans to roll out similar closures UK-wide.

Chris Stephens MP for Glasgow South West said: “This decision is simply morally outrageous. It will result in the poorest communities not being serviced by a job centre and make it even harder for those seeking employment to get support.

“Thousands of people will now have to travel further at additional cost to attend their appointments.

“Approximately 68,000 people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit in Glasgow will be impacted by these closures.

“Given the brutal sanctions regime this will mean that the numbers facing sanctions will undoubtedly increase.

“It will also mean that those seeking assistance from the Department for Work and Pensions will have to call expensive 0345 numbers – the so-called “telephone tax” – to speak to an advisor about their claim which places the cost of Job Centre closures onto the people it should be assisting.

These plans make Glasgow the guinea pig, as I fear the closures announced will be used as a template for further closures across Scotland and the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 7, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Pension Age to Rise – Yet Again. “Basically a Huge Tax Rise”.

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Image result for MInister of state for pensions Richard Harrington MP

Harrington Smiles at Prospect of Pension Age Rise.

Some years ago I heard that people I knew were being transferred from JSA to Pension Credit.

They were just over 60 years old.

Some years ago I heard that these people had received the same rate of benefit as pensioners – a lot more than JSA.

Some years ago I heard that the retirement age was due to rise.

That all this credit stuff had been got rid of.

A few years later I heard that there were moves afoot to raise the pension age – apparently the country couldn’t afford to keep on paying pensions unless young people worked until they were seventy.

Young people – people who if they went to University have to spend a lifetime paying off their loan and fee debt to the state’s usurers, and who are in hock, if they are lucky, to mortgage lenders half their lives – have to drudge until this age.

Young people, who, under the magic age of 25 are expected to live on less benefit than everybody else, and get a special rate of minium pay:

Over 25 £7.20
21 to 24 £6.95
18 to 20 £5.55
Under 18 £4.00
Apprentice* £3.40

Now they will have to wait longer to be pensioners.

And there is this (thanks to people signaling it in the comments):

‘Basically a huge tax increase’: readers on proposed pension age rise

Former pensions minister Steve Webb says the government is considering raising pension age sooner than previously planned

Tens of millions of workers under the age of 55 could be affected by changes to pension age sooner than previously planned, according to a former minister.

Steve Webb, pensions minister in the coalition government between 2010-15, says documents produced by the Department of Work and Pensions suggest the government is preparing a “more aggressive” timetable on state pension age changes.

Pension age may be about to rise again, says former minister (Guardian)

Steve Webb says government considering faster timetable for higher state pension age of 70, affecting millions of workers

The government may be preparing to increase the official state pension age to 70 for millions of people currently in their 20s, a former minister has claimed.

Steve Webb said documents produced by the Department for Work and Pensions suggested a “more aggressive” timetable on state pension age (SPA) increases than previously planned was being prepared.

This could affect tens of millions of workers aged under 55, and bring a pension age of 70 into the official timetable for the first time for people currently aged between 22 and 30, he added. The current official SPA for people in their 20s is 68, though under the existing schedule it could be expected to rise to 69.

The SPA is the earliest age someone can start receiving their state pension, and is due to rise to 66 between 2018 and 2020, to 67 between 2026 and 2028, and then to 68 between 2044 and 2046.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 28, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Suffolk Libraries – a Key Resource for the Unemployed – Face Cuts.

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Image result for libraries under threat protests

Libraries are a key resource for the unemployed.

We use them to do our Jobsearch (part of the 35 hours we have to carry out as part of our ‘Jobseekers Agreement’.

We use their Internet services (where they are available) to write CVs, to upload CVs, apply for jobs and look around the web for posts.

We use them for books on how to do this, and for help from staff about the best way to do it.

This resource is under threat.

Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close. BBC.

Almost 8,000 jobs in UK libraries have disappeared in six years, about a quarter of the overall total, an investigation by the BBC has revealed.

Over the same period, some 15,500 volunteers have been recruited and 343 libraries have closed, leading to fears over the future of the profession.

Children’s author Alan Gibbons said the public library service faced the “greatest crisis in its history”.

