Workplace battleground: Labour and Tories at war over employment


Labour is forging forward with new plans to improve work prospects and the skills of those seeking employment, while the Conservatives are plunging backward with proposals to penalise people who lack the ability to speak basic English.

Already right-wingers in the media have been trying to undermine the policies announced by Rachel Reeves in a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research. They say Labour is planning to strip people of their benefits if they don’t take classes to improve their English and Maths skills, if necessary.

This talk of punishment for people who need help is completely wrong-headed. If someone can’t get a job because they can’t read, write or do their sums, then they should get help. Of course they should.

One has to wonder what has gone wrong in our schools, to lead to this situation. Perhaps Michael Gove would like to take responsibility? No, didn’t think so.

In fact, the plans announced by the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary are perfectly reasonable – especially in contrast with the latest Tory madness, but we’ll come to that soon enough.

We already know that the centrepiece of Labour’s economic plan is a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed.

This means anyone over 25 who has been receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance for two years or more, and anyone under that age who has been receiving the same benefit for one year or more would get a guaranteed job, paying at least the minimum wage, for 25 hours a week – coupled with training for at least a further 10 hours a week.

This is perfectly reasonable. If you have been looking for work for more than a year, and couldn’t get it yourself, then the extra income provided by such a placement (especially coming in line with Labour’s plan to increase wages, in order to really make work pay, rather than depressing benefits and putting everyone in poverty, which is Conservative policy) will be welcome.

It doesn’t mean that people will have to put their own ambitions on hold. The best advice I ever received was to get a paying job during the day, in order to put food on the table and clothes on my back, and work on what I really wanted to do in the evenings. Eventually, with perseverance, it should be possible to replace the day job with what you really want to do.

Most of the jobs are likely to be in small firms where, once a company has invested six months in a new recruit, the chances are they will want to keep them on after the subsidy has ended.

The jobs guarantee would be fully funded by repeating the tax on bankers bonuses – they were in the news recently, when it was announced that these people would be receiving unearned bonuses worth twice as much as their salary so they’ve definitely got the cash to spare – and a restriction on pension tax relief for those on the very highest incomes.

But – of course – putting people into a job isn’t much good if they don’t have the knowledge of English and Maths that most of us use without thinking in our everyday lives.

In her speech, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: “The shocking levels of English and maths among too many jobseekers are holding them back from getting work, and trapping them in a vicious cycle between low paid work and benefits.

“Nearly one in 10 people claiming JSA don’t have basic English skills, and over one in ten don’t have basic maths. IT skills among jobseekers are even worse; nearly half don’t have the basic email skills which are now essential for almost any job application.

“And we know that this keeps people out of jobs: those out of work are twice as likely than those in work to lack basic English and Maths,” she said, proving that her own lack in that area hasn’t held her back. Twice as likely as those in work, Rachel.

She said research has shown that, when people who lack these skills do get jobs, they too often find themselves in short term or temporary work, with a swift return to benefits. Nearly one in five of those who have made multiple claims for unemployment benefits have problems with reading or numeracy.

The response: “A new requirement [will be] for jobseekers to take training if they do not meet basic standards of maths, English and IT – training they will be required to take up alongside their jobsearch, or lose their benefits.

“[We] will ensure that people’s skills needs are assessed, and basic skills gaps addressed, from the start of a Jobseeker’s Allowance Claim, not after months and years of neglect.”

Contrast this with the Conservative Party’s latest plan to hammer immigrants and people on benefits – announcing a new policy of repression every week ahead of the election in 2015, according to

It seems right-wing Australian election chief, and tobacco lobbyist, Lynton Crosby thinks this kind of bully-boy behaviour will make the Tories more popular! Don’t laugh.

This comes after satirical radio comedy The Now Show featured a sketch in which people tried to justify xenophobic attitudes without saying the words “I’m not racist, but…”

Let’s try the reverse – putting those words into the new policies announced on

“I’m not racist, but we should strip benefits from anyone who can’t speak English!” (Does this include the English people who can’t speak their own language properly, who Labour plan to help?)

“I’m not racist, but we should axe the service telling people about benefits in foreign languages!”

“I’m not racist, but we should end translation services in benefits offices!” (According to, David Cameron is very keen on that one).

