Poundland said it had signed a deal with the DWP to take jobseekers on work experience on condition that it was voluntary [Image: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters].
Poundland seems to be turning into a serial abuser of jobseekers.
It is now five years since Cait Reilly (remember her?) took the DWP to court for forcing her to stack shelves at one of the discount retail chain’s stores. It was forced labour, not voluntary, the company paid her nothing (she only received benefit money) and pocketed all the profits.
In May 2013, This Writer worked out that companies using jobseekers in this way were making profits of almost £1 billion per year – and were being funded by the taxpayer to do it. The public purse lost more than £16 million in the 2012-13 financial year.
And they’re still doing it.
Because nobody has ever bothered to stop them.
Poundland has been criticised for employing jobseekers, without pay, for up to two months under a deal with the government.
Several of those who have worked on the scheme told the Guardian they had worked up to 30 hours a week for at least three weeks stacking shelves in Poundland. They were told that the work experience was voluntary but one said: “I had no say in it really.”
It’s not clear how many jobseekers have been used by Poundland under the scheme as the government said it did not collect information centrally and the work experience was managed locally by jobcentres across the country. However, one store in Bolton has taken on 21 placements since last August, according to information provided in response to a freedom of information request by the Boycott Workfare pressure group.
Criminal: Iain Duncan Smith has made the UK government into a criminal regime, illegally victimising its most vulnerable citizens.
Iain Duncan Smith took an metaphorical slap in the face from the High Court today when Mrs Justice Lang said his retroactive law to refuse docked payments to jobseekers was not legal.
The Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 was rushed onto the statute books after the DWP discovered the rules under which it had docked Jobseekers’ Allowance from 228,000 people, who had refused to take part in Workfare schemes, were illegal.
The ruling does not mean that everyone who was penalised for refusing to take part, or for leaving the scheme once they had started it and realised what it was, may claim back the JSA that had been withdrawn from them.
But anyone who appealed against a benefit sanction on the basis of the previous decision will be entitled to win their appeals and be repaid the withheld benefits – as Vox Political advised at the time. That payout could be as high as £130 million.
The judge said retrospective application of the 2013 law conflicted with the European Convention on Human Rights and “interfered with the right to a fair trial” of all those affected.
This is the latest twist in a legal challenge brought by Cait Reilly, a graduate who fell foul of the scheme, in 2012. She demanded a judicial review on the grounds that being forced to give up voluntary work in a museum (she wanted to be a museum curator) to stack shelves in Poundland breached her human rights.
Poundland no longer takes part in mandatory work activity schemes run by the UK government.
Mrs Justice Lang said today (July 4) that “the absence of any consultation with representative organisations” as well as the lack of scrutiny by Parliamentary committees had led to “misconceptions about the legal justification for the retrospective legislation”.
The 2013 Act introduced a new “draconian provision, unique to this cohort of claimants” which was “not explained or justified” by the government in Parliament “at the time”.
Mrs Justice Lang rejected the Secretary of State’s assertion that flaws in the 2011 Regulations were simply “a technicality or a loophole”, that the 2013 Act sought to give effect to Parliament’s ‘original intention’ or that repayments to benefits claimants would be “an undeserved windfall”.
She also recognised that it would be “unjust to categorise the claimants in the Cait Reilly case as claimants “who have not engaged with attempts made by the state to return them to work”, as asserted by the Department for Work and Pensions.
“This case is another massive blow to this Government’s flawed and tawdry attempts to make poor people on benefits work for companies, who already make massive profits, for free,” said solicitor Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, who appeared for the unemployed.
“Last year the Supreme Court told Iain Duncan Smith and the Coalition government that the scheme was unlawful. In this case the High Court has now told the Government that the attempt to introduce retrospective legislation, after the DWP had lost in the Court of Appeal, is unlawful and a breach of the Human Rights Act and is a further disgraceful example of how far this Government is prepared to go to flout our constitution and the rule of law. [bolding mine]
“I call on the DWP to ensure that the £130 million of benefits unlawfully withheld from the poorest section of our society is now repaid.”
So there it is, in black and white. Iain Duncan Smith has made the Coalition government a criminal organisation, guilty of 228,000 human rights violations.
This is a serious matter; some of these people may have been put in serious financial hardship as a result of the Coalition’s actions. One hopes very much that nobody died but if they did, those fatalities should be added to the many thousands who have passed away as a result of Iain Duncan Smith’s homicidal regime for claimants of incapacity benefits.
Let us not forget, also, that we remain at the mercy of these tyrants. Iain Duncan Smith has announced he intends to waste yet more taxpayers’ money on another appeal. In the meantime, a DWP spokeswoman said the legislation remained “in force” and the government would not be compensating anyone pending the outcome of its appeal.
