What do you do with a policy that has caused misery for thousands, has harmed the job market, removed jobseekers from work experience that would have led to a decent job and forced them to stack supermarket shelves instead, and actually had a judicial review held against it?
If you’re Chris Grayling, you roll it out in 16 London boroughs – all notable for being sites of the summer riots in 2011.
According to the Evening Standard, Mr Grayling plans to force young unemployed Londoners aged 18-24 to work in charities or care homes for 30 hours a week, while spending another 10 hours a week searching for a proper job, for a 13-week period. The policy will be applied to everybody who has spent less than six months in employment since leaving education; if they don’t agree to it, they’ll lose their £56-per-week Jobseekers’ Allowance.
He denied it was “slave labour” – the common nickname for the Work Placement scheme – instead claiming it would help young Londoners improve their career prospects.
I wonder what it will do for the prospects of people living in care homes who’ll have these inexperienced youngsters put in charge of them. It’ll probably make Winterbourne View care home look civilised – and through no fault of the youngsters being forced to do the work.
Mr Grayling also said it was reasonable for youngsters to be asked to give something to the community before the community gives anything back.
This might be a valid argument, but let’s ask one vital question: Who really gains from these work placement schemes?
The youngsters don’t – all they get is £56 per week and the loss of time that could be spent in voluntary work that will lead to a proper job.
The economy won’t – the jobs these young people will be doing should have proper wages, contracts and conditions of employment attached. This would pump money into the national economy and might actually help get Britain working properly again, but instead we’re seeing a silly publicity stunt from the government.
And the taxpayer won’t benefit either – because the government is using our tax money to fund the scheme. We’re paying for these youngsters to work for organisations that should be offering proper employment to people instead. And if you think all we’re paying is £56 per week, per jobseeker, think again!
If this system is anything like Welfare to Work (and I think it is), then each jobseeker will be sent to a placement by a provider – a private company employed by the government to shoehorn them into a placement. These are the people who will benefit from this scheme. It’s another backhander for Grayling’s fat-cat business buddies.
According to a commenter on my Facebook page (the ‘like’ button is at the top left of this page) “The WTW provider gets a £600 attachment fee. They also get paid fees for “providing support” i.e. bulllying her into doing what THEY want. Later they get an “outcome fee” for making her stay in the minimum wage job of their choice. If she finds something with no help from them, they still pocket the dosh. If she finds training other than their useless ‘courses’ she gets rewarded with a sanction (benefits withheld indefinitely) to ensure compliance.”
Is the reasoning behind this starting to make sense now?
The comment continues: “The job centre sent me to work (unpaid, natch) as a learning support asst with pre-ESOL classes. Six months later the college offered to fund my teacher training. Jobcentre promptly ordered me onto Work Programme. I now belong to Maximus [this will be the WTW provider] for two years. They told me to dump teaching plans and do contract cleaning. I dumped Maximus instead. Now I’ve been sanctioned. The Prime Minister goes on about literacy (which I also intend to teach) but is willing to keep throwing money into the WP to use the unemployed as a commodity. Maximus get to keep the attachment fee, by the way.
“The reason given [for the sanction] was ‘you had opportunities’ meaning the useless, unaccredited courses at À4E. I found a part-time job to help while training and the college want to pay my fares. The jobcentre seems to be under pressure to send people on WP. The Govt line is that the WP is for the ‘feckless workshy’ and the press seems to be colluding in this.”
That last comment is particularly telling, as there’s no mention of any of this in the Standard’s article.