The site said “Iain Duncan Smith is understood to already be working on them”. (He’s not racist, but…)

Tory backbencher and former scandal Liam Fox tried to justify this lunacy by saying: “The ability to speak English is one of the most empowering tools in the labour market and we should be encouraging as many people as possible to learn it.” By cutting off their income? How does that work?

Plans to focus on the government’s increasingly racist tough anti-immigrant message come despite warnings that a reduction in immigration would make it harder for Britain to pay back its national debt.

The site said that, last week, a long-awaited report into benefit tourism had to be shelved in secret, after failing to find any evidence of it.

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  1. Nigel January 20, 2014 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    I can’t help but wonder where all these government created jobs are going to come from. Ed Balls has claimed in the past that a majority of these positions will be in the private sector. Does this mean that the government will be paying the wages for participants working for companies like Tesco, in jobs that would otherwise never have existed, and possibly even paying a subsidy to private employers as a reward for making use of such labour? Or what? See, if these jobs benefited the community, e.g., insulated the homes of the elderly to help keep them warm in cld weather, and gave participants useful skills and qualifications I would see the sense in it, but giving the long-term unemployed over to private companies to be used for six months as free labour, with part-time wages for participants paid by the government, seems rather iffy to me.

    • Barry Davies January 21, 2014 at 9:57 am - Reply

      The government already subsidises Big companies, the living wage is higher than the minima wage so companies are employing workers on minimum wages and the tax payer is topping up the shortfall, this is actually where the bulk of the benefit payments are going, to working people.

      • Mike Sivier January 21, 2014 at 10:48 am - Reply

        Agreed. Rachel Reeves acknowledged this in her speech, with the idea being that Labour would work to get employees’ pay up to a standard where they would be able to cover the cost of living.

  2. jray January 20, 2014 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    I would be happy to have a jobs guarantee(25+10) after being to a few interviews via UJM that turned out to be less aboveboard,but will it ever actually happen? After completing the WP,where I wasted 2 years asking to be retrained or gain a current qualification,I have been returned to the JCP,threats of daily signing and mandatory training…I attended and was looking forward to it,this confused them as I did not look at it as a punishment, but an opportunity to help myself back into employment.

    After 3 visits in 8 weeks,during which I asked again and again about the new programme,I finally frustrated the adviser enough to get an answer” You have been unemployed for over 3 years,you are not entitled to training,in the future you may be assigned to a provider who will provide tailored support” and guess who that Provider will be? The same one that failed to provide any support or training on the WP.

    • Mike Sivier January 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      Will it ever happen? I don’t know, but it clearly isn’t happening for you now!
      Best get a change of government.

      • jray January 20, 2014 at 6:55 pm - Reply

        It is not just these new proposals,for the last 3 years there have been programmes that have cost Billions and made the likes of A4E,G4S,Serco,Rehab-Jobfit very rich while delivering nothing worthwhile,the new post WP support (which the contracts amount to £270-£300 Million,same amount as the under spend on the WP due to poor performance) seems to be offering very little,but it seems that someone at the DWP is hell bent on showering Taxpayers money on these worthless companies.

        • Mike Sivier January 20, 2014 at 7:37 pm - Reply

          Don’t confuse Labour’s plans with what the Tory-led Coalition is doing now. Rachel Reeves announced proposals for what Labour would do, if that party gained office after the 2015 election. She can’t do anything now; you’re stuck with the mob who have been funnelling money into A4e, G4S, Serco etc for another year and a bit.

      • Barry Davies January 21, 2014 at 9:59 am - Reply

        Most of the outsourcing to these companies was implemented by labour, so why would they alter their previous policies?

        • Mike Sivier January 21, 2014 at 10:49 am - Reply

          Because experience tells them that it was a bad choice.

  3. Thomas M January 20, 2014 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    The Tories don’t understand-in most cases, you get further by being nice to people then being nasty to them.

    • thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady January 20, 2014 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      That’s right Thomas M. My nana used to say … “honey attracts more bees than vinegar” something, Camoron, Gidiot and Iain Dungcan Shmidt would do well to take heed of!

  4. ispy January 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    And what will happen when the existing Mandatory Work Activity scheme is extended from 4 weeks at present, to 26 weeks?