The government said it funded the roll-out of wi-fi to help libraries adapt.

The BBC has compiled data from 207 authorities responsible for running libraries through the Freedom of Information Act. Our analysis shows:

  • Some 343 libraries closed. Of those, 132 were mobile services, while 207 were based in buildings (and there were four others, such as home delivery services)
  • The number of closures in England is higher than the government’s official estimate of 110 buildings shut
  • A further 111 closures are planned this year
  • The number of paid staff in libraries fell from 31,977 in 2010 to 24,044 now, a drop of 7,933 (25%) for the 182 library authorities that provided comparable data
  • A further 174 libraries have been transferred to community groups, while 50 have been handed to external organisations to run. In some areas, such as Lincolnshire and Surrey, the move has led to legal challenges and protests from residents.

Now we have this in Suffolk.

Suffolk Libraries face £230,000 budget cut as bosses call for more public support to save all 44 branches

Anybody who uses Ipswich central Library knows the strain they are already under.

To say the least there are ‘problems’ about the Net service.

How people who rely on smaller libraries manage is hard to tell, it must be hard.

Tory-run Suffolk County Council seems determined to make our lives worse:

Suffolk County Council’s Scrutiny Committee will be discussing the council’s budget proposals on 30 November.

These proposals include a further reduction to the Suffolk Libraries budget of £230,000 for 2017-18. This follows a cut of £350,000 for the current year (2016-2017) which Suffolk Libraries accepted with reluctance.

Alison Wheeler, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said: “We recognise that public-sector funding is decreasing, and in response Suffolk Libraries has since 2011, with stringencies and economies, saved more than 30% of the original library budget without affecting local services.”

“In terms of relative cost – for every £1 spent by the Council, less than 1 penny is spent on the library service. The library service actively contributes to several of the county’s key priorities which include support for vulnerable people, raising educational attainment, supporting small businesses and empowering communities.”

“Suffolk Libraries is now in its fifth year of operation and each year it has lived within its means and saved increasing amounts of council tax. This has only been done with the sustained hard work of library staff, help from community groups, local volunteers and support from library customers.”

“With this extraordinary support, we have together ensured that all Suffolk libraries are still open, local library opening hours have been sustained and the services people enjoy, and which we know make a difference to people’s lives, have continued to flourish.”

Tony Brown, Chair of Suffolk Libraries Board added “Over the past year we have made it clear that it would be impossible to make further cuts without having an effect on services. We pledged to work constructively with the council on the longer-term future of the county’s library service and offered them a plan in June in which we suggested ways we could save money over a longer period, and which would allow us to keep library opening hours intact.”

“Five months later, it’s disappointing to see that the council’s budget proposals do not reflect the alternative plans we presented. The larger sums required will almost certainly mean we can’t carry on providing the library service in the same way.”

“However, we are still in discussion about the final sum. People will be consulted on any changes and we will strive to minimise the impact on customers, and ensure that people will still have access to the same wide range of services and activities in their community.”

“Suffolk Libraries’ Board is committed to keeping libraries open and for local services to flourish. The Suffolk community has shown a huge amount of support for local libraries over the past few years, and this has never been more needed, or valued.”

Want to show your support for your library service? Email us at help@suffolklibraries.co.uk, tweet @suffolklibrary or comment on our Facebook page. You can also contact Suffolk County Council.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 23, 2016 at 11:44 am

Work and Pensions Committee : ‘Concerns’ over “Policemen” Work Coaches and Work and Health Programme.

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Image result for jobcentre plus work coach I'm daniel Blake

Job Coach Client.

Work Coaches: A personalised in-work service.

Work Coaches are front-line DWP staff based in Jobcentres. Their main role is to support claimants into work by challenging, motivating, providing personalised advice and using knowledge of local labour markets. This involves conducting work-focused interviews and agreeing tailored “Claimant Commitments”.70 A job description is shown in Appendix 1. At February 2016, 11,000 whole-time equivalent Work Coaches71 supported nearly 745,000 out-of-work claimants across Great Britain.72 Each Work Coach is responsible for a caseload of around 100 unemployed claimants and conducts 10 to 20 claimant interviews per day.73

Job Centre Plus reforms currently ‘front-loaded for failure,’ MPs say.

