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!