    Either the DWP will need to suddenly find 6-and-a-half times the number of placements, or the referral rate will decrease by 6-and-a-half times!

    The DWP is finding it difficult to find enough placements for the existing 4- week scheme, so hopefully the real world will kick in and scupper the DWPs plans for the new 26 week slave scheme!

  5. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady January 20, 2014 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on glynismillward189.

  6. Ian Duncan January 20, 2014 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    You’re really supporting the stopping of benefits because people don’t have good English, maths and IT skills? Labour were in government 13 years, it there adults out there now who lack these skills, Labour should shoulder a lot of the blame.

    And it may sound odd but some people just aren’t bright enough to learn these skills. I remember a lad from my YTS days who literally couldn’t spell the name of the street he lived in, he aksed me ‘what’s a vuh again? Is that one goes like…’ and drew a V in the air, punishing people for being thick is very harsh and I suspect if this was announced as Tory policy you’d be calling for revolution.

    One more point, why should Rachel Reeves (or IBS) have the power to starve someone who doesn’t live up to her expectations? That’s what it amounts to and that is what I find objectionable.

    • Mike Sivier January 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      No, I’m not supporting stopping people’s benefits because they have poor skills – that’s the Tory policy. I’m supporting a plan to improve people’s knowledge of English, Maths and IT skills, from when they start on benefits, to make them more employable – that’s the Labour plan.

      I sympathise with what you’re saying about people who don’t have the mental acuity, which is why I’d like to see more priority being given to vocational training as well.

      Rachel Reeves isn’t talking about starving anyone; she’s talking about helping people get into work.

      • Ian Duncan January 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm - Reply

        You’re supporting a plan that will see benefits stopped for people who don’t take get training in the English, maths and IT skills.

        “A new requirement [will be] for jobseekers to take training if they do not meet basic standards of maths, English and IT – training they will be required to take up alongside their jobsearch, or lose their benefits […]”

        So that will be more people already disadvantaged being sent to food banks.

        How very New Labour.

        I have been unemployed and live in an unemployment blackspot and from experience I know there are unemployable people. They aren’t physically incapable of work but nobody would employ them, that’s the way some people are.

        Can you imagine how cripplingly embarrassing some people will feel when some arsehole at the Job Centre -because hey mostly are arseholes in my experience- tells them to go to remedial classes?

        But I guess we all must conform, these days.

        • Mike Sivier January 20, 2014 at 5:55 pm - Reply

          Why would anybody NOT want help to improve their basic skills, if that’s what’s needed to boost their chances of getting a job and bringing in some cash?

          I don’t understand what point you’re trying to make here – other than that some people are going to have their feelings hurt.

          It seems to me – from experience – that a lot of these people (and remember we’re discussing 1/10 of those who are currently unemployed, which is still 250,000 people) don’t have the skills because they didn’t pay attention in school. Your experience may be different.

          Yes, there will be those who simply don’t have the ability, but they’ll be less likely to be thrown away under a Labour government than under Tories.

          I don’t understand why you’re so dead set against this. Do you want people who could work to have the option of just kicking around, doing nothing, at the taxpayers’ expense?

      • jray January 20, 2014 at 7:02 pm - Reply

        I agree that if anybody is in need of help grasping the basic skills in order to become more employable,they should use the opportunity to do so,but in the past the DWP does not have a stellar record of delivering these courses. I lived in Bulgaria for 14 Months,when I first applied for my drivers License,you were allowed to bring in an interpreter (at your cost) they have now done away with this,you must read and write Bulgarian now,as for claiming benefits? Not a snowballs chance!

        • Mike Sivier January 20, 2014 at 7:45 pm - Reply

          I take your point – the value of this policy will be in how well it works. That’s why I hope people will be open-minded about it in the run-up to the election next year.

          It’s important also to make the distinction between what the current government is doing and what another is promising. They are not the same organisation; they won’t behave in the same way. HOWEVER, the DWP has the same officers. Should we go through the kind of transition that they have in the USA, where each change of administration involves a change of civil servants at the top, or should we allow the top jobs to stay with the same people? What about corruption, or instances when civil servants work very hard to make things easy for particular outside organisations, then leave public service for a high-paying job with the same firms?

          … Actually, I think there’s an article in this.