Victory at last: The Supreme Court’s ruling means vindication for Cait Reilly, who has spent nearly two years battling against a system that costs the taxpayer millions while failing to increase employment.
It’s a return to the drawing-board for the man we call ‘Returned To Unit’ after the Supreme Court ruled against Iain Duncan Smith’s Workfare appeal.
The five Supreme Court justices upheld a Court of Appeal decision, made against the government in February.
The case had been brought by Cait Reilly, a geology graduate who, while unemployed but volunteering at a local museum in order to gain experience towards getting a curator’s job, had been ordered by the Department for Work and Pensions to work for her benefits, stacking shelves at Poundland.
It should be remembered that Poundland is perfectly capable of employing its own workers on full wages. At the time, it ran 390 stores nationwide and made £21,500,000 profit in 2010 – enough to employ extra staff at all its branches and still make a good profit.
The amount it was saving by not paying Ms Reilly, coupled with the fiscal multiplier that adds around 60p to every pound she would have earned if she had been an employee, means Poundland could have made a £1,188.48 profit from the work she was doing for the firm at the taxpayers’ expense.
Total profit for all companies using benefit recipients on ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ between June 2011 and July 2012 (878,000 people): £894, 416, 090 – nearly £1 billion.
Loss to the taxpayer: £16,933,000 (not including payments to Work Provider companies).
Together with another claimant, Jamieson Wilson, Ms Reilly brought a judicial review against the scheme, claiming it was a violation of human rights under article 4 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights: “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour” – and the government lost the case.
Mr Justice Foskett stated: “Her original complaint arose from what she was wrongly told was a compulsory placement on a scheme that (a) impeded her voluntary efforts to maintain and advance her primary career ambition and (b) having embarked upon it, from her perspective, did not offer any worthwhile experience on an alternative career path. It is not difficult to sympathise with her position from that point of view.”
At the time (August 2012), the right-wing media slanted their reports to make it seem that Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson had lost, but this was soon rectified because the government appealed against the ruling, which stated that, if Ms Reilly had been properly informed of the regulations, she would not have been led to believe she was being put into forced labour.
The problem for Mr… Smith was that Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson were not the only ones to have been misled in this way, and the ruling opened up the government to claims for compensation, from thousands of benefit claimants, for millions of pounds that had been taken away from them because they had refused to take part in the ‘work-for-benefits’ schemes. The illegality of the regulations meant the DWP, under Iain Duncan Smith’s supervision, had broken the law more than 228,000 times – RTU is a criminal more than a quarter of a million times over.
In any case, evidence quickly piled up, proving that Workfare doesn’t work. During its first 14 months, only 3.53 per cent of jobseekers who took part in the government’s mandatory work activity programme – of which Workfare is a part – actually found a job for six months or more. They would have had a better chance of finding a job if the work programme had not existed.
This did not prevent the Department for Work and Pensions from appealing against the ruling and, in February, the Court of Appeal responded – by upholding the claim that the scheme was unlawful.
This meant that anyone who was penalised for refusing to take part, or for leaving the scheme once they had started it and realised what it was, could claim back the Jobseekers’ Allowance that had been withdrawn from them for non-compliance. The payout could have been as high as £130 million.
Smith wasn’t going to have any of that! He launched emergency legislation to reverse the outcome of the decision and change the regulations retrospectively, making it impossible for benefit claimants to demand payouts of between £530 and £570 each for decisions made while the illegal rules were in force.
Lawyers and campaigners branded the DWP’s move as “repugnant” and “unbelievably disgusting”, saying it undermined the rule of law. This blog concurs with that assessment. It is an appalling abuse of governmental power.
But the government succeeded in undermining the rule of law after all but a few members of the Labour Party allowed it to pass, having negotiated a few “safeguards” that have proved to be useless in practice.
Fortunately, some people have a little more backbone and Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson took their case to the Supreme Court. It is from this body that today’s – final – judgement has come.
Now comes the nitty-gritty.
After the introduction of the emergency law, the solicitors Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), who represent Reilly and Wilson, lodged a judicial review accusing RTU of conspiring to undermine basic human rights by enacting the retroactive legislation. They say they will continue to pursue that judicial review after their success in the supreme court.
A spokesperson for PIL said: “Following today’s judgment, any… jobseekers can object to sanctions that have been imposed and seek the repayment of their benefits. It is truly staggering that Duncan Smith has found himself in this position even after fast-tracking emergency retrospective legislation through parliament. We intend to work with advice organisations to ensure that, following this ruling, affected individuals have the right information and assistance.”
It seems the firm believes the retrospective part of the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 is no longer valid. That means all 228,000 Workfare victims who were penalised by the DWP will be able to claim their compensation and force the £130 million payout.
