It used to be a punishment for low-level criminals, but now David Cameron has admitted a future Conservative government would force it on people who have been out of work for more than six months. Those aged 18-21 will have to go straight into this work.
What does that say about Cameron’s opinion of the unemployed?
Is he trying to make it seem like a criminal offence? Is he trying to make it a criminal offence to be young and out of work?
It’s all part of his ‘divide and conquer’ plan for the UK, one supposes – treat the unlucky as an underclass and make those who are fortunate enough to be in (well-paid) work thank their lucky stars.
Take note of that caveat about ‘well-paid’ work; part of this scheme to criminalise the unemployed is an intention to force more and more people into underpaid jobs without in-work benefits, in order to make more money for his rich donors (who of course will pass some of the benefit on to the Conservative Party). You know the kind – the zero-hours contracts that Labour plans to outlaw; part-time work, temporary work, minimum wage work that means people still have to claim benefits.
There’s also an intentional – but superficial – resemblance to Labour’s plan; the job guarantee.
Both would compel benefit claimants into work after six months, but after that, the Tory plan does not stand up well at all.
Cameron’s idea is to force people to do 30 hours’ community work every week, simply to keep the low level of benefits they are already receiving – and remember, benefits are currently subject to a low level of uprating and are capped to prevent people taking what Cameron has decided is too much.
Labour would put people in real jobs, paying at least the minimum wage, for a minimum of 25 hours per week, for a set period of time (although there would be the possibility of a permanent position afterwards, if the candidate is good at the job.
Critics have pointed out that 25 hours at minimum wage would provide the same amount of money as JSA plus housing benefit, but this relies on a false assumption; housing benefit would still be available to a minimum wage employee, with only a small taper (according to Stephen Timms, Rachel Reeves’s deputy).
In addition, 25 hours per week is the minimum amount of time employers will be asked to take people on. There’s nothing to stop them asking – and funding – more.
The BBC’s Ross Hawkins has pointed out that refusing to work under either system would mean a claimant would forfeit money – but that should not be an issue. Everybody should pay their own way, if possible – it’s a fundamental pillar of the British way of life. Why would anybody turn down a chance to stand on their own two feet and not rely on other people or the state?
Cameron reckons his scam – sorry, scheme – will cost £20 million to set up, funded by savings from the delivery of Universal Credit. How far over-budget is Universal Credit, now? £12.5 billion?
His sums just don’t add up.
He stands revealed as a grubby little grafter, scrubbing around for scraps that he can offer to his corporate masters.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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