      • shirleynott January 20, 2014 at 11:13 pm - Reply

        She’s talking the same language almost word for word as IDS and McVile – she just worded it (very) slightly differently. She talked about the need for people to accept help with ?literacy/English language skills, maths and/or IT (after being assessed/tested – not optional). She then said that if it became apparent that such help were “needed”, than they would have to submit to this “Or Face Sanctions”. Either she doesn’t fully understand what this word, used in this context, means or is unaware that too many people to their great distress/disgust, do.

        Heard all over radio news today – really, really wishing it was a misprint but, very sadly, the or face sanctions part is quoted verbatim.

        • Mike Sivier January 21, 2014 at 12:56 am - Reply

          Unfortunately the ‘sanctions’ part of it seems to be ‘de rigueur’ now; there is an expectation on the part of Middle Englanders that people on benefits won’t shift from their beds unless someone’s beating them with a metaphorical stick. Having said that, there is nothing wrong with offering people help to become more employable. If people aren’t the kind who’ll just stay in their beds until that stick hoves into view, why wouldn’t they do whatever it takes to start making a decent living?

          Also, you know the Tories have been lying when they talked like that. You can only assume that Labour is doing likewise. They are not all the same.

      • Florence January 21, 2014 at 2:59 am - Reply

        Illiteracy is not a life-style choice. I may be suspicious but however worthy, this looks like the creation of another “victim” group – more transgressors from what we think is the majority norm – suitable for sanctions. How many are thought to be functionally illiterate and needing “help” (encouragement or threat?) The very act of shaping this policy around benefits and sanctions rather than as an a social or educational policy plays right into the neo-con agenda. It gives them our permission to control our political, social and ethical landscape.

        Reasons for illiteracy are many and varied and so too are solutions. I hope it’s not already begun to descend into the territory of the “deserving and undeserving illiterate” that is central to anything with sanctions.

        Which leads on to the next point. How will the intended recipients of this *extra attention* be identified? Will there be a standard read/write/maths test? IQ test? Who will administer this, and at what level will functional literacy and numeracy be defined? Who will diagnose learning difficulty as differentiated from dyslexia?

        Many people develop complex strategies to hide their illiteracy, and can be deeply ashamed, and fear being humiliated – exposed as illiterate. Telling them they are illiterate (aka failures) and making benefits conditional on the acquisition of these skills will only cause a deeper sense of shame and isolation – and then they will simply disappear, or develop mental health issues, or self-harm.

        While to the mainstream it may seem obvious that someone who is illiterate would want to get help, and many do, it may also need very skilled help to address reversing a lifetime of “failure”, not sanctions. I hope the policy does not suggest the educational equivalent of ATOS “health professionals” and WP providers.

        It doesn’t mean we should not support the policy to tackle adult illiteracy, but it must be understood that literacy is far more than physical skill to be got from standardised training, or subjected to the false binary of willing or unwilling, cooperative or hostile, striver or shirker, .deserving or undeserving………… literate or illiterate.

        • Mike Sivier January 21, 2014 at 10:43 am - Reply

          I think your questions about how the people who need the extra English, Maths and IT education are to be identified cuts to the heart of the issue here. It would be just as unfair to penalise somebody with genuine learning difficulties in the future as it is to sanction someone who didn’t sign on because they had a job interview, today. Fortunately, this is a policy that is being developed; it hasn’t happened yet and it is still possible to influence how it does.

          Perhaps everybody who has concerns about this needs to write to Rachel Reeves with them, outlining ideas for solutions that will ensure the policy is fair, if it comes into practice. The content and tone of any reply you receive will, I expect, be significant in determining how you decide to vote in the forthcoming election – so if I were you I would let her know that in advance.

          The Shadow Secretary of State referred disparagingly to the “striver/skiver” rhetoric later in her speech, but it seems nobody has picked up on that. I was going to do a ‘part two’ article today (and still might).

  7. Thomas M January 20, 2014 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    Would you rather they were out stealing and robbing people or food rioting? Myself, I am certain that any job offer for me will be a scam.

  8. John Keen January 20, 2014 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    I have so far not taken issue with you mike but on this one i do….