Not only that, but it seems reasonable that a legal penalty should be imposed on ‘RTU’ himself. Not only did he enforce the schemes under the illegal regulations, but he also imposed a lengthy and costly legal battle on those who stood up against it, even though it had been found to be wrong in law.
Who knows how much hardship this has caused to people who were already on the breadline before his brutal sanctions were imposed?
How much despair has he caused to people who had no other means of support?
Has anybody died because of this – through health problems, mental health issues leading to suicide, or for other reasons?
It is time for the people who have been most seriously affected by this to get together and start talking to lawyers – Public Interest Lawyers might be a good place to start – about getting restitution from the man who caused this mess.
The taxpayer may well have to foot the bill for the illegal benefit sanctions, and that is only right. They should never have been imposed in the first place and this will only set matters straight.
But the individual minister who caused this should not get away without paying a personal penalty.
Let’s have some accountability in government, Mr… Smith.
Chequebook justice: Your unelected government wants to ensure that nobody can challenge its policies and decisions – by putting justice within the reach of only the wealthy.
David Cameron and Chris Grayling have been messing with the justice system again. This time, according to The Telegraph, they are planning to make it “tougher” for judicial reviews to be brought to court, to stop the process being “abused” by pressure groups and campaigners.
There’s a lot of Telegraph-speak in that first paragraph, as the Tory-supporting newspaper was working desperately to make governmental perversion of justice acceptable. What this actually means is that Cameron wants to make it impossible for organisations that are capable of mounting legal opposition to unreasonable Conservative/Coalition policies ever to do so.
The only people able to seek judicial reviews of government policy would be individuals who are directly affected – and the government is hoping that these mostly poor people would be unable to afford the cost, thanks to changes in Legal Aid that mean it could not be claimed for welfare or employment cases.
You see how this works? With those changes to Legal Aid and the possibility of wholesale privatisation of the entire court system, where justice was once open to everyone, it will soon be a privilege available only to the wealthiest in the UK.
To Cameron, and his crony Grayling, justice isn’t for you. In fact, it won’t be for anyone. The UK will be about money and power, just as Michael Meacher stated in his recent blog article.
So, for example: The ‘Poundland’ case, which The Guardian reported was to be heard in the Supreme Court yesterday (Monday). The original judicial review was launched in the names of Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson, who were both directly affected – but were both unemployed and penniless, and therefore could not afford to take the case to court on their own. Their case was brought with the aid of Public Interest Lawyers – who would most likely be barred from taking part, being considered a pressure group with no direct interest in the matter.
The original case resulted in the government taking the unusual – and highly suspect (in legal terms) – step of passing an emergency retroactive law to legalise its employment schemes, after the tribunal ruled that all of the Coalition’s schemes were acting illegally and opened the government up to a potential £130 million worth of claims for wrongfully-withheld benefits.
PIL has now started a second judicial review – on the retrospective law – claiming it undermines its clients’ right to justice and violates article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under the new procedures this, too, would be inadmissible.
On the same lines, the judicial review that ruled (in May) that the test used to decide whether people are fit for work actively discriminates against the mentally ill, brought by the Black Triangle Campaign with the charities MIND and Rethink Mental Illness, would also be inadmissible.
So we have examples in which it is clearly in the interests of justice for new laws to be challenged – but which would be blocked outright under Cameron and Grayling’s plan.
According to The Telegraph, “Ministers plan to change the test for applying for a review so that only people with a direct link to policies or decision can challenge it, rather than anyone with a ‘sufficient interest.’
“The concerns echo those of the Prime Minister who previously said the judicial review process was slowing the country’s economic growth as well.”
In fairness, the paper adds: “There are fears that changing the judicial review process could lead to government decisions going unchecked, and charities have also raised concerns about not being able to use the process to challenge decisions and ensure the government is meeting its obligations.”
Meanwhile, Unison has been given leave to launch a judicial review of the introduction of fees for workers seeking employment tribunals.
The BBC reported that people wanting to bring tribunals must now pay a fee for the first time since they were created in the 1960s. It will cost £160 to lodge a claim for matters such as unpaid invoices, with a further charge of £230 if it goes ahead.
More serious claims, such as for unfair dismissal, would cost £250 to lodge, and a further £950 if the case goes ahead.
The plan here is clearly to make it impossible for an unfairly-sacked worker to take a firm to judicial review; how many poorly-paid working class people (and remember, wages have fallen by nine per cent since the credit crunch) have twelve hundred quid knocking around in their back pockets?
“The introduction of punitive fees for taking a claim to an employment tribunal would give the green light to unscrupulous employers to ride roughshod over already basic workers’ rights,” Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told the BBC.
“We believe that these fees are unfair and should be dropped.”