A new approach to the role of work coaches in the Job Centre Plus (JCP) programme is needed as its approach shifts to helping more complex cases, the Work and Pensions Committee has said in a new report.

The report said that changes such as the introduction of the Work and Health Programme and Universal Credit mean that JCP will deal with more claimants ‘in-house’ instead of through contracted-out provision and with more claimants with complex needs, such as health problems and disabilities.

However, it said that these changing needs were combined with a move to a “generalist” model for work coaches.

Work and Pensions Committee says it has grave concerns over both the challenges faced by Work Coaches in Jobcentre Plus (JCP), and the flagship Work and Health Programme.

(Hat-tip to Benefit Tales.)

Committee Chair Frank Field said:

“The government is basing the future for the new Job Centre Plus advisers on too narrow a financial and administrative base. It is in danger of missing this opportunity to create a world-class first in respect of its job advisers, and a world-leading employment support programme for disabled people in Job Centre Pluses by not thinking through the demands to be made on what is, in reality, the same old system financed by a much reduced budget.”

Against the backdrop of a much changed labour market, the delayed roll-out of Universal Credit and the scaling down of contracted-out welfare-to-work programmes, JCP will be expected to provide employment support to a broader and more challenging caseload of claimants, including those with disabilities, mental health conditions, and the long-term unemployed.

Work Coaches

In the report summary this is well-worth noting,

Culturally, JCP must ensure that it becomes an inspirational place from which individuals find and succeed in work. JCP Work Coaches—front-line advisors—will play a pivotal role. Too often, JCP staff have been cast in the role of policemen rather than supporters who help people progress to and in work. Major changes will be required of Work Coaches. There is a case for some Work Coaches to specialise in helping specific claimant groups, while others take a higher caseload of more general cases. There should also be a clearer route for Work Coaches themselves to progress in their careers in providing tailored employment support, reflecting the increased demands of today’s labour market.

The success of the new Work Coach model will depend, in part, on Coaches’ awareness that they are not experts in all areas—including disability and health conditions. They must, therefore, embrace working alongside more knowledgeable third parties and charities. To make a success of its new, expanded role, JCP will have to ensure that it is open to working in ways that are increasingly flexible, adaptable and experimental. It must strengthen working relationships with employers and other external partners in order to ensure that specialist support is available to claimants when it is needed. It will also need to demonstrate an ability to learn on the job and adapt its provision, both to changing labour market circumstances and as it learns what works in supporting claimants. This new role will also need to be reflected in its opening hours.

Previously, many of these claimants would have been supported outside JCP, through the contracted-out Work Programme and Work Choice. Whether the employment support that the Department offers to these claimants is successful will largely depend on its Work Coaches – front-line support staff. The Committee identifies several concerns about this approach:

  • Work Coaches will increasingly have to provide positive coaching and address claimants’ barriers to work, yet many claimants currently view Coaches as “policemen” due to their role in administering sanctions: two potentially conflicting roles
  • Work Coaches will be generalists who support claimants with a wide range of needs. However, addressing their claimants’ barriers to work requires specialist skills and knowledge that many Work Coaches currently lack, and have little incentive to develop
  • To compensate for their lack of specialism, Work Coaches will be increasingly required to identify and refer their claimants to appropriate external support: for example, from charities and third parties. This, in itself, requires a level of specialist knowledge
  • The requirement to refer to third-party support, alongside the more complex caseloads and extended support role, will place increasing pressure on claimants’ appointment times with Work Coaches

The Committee is also concerned about the “manifold reduction” in external support that the Work and Health Programme represents. It will have a budget of £554m over its lifetime: substantially less than the estimated £1.5bn that was spent on disability employment through the Work Programme and Work Choice it replaces. Witnesses told the Committee that this reduction in programme capacity meant that many of those who might benefit from participating would be unable to access it. Given the Government’s pledge to halve the disability employment gap, this is a disappointing development.

