Either unemployment is rising or Workfare has failed – which is it, Mr Osborne?

"Let's carry on doing what's right for Britain," said Mr Osborne. To which Graeme Garden, on radio's greatest comedy panel show, may well have responded: "Right for the goolies of Britain!"

“Let’s carry on doing what’s right for Britain,” said Mr Osborne. To which Graeme Garden, on radio’s greatest comedy panel show, may well have responded: “Right for the goolies of Britain!”

It’s hard to know what to make of the latest Conservative cock-up.

Is it another attempt to hoodwink the public by misrepresenting the figures? Is it another chapter in the long-running battle between Iain Pretentious-middlename Smith and George My-real-name’s-Gideon Osborne? Is it further proof that Job Centre Plus has a target percentage of sanctions to hit every month?

Is it all of the above? Yes, that seems most likely.

Let’s work through it together. The BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22539971 tells us that unemployment has risen by 15,000 between January and March, to 2.52 million. But the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance dropped by 7,300 – to 1.52 million. The figures, we’re told, came from the Office for National Statistics.

Now, the Department for Work and Pensions has added a little flesh to these bones. It seems that the rise in unemployment is partly due to a fall in the number of people on government back-to-work schemes – Workfare. Apparently there are 16,000 fewer people on these schemes (and 147,000 still stuck on them).

So the rise in unemployment is entirely due to people coming off Workfare, then. Right? Hard to tell. We’ll come to the reason in a moment. What this does show is the way the government has been using Workfare to hide the UK’s true unemployment total. The people who are still on back-to-work schemes don’t actually have jobs – they’re just registered as though they have, to save Ministerial face.

Another reason to believe the government is hiding the true extent of joblessness is the drop in the claimant count – the number of people actually claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance. Unemployment is up, but claims for unemployment benefits are down – how can that be right?

Is it, mayhap perhaps, because Job Centre staff have been ordered to toughen up their sanction regime in order to kick around five per cent of claimants off the books at any time, as has been suggested on this blog and in many other articles?

We don’t have an answer to that one. The figures don’t provide it and we certainly won’t get it from Iain D Smith’s DWP!

Let’s look at some more DWP figures. Unemployment has increased by 15,000 in the last three months, it says. But the number with jobs fell by nearly three times as many – 43,000. The level of economic inactivity is up by 47,000 to nine million. And of course, the number claiming JSA is down by 7,000.

They just don’t stack up, do they?

Oh, but hang on – “the figures continue to be affected by the re-assessment of existing claims for incapacity benefits – this is likely to have added to the JSA caseload”. But the JSA caseload has dropped!

So we have a rise in unemployment – that doesn’t reflect the true total because 147,000 people (possibly more) are still on government work schemes.

And we have a drop in benefit claims – even when an increased caseload of JSA claims from people who used to be on incapacity benefits are added in.

Meaning: More people are out of work, more people are being thrown off benefits and into destitution, and more people are turning away from pointless Workfare schemes.

Considering the ONS is estimating an average of 503,000 unfilled job vacancies – one for every five people out of work, even according to DWP figures – this tells us unequivocally that Mr… Smith’s strategy to get people back to work has failed utterly – mostly because it was a fairy tale from the start.

What does Mr Osborne have to say about this failure to stimulate growth in the employment market, failure of the Workfare schemes, and failure of the government to support those who need help to get back into work – pushing them off the books instead in what can only be seen as an admission of failure?

He said: “The fact is, the most recent economic news has been more encouraging. The economy is growing. Surveys are better. Confidence is returning to financial markets.”

He told the CBI business group: “We will stick with our approach which has seen the deficit cut by a third,” conveniently neglecting to mention that the drop in the deficit between 2012 and this year was one four-hundredth – a quarter of one per cent – not a third.

He said the government had a clear plan and it was working.

For that to be true, the plan cannot be to restore growth to the economy and get workless people back into well-paid jobs. The figures show quite clearly what the plan really is.

The plan is to cut off benefits to the workless and then blame them for the loss.

While Smith’s DWP comes out of this looking evil, it has also made Osborne – spouting rhetoric that makes no sense in the context of the figures – look like a fool.

Not for the last time!


  1. Jane Canning May 17, 2013 at 1:44 am - Reply

    Workfare is still alive and well I’m afraid. I was mortified this morning when I discovered my son has been put on a mandatory unpaid placement of four weeks, not even in Liverpool where we live. It is a 6 day, 60 hour week!

    • Big Bill May 17, 2013 at 4:29 am - Reply

      For which company?

    • Disgruntled Knome May 17, 2013 at 10:29 am - Reply

      Like bill says, for which company..
      If your son is on £70 a week thats £1.17 per hour if it was a paid job.
      Utterly disgusting.

    • MD smith May 17, 2013 at 11:49 am - Reply

      that breaks EU guideline for a normal working week which is 38 or 40 hours per week.

  2. mushroom77 May 17, 2013 at 6:51 am - Reply

    name and shame please jane.