The judicial review will take place in October. Considering Lord Judge’s recent change of heart over privatisation of the courts, it’s a safe bet that by then the government will have ‘persuaded’ any judges hearing the case to support the new charges.
As Mr Meacher wrote: David Cameron’s instincts are “that there is no such thing as the rule of law, and that the only things that ultimately matter are power, fear and money”.
After sticking his foot in his mouth last week – both with his speech about how great the benefit cuts are, and his attempt at using Estuary English rather than Received Pronunciation to deliver it to unimpressed workers at Morrisons – he has pronounced himself “in tune” with what the majority of the country thinks about those cuts.
He might be right; most people might think, as he does, that there is a large amount of social security fraud and the cuts will force people to get off their backsides and go to work (never mind, for a moment, the fact that the jobs don’t exist because those places are full of people on Mandatory Work Activity, making oodles of money for Poundland or whatever other companies are still clinging to that albatross of a scheme).
It begs a few questions.
Firstly: How knowledgeable is the British public on this matter?
Radio 4’s The Now Show had a few things to say about this, way back in November 2011, and the observations shine a bright light on the subject:
“There’s been a lot of fuss that THE PEOPLE haven’t been given a say, but then the media have a very schizophrenic attitude to THE PEOPLE.
“You must have noticed that newspapers regularly run stories that go: ’70 per cent of adults can’t read a bus timetable’ or ‘Half of the population are unable to multiply 50 by 17’.
“They’re forever running surveys that show that people can’t add up, or don’t know the name of the Foreign Secretary, or the year World War II broke out, and then suddenly the next day, the same papers go: ‘It’s time voters had a say on the debt restructuring of the Eurozone!’
“‘Why, oh why, can’t they let the people decide on the feasibility of operating a single currency in an economic area of widely differing levels of productivity?’
“Because yesterday you said most people can’t read a bus timetable, that’s why – you can’t have it both ways. It doesn’t make sense!
“A lot of the reason for this confusion, of course, is that often people’s opinions depend on how you phrase the question. “If you go: ‘Should we cut public sector jobs to save money?’ people say yes, but if you go: ‘Should we cut public sector jobs such as airport border officials to save money?’ They… still say yes, but when it goes wrong they claim they didn’t and blame someone else.”
That’s a very good point. The answer really does depend on the question. In this case, OUR question must be: Has the Conservative Party been ‘voodoo’ polling again?
I refer you to the Vox article that covered this, back in December 2012:
Today I was made aware of another survey that attempts to manipulate the responses it receives by cleverly-worded “leading” questions – except I’m referring to a survey on the Conservative Party website, so neither the questions nor their wording are particularly clever.
“We’re interested in your view about the fairness of our benefit reforms” is the overture. I have to admit that, on reading this, I was overjoyed. At last a chance to let the Tories know how wrong-headed their approach has been! That they are hitting the vulnerable in society – and that their policies are in fact leading to the deaths of many of the most vulnerable. Fat chance.
“Conservatives in Government have made a decision that we will support people who work hard and that work will be rewarded.” This was the snap back to reality. Anyone reading this has to see that it’s a propaganda exercise. The only other response is to ask, when is this support going to happen?
“Labour say that benefits should go up by more than average wages – even though it will be the taxes of people in work that pays for this increase.” Whoa, whoa, WHOA, wait. The Conservatives aren’t about to lower the base rate of taxes (only the top rate, for the benefit of their extremely rich friends). Nor are they about to increase taxes. This is disingenous and manipulative. They are trying to say that their decision to depress rises in benefit payments is reasonable because it is in line with employers’ (and let’s remember the government is itself an employer) unreasonable decisions to keep their employees’ pay down (and we’ll get onto their own pay rises in a moment).
“We don’t think this is fair for the following reasons…
“1. A real terms increase would have meant that benefits increased more than the average salary. Since 2007, benefits have increased by 20% whilst salaries have only increased by 10%. If the Government continued to increase benefits at a higher rate than salaries, this would not be fair on working people. The same working people who pay the taxes which fund the benefits to begin with.” Hogwash. Since 2007, benefits have increased in line with inflation and, as a result, people on benefits have been able to survive. Salaries may well have increased by only 10 per cent. I recall my own pay – before I became self-employed. Month after month, year after year, I saw my disposable income being whittled away in a series of poor pay increases, until I reached the point where continuing to work at the same company would put me into debt. That is the harsh reality of the British workplace in the 21st century, under the Tory-led Coalition.
“2. Working people are having their taxes cut. Changes to the personal allowance mean that working people will pay less tax and will keep more of their earnings. Anyone in work and receiving benefits will gain more from paying less tax, than what they lose from benefits not increasing in real terms.” This is simply untrue. 60 per cent of households attacked by the Tory-led government’s cuts to benefits are working households.