This is also worth noting:  Conclusions and recommendations.

3.We recommend the Department set out how it will support Work Coaches to strike the right balance between coaching and conditionality—potentially conflicting elements of their role. Work Coaches should be given more comprehensive guidance on how to adopt a flexible approach to conditionality for vulnerable groups of claimants, such as those with health conditions or housing problems. The guidance should include multiple examples illustrating the circumstances in which different levels of conditionality, including frequency of meetings, would be appropriate and effective. (Paragraph 22)

4.We recommend that the Department monitor the extent to which claimants consider Claimant Commitments personalised. This should include adding a question on this topic to the annual Claimant Experience survey. (Paragraph 23)

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The success of the Department’s approach will depend on supporting people who, in many cases, are long term unemployed or have substantial health issues back into work. Many of these may have seen Jobcentres as enforcement agencies, and their staff as police, and have been poorly served in the past. Instead of building on examples of successful programmes such as Work Choice, the Department is overseeing a massive reduction in the spending on the replacement Work and Health Programme. Compensating for this will require a massive cultural shift and practical shift in JCP, enabling it to become a place that supports real progress to, and in, work. We are not convinced that JCPs and Work Coaches will have the necessary resources, skills and expertise to do this, and especially not at the rapid and ambitious pace that the DWP is expecting.

The Government has expressed the need to reform capitalism, and to “make work pay”. We welcome the Department’s willingness to take a flexible approach to JCP’s services, and to try to support those who have been inadequately served by the current system. But we have grave concerns that shifting a raft of new, specialised demands and requirements onto JCPs, without significant training and preparation and with greatly reduced resources, is simply front-loading this brave new world for failure.”

Written by Andrew Coates

November 14, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Behavioural “Insights” Team on Sanctions and “Identity-building activities.”

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Somewhere we hope never to go…

Most of us are familiar with the way the DWP Job Centre, and all the rest of the schemes we are on, are run on the basis of some kind of managerial theory which tries to ‘nudge’ (force) us to behave in order to fit into their idea of what we should do to get employment.

On the Work Programme this could involve being told to “get out of your comfort zone”, listening to heroic tales of how the trainers obtained their magnificent positions through hard work, or (job centre) somebody going through your Job Seeker’s Agreement with a fine tooth comb to find if you have spent every waking hour asking “giv us a job”.

People have made money out of theorising this practice, and no doubt drawing up the guidelines for DWP and Trainers to follow.

Indeed their is a whole ‘unit’, the Behavioural Insights Team, that produces hefty reports on such affairs.

There is a book, “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein” (2008) which has replaced How to Win Friends and Influence People” on every huckster’s book shelf.

This American text’s core message was summed up by the New York Review of Books as follows,

Nudging is about the self-conscious design of choice architecture. Put a certain choice architecture together with a certain heuristic and you will get a certain outcome. That’s the basic equation. So, if you want a person to reach a desirable outcome and you can’t change the heuristic she’s following, then you have to meddle with the choice architecture, setting up one that when matched with the given heuristic delivers the desirable outcome. That’s what we do when we nudge.

It’s all for your own Good. Jeremy Waldron.

Naturally the book came to the UK where this was the reception (Richard Reeves, Observer. 2008)

Nudge has become the ‘it’ book for politicos. Thaler is in the middle of a fortnight in the UK and is being courted and feted by the chattering, thinking, wonking classes. Everyone who is anyone has been nudged by the amiable prof (I bought him dinner). The Conservatives moved quickly to stake their claim to his brand of ‘libertarian paternalism’, seeing in it a way for the state to act non-coercively for the greater good.

The (gibberish sounding) Behavioural Insights Team) was the result.

The quality of the thinking, research and proposals of this merry crew is praised in the book, Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference.  David Halpern. 2016.

You can judge for yourself (Review: Public Finance)

Human beings are amazingly complicated, so you do get surprises coming up on a regular basis even if you’re fairly expert,” Halpern says. He cites the example of a big discrepancy in the results of a judgment test sat by applicants to the police. “It’s an online test – there are no human beings involved – and yet there was a massive difference in the pass rate between white and ethnic minority candidates, 60% versus 40%,” he explains. “There were lots of hypotheses about why this might be – you can imagine some of the ideas.”

