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Mark Hoban: He talks a lot of nonsense about work schemes.

Mark Hoban: He talks a lot of nonsense about work schemes.

The government has announced that people who come off the Work Programme will be “targeted” by a “hit squad”.

A press release from the Department for Work and Pensions says up to five “specialist advisers” will be based in individual Job Centres, and will be dedicated to “working with” people who haven’t found sustained work after two years on the Work Programme.

In other words, these people will be overworked because the government’s own figures show that the Work Programme achieves worse results than if the DWP had done nothing and let people find jobs on their own!

But don’t worry – in order to remedy the failure of its own system, the government is already punishing far more jobseekers than every before with the most extreme benefit sanctions possible! Yes indeed – in the year to October 2012, the total number of sanctions applied increased by more than 47 per cent, to a record 778,000!

That’s right. The DWP has punished more than three-quarters of a million jobseekers for its own failure to deliver a decent system to get them into work. Does that seem fair to you?

Those are the most recent (official) figures available from the DWP. It seems new figures were due last month but have been delayed indefinitely by the department. One has to wonder whether the total for the year to May 2013 has actually topped the one million mark – that would mean one-sixtieth of the population were deprived of the funds they need to live, and we already know that sanctions do not only harm individual jobseekers but also people who have had nothing to do with the benefits being suspended.

They force people to rely on family and friends for their survival; they damage family relationships and harm the well-being of low-income families who have to stretch their resources to help a sanctioned person, including younger brothers or sisters who have to rely on the money earned by their elders for their own sustainance.

I love the quotes from Mark Hoban on the government press release. Try this one: “The Work Programme is getting some of the hardest to help claimants into work despite a tough economic climate.” A lie. Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee reported less than two weeks ago that “the hardest to help jobseekers remain at risk of being ‘parked’—given little or no support by providers who assess them as being unlikely to find sustained work”.

Or this: “We’ll be stepping up the pressure on claimants, who will be expected to attend the Jobcentre more frequently, with rigorous monitoring to ensure that they are doing everything they can to find work.” In other words, Job Centre staff will do everything they can to get in the way. It’s only a few days since another fellow blogger reported on her own experience of being sanctioned by her local Job Centre, after she found work.

The dialogue in that article is so hilarious it bears repeating here:

“Why did you fail to sign in on Monday?”

“Because I was at training for my job.”

“Well why didn’t you sign in on Tuesday?”

“Because I was at work.”

“Why did you fail to look for jobs in the last two weeks?”

“I didn’t. I applied for around 20 jobs in the last two weeks.”

“But why did you fail to apply for any jobs since last week?”

“Because I got a job.”

Anyone failing to comply with the – I suppose it amounts to – harassment announced in the press release will face sanctions, including a three-year benefit ban for the worst offenders – anybody who repeatedly fails to comply. In practice, this could mean not applying for a particular job, or arriving at the Job Centre a few minutes late.

It’s only towards the end of the government press release that we find the real reason for all this fanfare: “An extra £30m will be available to pay for extra training and specialist help to prepare them for work.”

Riiiiight. It’s another bung for the ministers’ friends in the Work Programme Provider companies.

That explains it.