“3. To increase benefits in real terms would have meant borrowing more money. This Government is reducing borrowing and cutting the deficit. Labour would borrow more and add more debt to fund unlimited benefit rises. The Conservatives don’t believe that we should burden future generations with our debts in order to live beyond our means today.” The Conservatives are in fact borrowing more money now than Labour would have, if they had won the 2010 election – £212 billion more than planned, by 2015 alone. Using an expected increase in borrowing as an excuse to deprive the most vulnerable of their ability to survive adequately is plain disgusting.
“Have Your Say on Benefits
“We’re interested in what your think about benefits. That’s why we’re asking you whether or not you support two fundamental principles upon which our welfare policies are founded – many will say they don’t but many will also be in favour. Your responses will tell us what the majority think.
“Please also leave your comments.”
Here’s the first question. Remember what I said at the top, about the way the writers manipulate the wording of these things:
“Should benefits increase more than wages?”
See what I mean? The only possible answer to that is “No” – because they shouldn’t! That doesn’t mean that Tory welfare policy is right, though. It means employers aren’t paying their workers well enough (as proven by my own experience). Next question:
“Do you think it’s fair that people can claim more in benefits that (sic) the average family earns through going to work?” Again, the only reasonable answer is “No” – but again it doesn’t mean Tory welfare policy is right. It means this question – like the first – has been carefully worded to prevent anyone responding from giving an unwanted answer.
Never mind – there’s a box for comments, in which respondents may explain their answers. Here’s what I wrote:
“Your questions are slanted to produce a particular set of answers, I notice. My answer to the first is that they should increase in line with inflation. Wages should do that as well. The simple fact is that the majority of employers in this country seem to see fit to fill their own pockets with cash while depriving their workers. It is THIS imbalance that needs to be redressed. Company bosses have given themselves generous pay rises totalling 700 per cent over the last 20 years, while employees’ wages have risen by an average of just 27 per cent in the same period. That is completely unfair – and the reason it is possible for people on benefits to make more money than the average family earns by going to work.
“You don’t make work pay by cutting benefits to the point where people can’t afford the necessities of life – you do it by actually paying people in work enough money to make doing their job worthwhile.
“I don’t think it’s fair for people in benefits to have more money than the average family earns through work, but the answer is not to cut benefits; you must stop the ruthless exploitation of working people by fatcat business bosses. It isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense.”
So you can see that the Conservative Party has a poor record when it comes to polling. They ask leading questions in order to get the result they want, and then push it at the public as proof that they’re right.
In fact, in a comment, Vox reader Janet Renwick said: “Obviously the results of this will be triumphantly waved in our faces to show that the ‘Government’ is ‘in touch’ with the population. This is evil and designed to split the population and take sympathy away from the people most in need.”
How prophetic she was.
But what do the British people really think, and is it out of tune with the facts?
Let’s go to a TUC poll of people’s beliefs about benefits, published in January.
This found that, on average, people think that 41 per cent of the entire social security (welfare if you like) budget goes on benefits to unemployed people.
The true figure is just THREE per cent.
It also found that, on average, people think that 27 per cent of the social security (welfare) budget is claimed fraudulently.
The government’s own figure is 0.7 per cent.
You can see why Osborne said he’s “in tune” with what people are thinking. What people are thinking is inaccurate, but because it serves his purposes, he’ll support that – against the facts – every chance he gets.
But that’s no basis on which to justify changing the system. You wouldn’t convict somebody in court because “most people” think a defendant committed a crime, would you? No, we have a legal system that – at least nominally – is concerned with the FACTS of a case. At crown court, juries totalling 12 people are called in to examine the evidence provided, and determine those facts. They don’t have newspaper accounts pushed into their hands before being sent into the jury room to read those second- or third-hand accounts and then make up their minds!
So, if the Coalition government wants a proper debate on this issue, let’s have one.
Let’s have publication of the government’s own figures on the benefit bill, including the total amount paid on unemployment benefits, in real money terms and as a percentage of the whole budget; and the total percentage of the budget that is lost to fraudulent claims.
Let’s have proper discussion, with other facts provided as and when necessary.
And let’s have proper reporting of it in the media. There’s no reason for organisations like the BBC to rely on what politicians say, when the facts are available.
If Osborne is “in tune” with anything at all, it is a fantasy.
The parallel here should be obvious to anyone who’s seen the newspapers today.
Dept. of ‘Giving Them A Taste Of Their Own Medicine’: The Daily Mail’s front page today is itself, of course, entirely vile.
It is an attempt to make us believe that every single benefit claimant in the UK is as evil as Mick or Mairead Philpott, who were convicted yesterday of killing six of their own children.