We can indeed.

People are really complicated.

Wow.

The Unit came up with wizard wheezes like “Giving a day’s salary to charity” “Using a lottery to increase electoral participation rates” and “Increasing fine payment rates through text messages.” (more see Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), also known unofficially as the “Nudge Unit“)

And….”.”Personal commitment devices in Jobcentres.”

Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP did not do “non-coercive”, so we had…sanctions to “nudge” us in the right direction.

As in, I, Daniel Blake.

Now we hear this from the Nudgers:

DWP must review welfare conditionality, policy unit set up by Downing Street says (Independent a few days ago)

The Government should review its practice of forcing benefit claimants to jump through hoops like attending Jobcentre meetings in order to claim benefits, a policy unit set up by Downing Street has recommended.

The Behavioral Insights Team, set up by David Cameron in 2010, said piling unemployed people with responsibilities on pain of sanction might actually be making it harder for them to get jobs.

The so-called Nudge Unit, which was part-privatised in 2014, warned that some Government policies were reducing so-called “cognitive bandwidth” or “headspace” of the people they were designed to help.

Is that all?

Not quite.

‘Nudge Unit’ u-turn on benefit sanctions could herald even more state intervention  replies Sue Jones in Welfare Weekly.

It’s very interesting that the Behavioural Insights Team now claim that the state using the threat of benefit sanctions may be “counterproductive”. The idea of increasing welfare conditionality and enlarging the scope and increasing the frequency of benefit sanctions originated from the behavioural economics theories of the Nudge Unit in the first place.

The increased use and rising severity of benefit sanctions became an integrated part of welfare “conditionality” in the Conservative’s Welfare “reform” Act, 2012. The current sanction regime is based on a principle borrowed from behavioural economics theory – an alleged cognitive bias we have called “loss aversion.” It refers to the idea that people’s tendency is to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. The idea is embedded in the use of sanctions to “nudge” people towards compliance with welfare rules of conditionality, by using a threat of punitive financial loss, since the longstanding, underpinning Conservative assumption is that people are unemployed because of alleged behavioural deficits and poor decision-making. Hence the need for policies that “rectify ” behaviour.

This is important,

….anyone curious as to how such tyrannical behaviour modification techniques like benefit sanctions arose from the bland language, inane, managementspeak acronyms and pseudo-scientific framework of “paternal libertarianism” – nudge – here is an interesting read: Employing BELIEF: Applying behavioural economics to welfare to work, which is focused almost exclusively on New Right small state obsessions. Pay particular attention to the part about the alleged cognitive bias called loss aversion, on page 7.

It gets worse.

A lot worse, drivel wise that is.

This is what they propose:

Work

1 Use identity-building activities in Jobcentres to cultivate intrinsic motivation for work in order to improve the quality and sustainability of jobs that people find.

2 Collect longer-term and more holistic outcome measures of labour market interventions to understand their full impact on poverty.

3 Develop a simple tool for Jobcentres to identify capital deficits in order to match interventions to individual job seeker needs.

Sue Jones states,

Proposals such as providing access to parenting programmes, “identity-building activities in Jobcentres to cultivate intrinsic motivation for work”, “rainy day “savings, and “develop a simple tool for Jobcentres to identify capital deficits in order to match interventions to individual job seeker needs” all sound like a New Right blame-storming exercise. Again, the problem of poverty is regarded as being intrinsic to the individual, rather than one that arises in a wider political, economic, cultural and social context.

People have to read the Welfare Weekly article in full.

But the impression I get is that this latest  jolly prank looks like subjecting claimants to more, endlessly more, attempts by this lot to shape our lives and tell us what to do.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 25, 2016 at 3:39 pm

I, Daniel Blake in Review: Will it Help Change Anything?

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Image result for I daniel Blake

As a measure of I, Daniel Blake’s impact, this weekend the  French daily, Le Monde, devoted a whole page to an interview with the sociologist of poverty Nicolas Duvoux. about Ken Loach’s film.