    “don’t have the skills because they didn’t pay attention in school. Your experience may be different.”

    it may NOT be that “THEY” didn’t pay attention in school but the LEA failed to pay attention to some students needs.

    That said i would hope that your quoted statement above was not meant as a damning one towards ALL those who have been failed by “mainstream” schooling.
    After all it is a conservative trait to “generalise” minorities so they can be labeled as inadequate and therefore undesirable.

    • Mike Sivier January 20, 2014 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      I think I’m safe as the original statement made it clear that I wasn’t applying it to everyone.

  9. dreamer January 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    I have read, re-read and read again both your article Mike and the transcript of Rachel Reeves speech, based on the facts I have read today Labour will gain my vote at the next election.

    Sound ideas are now emerging IMO and the analysis of many of the present problems with Social Security along with the lack of basic skills of many was spot on.

    At the risk of drawing wrath on my head from posters here I would also say that I am totally fed up of reading on various blogs about housing benefit and the bedroom tax with no thought given to the unemployed owner-occupiers who under Universal Credit will be the biggest losers and the possible increased JSA for the suggested 6 weeks may actually help save homes.

    • Mike Sivier January 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      You know what might help Labour with its policy formation – a lot? How about writing to Rachel Reeves/Ed Miliband, saying that you will vote Labouor on the basis of what you’ve read today. Then, just add a suggestion for something you think would make them more electable next year.

      You never know, it might influence them – and that goes for anyone else who has been moved to support Labour today.

  10. […] Labour is forging forward with new plans to improve work prospects and the skills of those seeking employment, while the Conservatives are plunging backward with proposals to penalise people who lack the ability to speak basic English.  […]

  11. HomerJS January 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Labour do come up with better policies the closer we get to the election. I still fear though that they have a lot to learn. The most important thing to know is that it is employers who decide if you get a job. Good English and maths may still not get you a job. It may improve your chances (in theory) but there are many people who already have those skills who are struggling. The work programme is a disaster and does nothing for the money it gets. There are too many people out there who think that people get help to find a job – they don’t! This brings us to a key point. Labour must challenge the misinformation of the last few years. To do that I think they need to start by talking to the unemployed, to those who don’t fit the stereotype.

  12. seachranaidhe1 January 20, 2014 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.

  13. Leoni Al-ajeel January 20, 2014 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    I for one do not believe anything these so called politicians say. Cameron said he would look after the elderly and disabled, suppose freezing the old, taking benefits off the disabled and starving children is looking after them. I would not trust Labour and certainly would not vote for them either. My vote will go to a party that has not had the chance to show what they can do, fingers crossed.

  14. johnny void January 20, 2014 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Breath-taking, when the Tories say people have to learn English or lose benefits they are racist, when Labour say the exact same thing it’s perfectly reasonable. No wonder Labour’s policies are so fucked if their supporters can do moral somersaults like this.

    • Mike Sivier January 21, 2014 at 12:48 am - Reply

      The Tories want to take the money away first.

  15. Illiterati January 21, 2014 at 9:24 am - Reply
  16. Barry Davies January 21, 2014 at 10:07 am - Reply

    The point that is being missed is the amount of people in work who get benefits because they are not actually paid enough, also not everybody who can’t work is an idle scrounger, the vast majority are incapable of work because of very real medical conditions, but these are the people, in line with Nazi policy in the early 30’s, who are being castigated as causing the problems with the economy, and these are the ones who the ATOS liars, making a small fortune for the company, are claiming can work so they lose all benefits because the esa is time limited, and they can’t get jobseekers because it would be illegal to claim that benefit whilst you are unable to work. The truth is that the real benefit cheats are the very rich, who fiddle 54 times as much as all off the so called scroungers put together.

    • Mike Sivier January 21, 2014 at 10:58 am - Reply

      That point was not missed in Rachel Reeves’ speech. Look at this part: “That’s why, despite cuts that have seen in-work families more heavily targeted than out-of-work families total spending on in-work benefits is set to rise in real terms over the coming years – because the number of people who can’t earn enough to live on is going up faster than even this government is able to take away the support that people are entitled to.”

      Or this: “The record number of workers paid less than the living wage, now more than 5 million, is costing an estimated £2.2bn a year in extra spending and lost revenue according to analysis published by the IPPR with the Resolution Foundation.”