  3. Editor May 17, 2013 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on kickingthecat.

  4. skwalker1964 May 17, 2013 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on The SKWAWKBOX Blog and commented:
    More excellent, incisive logic from Vox Political nails how the government has been using Workfare to mask rising unemployment figures – and what a dead dog of a failure Workfare is. Please take a look!

  5. Mervyn May 17, 2013 at 9:50 am - Reply

    The new agenda is clearly to demonise and deny the poor benefits so that they can claim their unemployment is of their own making. Thus solving the unemployment crisis by creative accounting.

    This coalition is evil, but sadly Blue Labour are no better or they would be exposing this themselves and shouting from the roof tops.

    This is brilliant work, thank you.

  6. Ian Malley May 17, 2013 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Hi Mike. After reading your account of how the government is cooking the books I wanted to recount my own experiences of exactly what happens when you are in the chosen 5% of jobcentre sanction targets.

    In a nutshell, after my small online retail business failed in summer 2012, I eventually claimed benefits (JSA/HB) in November 2012. At this stage we were coming to the end of a long standing rent arrears agreement with our landlords, Wales & West Housing Association. Who had previously taken us to court for rent arrears of £1600.

    After our court case in 2009 we paid our rent arrears religiously, from our own pocket, to the tune of £100 every week (£72 pounds rent and the rest off the arrears). In November 2012, when I first claimed benefits, my rent arrears stood at £400 and we had no problems at all with our landlord. We are not problem tenants by any stretch of the imagination.

    When I first claimed I informed the jobcentre that I was only claiming to seek help with starting a new business. The benefits rules had changed recently, meaning a person only needed to be unemployed to get new enterprise help, instead of how the rules previously stood when a person needed to have been unemployed for 6 months to qualify for enterprise assistance.

    To sum up, that claim (and three subsequent claims) were all closed by bridgend Jobcentre, leaving us with a rent arrear which was now at £2500.

    A new court summonse was quickly raised and papers were served on us at the start of the May Bank Holiday (Friday May 3rd). The eviction date? Tuesday May 14th, which left us only 7 days after the bank holiday, only 5 of which were working days, on which to mount our defense.

    Between Bridgend County courts and Bridgend council they moved mountains, cancelled lunchtimes, worked late all in a bid to secure us an appeal hearing date, which was eventually granted to us for Monday May 13th at 10am. Exactly 25 hours before the eviction is set to take place.

    We did defend our home, in no small part down to representatives from Shelter Cymru and Bridgend Council giving evidence in our favour, culminating in them backdating our entire rent claim to…November 2012.

    So alls well that ends well or so you would have thought. But the jobcentre in bridgend had other ideas.

    On May 8th I missed a ‘Back to Work’ appointment with bridgend jobcentre, as a result of my committments in dealing with our impending eviction.

    It just slipped through the net in the hullaballoo.

    I was in the jobcentre May 7th, talking with customer services, to ask if there was any chance they would back date my claim. All this was put on their computer system so whoever closed my claim knew I had been there, but a day earlier.

    So today I find myself with no income, an uncooperative jobcentre who now have me down as an ‘awkward customer’, and absolutely no way of maintaining my rent arrears payments which is only ever going to end one way. Back in court.

    I’ve written to both the South Wales Echo and the Glamorgan Gazette, and I have also contacted two of my elected representatives and not a single person has even acknowledged my communication.

    So if you would liketo help me tell my story I will happily fill in the gaps for you.

    Its quite a tale.


    Ian Malley

  7. Teesside Solidarity Movement May 17, 2013 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on Teesside Solidarity Movement.

  8. Ian May 17, 2013 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Time and time again they have been shown to lie to the public. Why are people not up in arms about this? Yes, blogs like this get the message out, but nothing happens. Why? Because people are too apathetic to do anything. It is time we took control of this country, not through votes because that will not work. But through a fight that will show the world the British people will no longer stand for being treated like cattle. I dont want bloodshed, but if we do nothing then its just our blood being split by these policies and these people who mislead us at every turn.

    • Linda Steers May 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      People aren’t up in arms because pretty much anybody who isn’t involved in one way or another has swallowed the govt’s “skivers & scroungers” line hook, line and sinker, even my 2 sons think I could just go out and find work.

      Now bearing in mind that I’m 60, I have the usual physical problems that come with that, ie, more easily tired, memory isn’t as good as it used to be, etc, plus I have a trapped nerve in my back which means I couldn’t take a job lifting things (even light ones), or standing for any length of time (my feet swell up despite my blood pressure meds) and so on.

      I’m out of date with the software I need to do my job and can’t get any training courses because, for some reason, the DWP isn’t prepared to pay out £1000 to get my skills updated and the people who might employ me won’t take me on without the knowledge I can’t afford.

      And finally, that 60 thing. For some reason, it seems to put prospective employers off me; I don’t have to put my age on the application but as soon as they see the A- & O-levels it gives them a real clue…

  9. Chris Tandy May 17, 2013 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Mike Sivier once more unties the ‘Gideon Knot’ with a slash or two of his razor-sharp sword of sensibility.

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