The claim is the kind of utter nonsense we have come to expect from the paper commonly dubbed the ‘Daily Heil’ or (as in the image above) the ‘Daily Fail’ – and it has sparked widespread fury.
We all know that it is ridiculous to claim that everybody on social security benefits is evil.
And we all know that you don’t have to be an evil person to receive social security benefits – look at the current government!
In fact, let’s look at the Secretary of State responsible for social security benefits – he likes to call them “welfare”, possibly because it gives him a feeling of superiority over their recipients. This is interesting in itself, because he used to be one of them.
Iain Duncan Smith was on the dole for several months during 1981, after leaving the Scots Guards, where he famously enjoyed a career as a bag-carrier for a higher-ranking officer. Did he get out by finding a job? Hard to tell. What we do know is that he married the very wealthy Betsy, daughter of a very wealthy man, the following year. In other words, he got off benefits by marrying into money. That’s not evil in itself, but how many of us have that option?
“He has four children, yet argues that families with more than two children ought to be sanctioned: in 2009 he took six months paid leave without notice to care for his wife when she was desperately ill, yet has instigated changes in benefit to ensure that neither sick people nor their carers will be supported. In 1981, jobless and unqualified, he took full advantage of the welfare safety net to claim benefits for months while looking for suitable work, yet in a recession as bad as that of thirty years ago he claims graduates are “snooty” if they don’t agree to work for Poundland for free. While attending further education for two short periods, IDS gained no qualifications, and asserts that shelf-stackers are more valuable than scientists. While benefiting hugely from MP expenses, Iain Duncan Smith tells many untruths about the cost of people claiming disability and welfare benefits.
“Iain Duncan Smith has made many speeches in favour of law and order. Yet when IDS’s workfare sanctions were ruled unlawful by the courts, instead of accepting that millions taken unlawfully would have to be repaid and that people unlawfully made to work for commercial organisations for free had a claim to minimum wage for their hours (or, if determined to fight lawfully for welfare, proceding to the Supreme Court for a further appeal) IDS decided to have emergency legislation passed making his unlawful sanctions retroactively lawful.
“Iain Duncan Smith lives in a large and comfortable home which he does not own and which it’s doubtful he pays market rent for, yet has instigated the bedroom tax. The idea behind the “bedroom tax” is that the housing shortage can be remedied not by building more social housing or by preventing bankers from gambling on house price rises, but by forcing people who live in social housing and have a “spare room”, to move out into private rented accommodation of a more suitable size. This won’t save money at any level (Iain Duncan Smith calls this the ending the spare-room subsidy).”
And there remains the matter of the 73 people per week, on average (and that average was reported nearly a year ago, so it may well have risen massively since then), who are dying as a result of the pressures put on them by the merciless Employment and Support Allowance assessment regime for people who have long-term sicknesses or are disabled.
If the Philpotts are a “vile product of welfare UK”, then is Iain Duncan Smith – who admits he has been on the welfare system, equally vile?
This week, he was in the news because he claimed on the BBC’s Today programme that he could survive on £53 per week if he had to, after market trader David Bennett said the bedroom tax meant he must now live on that amount.
His reaction? “This is a complete stunt which distracts attention from the welfare reforms which are much more important and which I have been working hard to get done. I have been unemployed twice in my life so I have already done this. I know what it is like to live on the breadline.” (Quoted from the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian).
In other words, this slimeball is trying to slither out of it! Could this possibly be because he knows the benefit regime he has instigated is much harsher than the system he enjoyed in 1981 (and again in 1989) and he knows he would not fare well as a part of it?
The report of this story in The Guardian seems intentionally hilarious. It states: “The Daily Mail [that rag again] reported Duncan Smith as saying: ‘It was a shock – absolutely awful. I felt pathetic. I remember telling my wife. We looked at each other and she said: “God, what are we going to do for money?”‘”
The report continues, straight-faced: “Duncan Smith’s wife, Betsy, is the daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe who served as lord-lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in the 1980s and 1990s. Duncan Smith and his wife, who sent their children to Eton, moved into Lord Cottesloe’s 17th-century Old House in the village of Swanbourne in Buckinghamshire in 2002.”
What were they going to do for money, indeed!
He is a man who has played the system for all he could take and then changed it to make sure nobody else could enjoy the benefits he received. He is a man who talks a good fight but runs away from supporting his words with real action.
If ‘welfare UK’ has any ‘vile product’ at all, then it must be Iain Duncan Smith.
“Getting them off-benefit is what we’re going to do,” yelled Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time last year. But why bother, when they can be so profitable for companies taking part in Mandatory Work Activity schemes?
“We’re going to end the ‘something-for-nothing’ culture.”