      She was not discussing people on Incapacity Benefit/ESA or DLA/PIP – this was only about those on JSA and it would be wrong to suggest that this was about Labour’s attitude to that.

      It IS important that we do discuss it, but not when referring to this speech or what was said in it. Labour has made announcements about it in the past that are not good – and I’ve called them out over it in previous articles, like this one:

  17. ispy January 21, 2014 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Breaking free from the benefits system won’t be the cure for everyone.

    See the following report for more information on the “working poor”, 41% of whom are turning to credit cards, payday loans or banks to clear Christmas debt. (I wonder what they do at other times throughout the year?):

    • Mike Sivier January 21, 2014 at 1:48 pm - Reply

      Labour did announce plans to lift working people clear of that kind of poverty, to make this – what’s happening now – less likely to happen in the future.

      • Barry Davies January 21, 2014 at 3:37 pm - Reply

        The trouble is that it is easy to say you will do something, but for all the people who are trapped in debt with huge interest payments are hardly likely to be able to get out of debt already accrued. Wonga for example have a 96% apr at present, and they are one of the lower lenders, so unless you can pay it off and never borrow again your debt will rocket.

        • Mike Sivier January 21, 2014 at 3:40 pm - Reply

          Citizens Advice do very well at debt renegotiation – but with councils having to make huge cuts, people will need to make sure their local CAB is still open after April this year.

          Here in Powys, the CAB is threatened.

          • Barry Davies January 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm

            Your hopes for Cab aren’t reflected throughout the country, it depends on who is actually in the office more often than not, although I agree cab being threatened is not a good thing.

      • ispy January 21, 2014 at 4:46 pm - Reply

        Hello Mike

        Ah, so Labour “did announce plans…”

        What was it Rabbie Burns said about the “best laid plans o’ mice and men?

        • Mike Sivier January 21, 2014 at 5:45 pm - Reply

          They can’t have gone agley yet – they haven’t been implemented!

  18. Jj January 22, 2014 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Before we champion this new jobs guarantee, shouldn’t we wait to see how well it works? I get the distinct impression people are going to be working 35 hours and getting paid for 25. They probably wont get good in-work benefits so they’ll find themselves in hardship regardless.

    it’s only really an improvement by virtue of the fact there’s nothing on the table right now…

    • Mike Sivier January 22, 2014 at 11:00 am - Reply

      No, we shouldn’t wait. We should write in to Rachel Reeves etc and make sure there will be checks and balances on the companies involved, so they can’t just use people, throw them away, and get more cheap workers as they can under the Tory/Lib Dem system; and also make sure that any sanctions are operated in a reasonable way (again, unlike the current system).

      • Barry Davies January 22, 2014 at 11:26 am - Reply

        Oh Bless, someone believes that writing to a politician will make them see the errors of their ways. All the checks and balances would do is create a bunch of pointless toothless quango’s where friends of the tories will get high paid jobs and achieve nothing. The only sanctions currently used are on people who have been denied benefits by the ATOS stormtroopers.

        • Mike Sivier January 22, 2014 at 11:29 am - Reply

          It’s not about making anyone see the errors of their ways but about making sure their idea works in the first place.

          To correct a couple of misapprehensions:

          Sanctions are heavily abused to push perfectly fit people off Jobseekers’ Allowance, which has nothing to do with Atos/WCA assessments.

          Checks and balances could be handled by DWP staff – they do have 104,000, you know!

        • Mike Sivier January 22, 2014 at 11:37 am - Reply

          Just to follow up on this for a moment: I don’t want to single out Barry’s comment because he at least makes it in a reasonable way, but over the past couple of days I have found myself defending my views – more on another blog site than this one – against opinons that are little more than knee-jerk dribblings (if that isn’t a mixed metaphor).

          People have been determined to claim that the proposed new system is an extrension of the current Workfare, that it will continue the victimisation of people who are looking for jobs, that participating companies will abuse the system, that sanctions are unnecessary because no jobseeker will abuse the system… the permutations are endless, and all come down to blind refusal to believe that any politician could actually want to improve the social security system and make things better for people.

          This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. These people utter their pronouncements, others believe them and the system collapses beneath the weight of scepticism from a public that has never even bothered to participate. It is an attempt to guarantee that the system can never get better and will lead to much worse treatment of people who want jobs.