He noted just how much the French system had become like the nightmare described in the picture (it might help that the French word for “sanction” is, er, la sanction).

At the end the interviewer asked if Loach’s call for a debate on these system, and the misery caused by miserly social security, could take place in France.

The answer was that Duvoux doubted it: people had become blinded to the existence of poverty. They blame the poor for being poor.

UNITE the union says,

We are all Daniel Blake

Our hope is that this film will spark a national debate and build public support for a fairer social security system for people in and out of work – just like Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home shifted the political agenda on housing in this country in the 1960s.

The scary thing is that what happens to Daniel could happen to anyone of us. How would you cope with being made redundant? Or falling ill? How long would your savings last? The British welfare state has helped millions of people get back on their feet in times of need – a safety net for those that fall on hard times – to need it isn’t a moral failing #WeAreAllDanielBlake.

We note that the Evening Standard’s review is headed, “Ken Loach’s grim portrait of Britain tells us that state bureaucracy is a horror and that welfare rules humiliate claimants, but nothing that we didn’t know already, says David Sexton.”

Sexton peppers his article with further sneers,

Big-hearted Dan, forgetting his own troubles, takes them in hand, fixing their cistern, leaving them some money for the electric, putting up one of his mobiles, getting little Dylan talking. And he takes Katie to the local food bank, where the poor girl is so hungry she breaks down and, while scooping things off the shelves, opens a tin, possibly of spaghetti rings, there and then and begins eating it with her hands. Worse, when she finds the food bank doesn’t do sanitary towels, she shoplifts some — and the store’s security guard spots her as ripe for going on the game, a further neo-capitalist degradation. 

And,

Loach, 80 now, is such an undeviating and old-fashioned Marxist that it has been fascinating to observe the rapprochement between his own special Left purity, disregarding all contradictory history, and Jeremy Corbyn’s, ditto.

And lo! Corbyn went along to the premiere this very week, posing alongside Loach in front of boards saying “Deaths due to sanctions and benefit cuts RIP”, and kneeling to add his own graffiti to that of Daniel Blake. Next day, he posted on Facebook: “If there’s one thing you do this year, go and see I, Daniel Blake. I went to see it last night and it’s one of the most moving films I’ve seen.” Historically inevitable, really.

Yet, by contrast the Daily Telegraph has a sensitive and intelligent review,  Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake is a quietly fearsome piece of drama.

At the age of 80, Loach is still calling things as he sees them – and a late speech delivered by a homeless ‘wise fool’ in front of a Jobcentre Plus, which takes in everything from food banks and the bedroom tax to “that baldy twat Iain Duncan Whatshisface”, lays out his manifesto with an appealing belligerence. This film treads fearsomely complex, splintery terrain – and the more complex it acknowledges it to be, the better.

Even the Sun comments,

While many people shudder at the thought of his gritty, sometimes sentimentalised portraits of working-class life, they often forget how funny the films can be.

There are jokes – Loach often casts comedians, including John Bishop and now Dave Johns – and uses laughter to lighten the drama.

UNITE, to continue, says,

1. Please go and see this film – and tell your friends to see it too, on general release on 21 October.

2. Share your story – if you’ve ever been sanctioned or affected by any of the issues in I,Daniel Blake then we want to hear from you. Please share your story in the form below.

3.Tell a Tory to see this film – every single MP needs to see this film, (particularly the Tories!). Help them understand that our benefits’ system isn’t working. Email and tweet yours now, enter your postcode below to get started.

4. Unite Community has been campaigning against benefit sanctions right from the start -to find out more about the campaign visit the NoSanctions page.

5. Spread the message on social media- everybody needs to see this film. Join the conversation on the I, Daniel Blake Facebook and Twitter pages tagging #WeareallDanielBlake

Apart from the numerous clips I have not yet seen I, Daniel Blake, for reasons which are pretty obvious.

Like lots of us lot I have seen too much of Daniel Blake in real life. 

But I hope from the depths of my guts that the film helps change things.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 24, 2016 at 9:40 am