Sometimes a phrase stands out from everything else that’s said around it, launches itself at your face and forces you to confront the enormity of the lie it encapsulates. You knew this was going to end badly, the moment Iain Duncan Smith (Vox Political’s Monster of the Year, 2012, let’s not forget) opened his face and uttered the words.
He was trying to say that people on Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) should not expect to get the benefit without putting something back into society – totally bypassing the fact that they have either already paid towards it, via taxes paid while they were in a previous job, or they will in the future, when they manage to get a job (if such a thing is still achievable in a Tory-led UK).
This was to justify the many ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ schemes onto which jobseekers are currently being put by the thousands, and for which they are being paid only in JSA.
It was only a matter of time before someone identified the flaw in the logic, as Alex Andreou did in the New Statesman when he, rightly, wrote: “Such schemes do not end the “something for nothing culture”. They simply elevate it to the corporate level.”
How many weeks was Cait Reilly supposed to spend stacking shelves at Poundland – was it four? Let’s say four. So assuming 30 hours a week, if she had been employed on the minimum wage, she would have earned £742.80.
Instead, she would have received JSA at, what, £56.25 per week? That’s £225. From the taxpayer, not Poundland.
So Poundland, which runs more than 390 stores and whose annual profit in 2010 was £21,500,000, would have had the benefit of nearly £750 worth of work, for nothing. But the gravy train doesn’t even stop there!
Employees of all profit-making companies are taken on because they add to the firm’s profits in some way. Therefore we can assume that, as a result of a person stacking shelves at Poundland, a shopper will come along, see something the stacker has stacked, and buy it – creating a profit for the company.
How many times would this happen during a jobseeker’s four-week tenure on ‘Mandatory Work Activity’? There’s no way of knowing. Let’s apply a conservative estimate based on the standard levels of a fiscal multiplier, at the low end, and say that adds a further 60p to the value of every pound that Ms Reilly would have earned.
Total: 1,188.48 profit for Poundland.
Now multiply that by the number of people going through ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ and you’ll see how much these companies are making, courtesy of the taxpayer – because, don’t forget, working people are paying for jobseekers to make money for these firms. We know 878,000 people were put on these schemes between June 2011 and July 2012 – that comes out as 752,571 in a year, on average.
Total profit for companies using people on ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ should therefore be: £894,416,090. Nearly £1 billion.
Loss to the taxpayer: £16,933,000.*
If that isn’t enough to get you hot under the collar, consider this: The profits created for companies by ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ go to company bosses and shareholders, all of whom may be expected to be rich already. They won’t be putting that money back into the economy; they’ll be banking it. Possibly offshore.
If they had employed those jobseekers and paid them at minimum wage, that would have put £559,010,060, per year, back into the economy. These workers would have spent the money in their communities, on commodities that they needed, thus providing a valuable boost to shops and businesses that have been deprived of this support by Coalition government policies.
And the companies concerned would still have made £335,406,030. More than a third of a billion pounds – not to be sniffed at!
It’s mathematical proof of the Conservative Party’s economic incompetence. Making the rich richer and the poor poorer will ruin the country.
*This article does not include payments to Work Placement Provider companies because, not having gone through this system myself, I’m not sure whether it should be applied or not. My understanding is they would get £600 per referral, with higher figures if a jobseeker actually got a job afterwards. Can anyone confirm this is what would happen here?
Miliband and Byrne: They did the wrong thing, but was it for the right reasons?
A whole week after the crucial confidence-breaking vote on the Bill that gives Iain Duncan Smith retroactive powers to steal benefits from jobseekers, an email appears “from the office of Ed Miliband”.
Here’s what it said:
“Thank you for contacting Mr Miliband about the Jobseekers Bill and my apologies for the delay in replying.
“We know how strongly many people feel about this and that you are disappointed that Labour decided to abstain.
“Please be assured that we looked very carefully at all the points raised but in the end the vote came down to the question of whether the DWP should have any legal power whatsoever to stop benefits for people who won’t try to find work at all.
“With record levels of young people out of work, we believe young people must be offered a real choice of a real job with real wages. That’s why Labour is moving amendments to the Bill to demand a tax on bankers’ bonuses to fund over 100,000 jobs for young people with pay at the national minimum wage and training.
“Our approach is completely different to the government.
“We would guarantee everyone unemployed for over two years a properly-paid job, but we want it to apply to young people after a year. In return, we think most people would agree that people would be obliged to take up those jobs or face losing benefits.
“These powers have always existed; for example, in Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, if a young person didn’t take the offer of a job, they would have faced having benefits halted. Labour’s New Deal operated on the same principle.
“We would not support a retrospective bill driven through Parliament at lightning speed – and Labour demanded two crucial concessions, which we forced the government to make.