          … In my opinion.

      • jray January 29, 2014 at 1:30 pm - Reply

        @ Mike,at the local Council,rumour control central has had talks with a provider of the CAP/MWA/Workfare or what ever name it is going under,the problem for the provider is that the placement must be for a community purpose,the cost must be low and the duration must last a certain amount of time in order for the provider to claim a payment..Enter the Council,they are leasing space to the provider,the provider will be paying the council to transport the “Stock” and also for council workers to manage the “Stock” The Provider is happy as they will claim an outcome payment from the DWP and the Council has a free supply of labour and income from the Provider,both have an for the Unemployed? I don’t think that is really a worry,screwed again.

  19. […] by some people, who argue that it’s a way of punishing those in need of help. In this interesting piece, freelance journalist Mike Sivier disputes this and explains why he thinks the idea is perfectly […]

  20. bookmanwales January 29, 2014 at 2:40 am - Reply

    Stoppingf benefits because someone can’t do maths or write properly leads to just the same situation as we have now, lots of sanctions to no end.

    There are more complex isssues than “they didn’t try hard enough at school” Home life, mental health issues, bad teachers, bad schools, nutrition issues, peer pressure (as in all kids who are clever are geeks, as regularly shown on tv in comics and magazines etc) and finally some people just cannot, no matter what, learn english and maths.

    We had a guy in school failed english and maths miserably yet was put forward to take A level woodwork as that was something he could do. There are people in undeveloped countries with no education can take a model and craft a full size machine from wood.

    Each case has to be decided on it’s own. This is something no party is willing to address, Labour or Tories both have had their chances. As with all well meaning “welfare reforms” the cost is too prohibitive.

    Once these basic skills have been learnt where are all the jobs to come from ? Again no party has come up with a strategy to provide proper long term prospects for ANY of the unemployed never mind long term unemployed.

    Wok experience can be a good thing, I personally got a job after doing 6 weeks work experience with a small firm, however these are in the minority and most firms will simpy take advantage as they do with the current mandatory work scheme. Tesco, Homebase, Salvation Army, Asda (for a spell) all multi billion pound companies jumped on the free labour bandwagon without any intention of providing real meaningful employment at the end.

    The sad truth is it took 20 yrs for the education system to be destroyed by both parties and unfortunately will probably take another 20 to get it back to the level it once was. only then will all pupils be taught according to ability and those less academic given vocational skills to enable them to compete in the jobs market.

    • Mike Sivier January 29, 2014 at 11:02 am - Reply

      Some of the issues you raise are tackled in – the Work and Pensions committee has called for measures to deal with the “more complex issues” you describe, for example.
      Also, if you managed to get a job via work experience with a small firm, it seems odd that you want to talk down the possibility that someone else could be helped in the same way.
      Nobody at Labour said they would stop a person’s benefits if they still can’t do maths or write properly, after applying themselves to that task. Labour is not suggesting that they will take anyone’s benefits away before they’ve done the course – that’s the current Tory plan.
      More details have been added to the Labour scheme and it is encouraging. If readers of this blog are determined to dismiss it without it having even been tested, then there is still the far more punitive Tory route that we have now, and which will become much harsher in the future if advance details are to be believed.

    • John keen January 29, 2014 at 1:50 pm - Reply

      Glad to see i’m not alone in the belief that some have their skills in their head while others have it in their hands.

  21. jray January 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    I have completed the Work Programme,no training,qualifications or tailored support was offered,it was mentioned and on every WP providers website it generalises that it is offered,but it actually does not exist. But not to fear the DWP/JCP offer Post Work Programme Support(much touted in press releases) after 3 Months of asking about training “Sorry not available,where are you getting these ideas from?” DWP policy,here I printed them out,with the updates..what is available? “Dunno” here is an article from this weeks Telegraph where Iain Duncan Smith states that if getting a drivers license will help you find employment,it is a small investment and all those on the new Claimant Commitment should be able to get it and we will fund it…..Who’s Iain Duncan Smith..The Minister for the DWP,the Big Cheese,Head Honcho..your ultimate boss. Nope,never heard of him,are you sure? Times up see you in 2 weeks and remember if you do not meet all the requirements of the Claimant Commitment you will be subject to sanctions. The question is what can I/you do about it?