“First, appeal rights must be guaranteed so that others can appeal against mistakes made by the DWP. We can’t have carte blanche retrospective legalisation of sanctions.
“Second, there must be an independent review of the sanctions regime, with an urgent report and recommendations to Parliament.
“While you may not agree with the decision to abstain, we hope you can recognise that the points you and others have raised were carefully considered and the safeguards Labour have secured.
“Thank you again for taking the time to contact Mr Miliband on this important issue.”
It’s not good enough, is it?
Miliband – and Liam Byrne, Stephen Timms, and all the rest of the current Labour team – need to realise that there is a fundamental difference between what they supported and what they say they want. They should have held out for the latter.
The Coalition government’s scheme puts people to work – for employers who are perfectly capable of paying not only minimum wage but the living wage, for an indefinite period of time, to a person who used to be defined as a paid employee – for, and this is the important part, no remuneration other than their Jobseekers’ Allowance.
Contrast that with what Labour offered in the past – “in Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, if a young person didn’t take the offer of a job, they would have faced having benefits halted. Labour’s New Deal operated on the same principle” – and what Labour says it would offer in the future – “we believe young people must be offered a real choice of a real job with real wages“.
Why put up with anything less?
The concessions are paper tigers – it is understood that appeal rights were enshrined in the original legislation and we have seen no evidence that they were ever going to be dropped, while the timetable of the proposed independent review is such that the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions may never have to act on it.
In other words, Labour let the Coalition run roughshod over the rule of law – for nothing.
Faces of betrayal: Are Ed Miliband and his work and pensions spokesman Liam Byrne about to engineer the biggest betrayal of working class people in Labour Party history? If so, how do they think they will ever be able to win an election?
Last night I read a news report that, if true, shocked me to my core.
“The Department for Work and Pensions has introduced emergency legislation to reverse the outcome of a court of appeal decision and “protect the national economy” from a £130m payout to jobseekers deemed to have been unlawfully punished.
“The retroactive legislation, published on Thursday evening and expected to be rushed through parliament on Tuesday, will effectively strike down a decision by three senior judges and deny benefit claimants an average payout of between £530 and £570 each.”
It said lawyers and campaigners have branded the DWP’s move as “repugnant” and “unbelievably disgusting”, saying it undermined the rule of law. That is my belief, also.
Then came the hammer blow:
“The Guardian understands that Labour will support the fast-tracked bill with some further safeguards and that negotiations with the coalition are ongoing.”
Labour, supporting a Bill by the Tories, specifically designed to oppress people who are in work or trying to find work?
This would be a betrayal of Labour’s core support and is something that, in my belief, nobody who supports the rule of law in this country should tolerate.
Allow me to put this into perspective:
The Court of Appeal ruling means that the Department for Work and Pensions, under Iain Duncan Smith’s supervision, broke the law more than 228,000 times. That is the number of jobseekers from whom they have deprived benefit, according to the figures available. IDS is a criminal a quarter of a million times over.
Not only that, but the Workfare programme, by making people work for employers who are perfectly capable of hiring people at the minimum wage or for higher amounts, is taking real jobs out of the economy – something that the Labour Party must abhore (the clue is in the title – ‘Labour’ Party).
There can be no justification for it.
The electorate will never forgive the party if Labour turns on its core voters – the poor and vulnerable – and attacks them in this way.
It is an absolute and certain path to defeat at the next election.
The only reasonable way forward is to fight tooth and nail against this evil subversion of the legislative process.
Just scan the responses to this article on the Labour Party’s Facebook page and the Guardian article’s comment column and you will see that (to the best of my ability to judge) nobody who has professed support for Labour has expressed support for this.
Not one person.
The response has been universally negative. Nobody wants Labour to do this.
Now, it could be that this is all a mistake and the Guardian article (by Shiv Malik) contains information that is wrong.
But I, and others, have been trying to get a response from the Labour leadership for nearly 24 hours now, to no avail. It seems – whatever their convictions – these MPs don’t have the courage to stand by them.
The new Bill is being rushed through Parliament and there will be a vote on Tuesday, so you may well be asking what is to be done.
The immediate thing to do is, if you are a Labour supporter and have a Labour MP – CONTACT THEM. Telephone them, email them, get to them whichever way you can. Make it clear, politely but in no uncertain terms, that supporting Iain Duncan Smith’s evil Bill is a betrayal of the people who support the party and that you will not tolerate it.
PRESSURE. It’s the only way to ensure the will of the people is heard.
Meanwhile, some of us will explore other avenues.
We’ll get to the bottom of this.
What a shame this shot in the foot had to happen just when support for David Cameron and the Coalition has been crumbling. It really is an abomination. My opinion is that those responsible should be ejected from the Labour Party altogether.
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