  22. John keen January 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    It’s all very nice, all this talk of “helping” those with low skills in reading, writing, maths and language and then “guaranteeing” them a job of some sort at the end of it, very altruistic i’m sure BUT, will the jobs be REAL jobs or “made up” jobs?.

    What i’m not seeing is anyone talking about investment in REAL jobs, in encourageing manufacturing, in improveing productivity.

    Over the last thirty years, and more, there has been an increase in white collar jobs but far less in blue collar jobs. not everyone is suited to an office invironment or being entrepreneurial.

    Fact is many want a job with a degree of “satisfaction” built in, an end feeling of having EARNED their pay, this crap about the unemployed being “lazy” or just a bunch of “scroungers” is the purest pile of bovine waste products.

    The British public do not need some damned hooray henry to dictate to them what they must do nor do they need to be told that due to a lack of education they cannot be a proper person in society (ie like the hooray henry’s).
    many people have their skill in their hands not their heads, i have known many who would struggle with the theory yet put a “qualified” engineer in his place over a poorly designed product because they know from actual practice it will fail.

    Education is a wonderful thing, the more you can get the better BUT it is NOT the be all and end all for a successful working carreer, too much emphasis is being placed on education and not nearly enough on actual hands on skill.

    I have been on both ends of the “skill set” took the courses/classes, got the pretty little bits of paper that say i’m now an expert at “this” then gone on to take a job in that field only to be shown that i’m “nearly right” becuase some old hand who carried NO papers showed me that theory doesn’t always work in the real world.

    There are two types of person in the working world, EmployERS and EmployEES, not everyone can or even wants to be an Employer and vice versa.

    I would say that most would much rather be an EmployEE, happy to say to an Employer “you go get the contracts and deal with the paper work mate and i’ll be happy right here up to me kneck in shite, let’s get this done”.

    As for hard work being the way to success, i call bovine waste products on that too!
    been there done that, national service engineer for the entire country, sixteen plus hours a day, 300 to 500 miles per day AND doing five calls/repairs and my reward?
    “i know we said you have to do these jobs and travel this distance but can’t you reduce the hours you claim without actually doing less work?”.

    I have had several jobs like that so no little jumped up idiot with no life experience had better tell me i’m bloody lazy or didn’t work hard enough, I’m not alone, millions have done the same for the same rewards.

    So what did “hard work” get me? aching joints that at times blind me with pain and stop me thinking of anything else, depression that sends me from near murderous fury to withdrawal so deep i can’t even face my own family to times like this where i “think” i’m making sense.

    BUT that twoddle aside my point is; talking about education as the answer to the countries problems?…nope….getting back to what Britain has ALWAYS been good at (invention, innovation and a desire to be the best in the world)?…. yes.

    Too much investment in overseas companies that run government services and run with the money without being subject to our tax laws…NO

    Invest in Britain and it’s honestly hard working population?….YES

    • Mike Sivier January 29, 2014 at 2:44 pm - Reply

      Every government job creation scheme, anywhere in the world, is about artificially stimulating employment growth. Every single one. The aim is to find a way of making it work.

      Your point about blue-collar work is well made, but is one that I have been hammering home on this site for quite a long time, now. Of course everyone isn’t suited to academia, or to jobs that require heavy brainpower. There should be opportunities for people who are more practically-minded as well, and it is a shame that the last Labour government did so little in this regard.

      Perhaps the next one will do something to remedy that because no Conservative government could care less.

      • John keen January 29, 2014 at 2:54 pm - Reply

        “Perhaps the next one will do something to remedy that because no Conservative government could care less.”

        Oh i don’t know…. i recon they’d give it a damned good try.

  23. cath May 26, 2014 at 10:36 am - Reply

    I worked in a place which took advantage of a welsh assembly subsidy to provide jobs and yes people were employed…..and then let go as soon as the funding stopped. So the individuals employed were still left jobless. Agree with nigel..who is paying? Schemes like this offer no real solution. I for one dont want to be the one paying to keep someone in a job who couldn’t be bothered to look for work themselves. Schemes like this will merely make our unemployment figures seem improved when once again it will be thanks to the taxpayer.

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