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.
Esther McVile: The employment minister, who claims adamantly that changes to housing benefit do not constitute a ‘bedroom tax’, is pictured complaining about a so-called ‘tunnel tax’ in her own constituency in a blatant display of double standards.
New rules coming into force at the end of the month mean jobseekers will have to do more to find work – even though there are currently five of them for every job available – the Department for Work and Pensions has announced.
Simply ‘signing-on’ for benefits will be a thing of the past under the draconian and repressive new rules.
Employment Minister and double-standards queen Esther McVey has hailed the new rules as undermining the range of support available, which helps diminish aspects of the social security system so that it no longer protects anybody from being left impoverished – in this case by making sure people cannot start claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) by just signing-on without first humbling themselves before the Tory-led government.
She said: “With the economy growing, unemployment falling and record numbers of people in work, now is the time to start expecting more of shirkers if they want to claim benefits. It’s only right that we should push people who are unemployed into such a depth of poverty that even ‘in-work’ poverty is a step-up.
“This is about taking support away from people and undermining the range of support available to them so they can hit rock bottom faster. In return, we will give people as much harassment as possible, to make them stop scrounging or face sanctions, because we know from employers that we have to break people’s spirit before they’ll work for a really low wage.”
To prepare for their first interview with a Jobcentre Plus adviser, people looking for work will be told they will not even be able to sign as unemployed until they have prepared a CV, set up an email address – even though they might not have a computer on which to use it – and registering with the government’s discredited jobs website Universal Jobmatch, which will expose them to identity thieves and exploiters looking for sex workers. This change will make it possible to exploit people as soon as they start their JSA claim.
People who don’t tow the line will receive more harassment from their Jobcentre Plus adviser – weekly rather than fortnightly – to ensure they can be cleared off the books via sanctions if it proves impossible to push them into poverty work.
All new JSA claimants will also now have a quarterly review with their adviser, who will try to find a reason to impose sanctions and get them off the books.
These new measures are being introduced as figures show the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by over 363,000 on the year, the largest annual fall since 1998. This shows that the system of sanctions, putting people on Workfare to hide the fact that they are unemployed, and asking them to pretend that they are self-employed in order to fraudulently claim tax credits instead, is working.
The government is committed to sanctions and the vast majority of people are bullied off JSA quickly – more than 75 per cent of people end their claim within six months. Every working day Jobcentre Plus advisers shout at 98,000 interviews jobseekers and there are a range of ploys available to push them off the system. These include:
• Hiding them on the Work Programme
• Referring them for ‘training’ by companies that provide the minimum help available, take the money and run
• Putting people on pointless ‘work experience’ that won’t lead to a job but will clear them off the claimant count
• Fooling people with ‘incentives’ that mean nothing
• Getting people to pretend they are self-employed.
Vox Political wants to see more honesty in government press releases
… but we need YOUR help to keep up the pressure.
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions. Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going. You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times in either print or eBook format here:
It goes on to say that the number of people receiving support under the Access to Work programme between April and June this year increased by 10 per cent on the same period last year, to 22,760. Access to Work “provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work, such as support workers, specialist aids and equipment and travel to work support”.
Apparently the new stats show the highest level of new claims since 2007 – 10,390; and more people with mental health conditions than ever before have taken advantage of Access to Work.
The press release also states that young disabled people can now get Access to Work support while on Youth Contract work experience, a Supported Internship or Traineeship; and businesses with 49 employees or less no longer have to pay a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work. It seems they used to have to pay up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund.
Isn’t it more likely that the DWP and Work Programme providers, faced with an influx of disabled people into the programme from the ESA WRAG at the end of last year, encouraged them to set up as self-employed with their own businesses in order to get them off the claimant books?
Does it not, then, seem likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 getting help from Access to Work were offered it as part of a self-employment package that also, we are told, includes start-up money (that admittedly tapers away over time) and tax credits. The attraction for WP providers is that they would earn a commission for every claimant they clear off the books in this way.
So it seems likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 may now be self-employed in name alone and that these fake firms are included in the 102,000 new businesses lauded by BIS.
Is it not logical, therefore, to conclude that these are not government schemes, but government scams – designed to hoodwink the general public into thinking that the economy is improving far more than in reality, and that the government is succeeding in its aim to bring down unemployment?
Some might say that this conclusion is crazy. Why would the government want to release information that directly indicates underhanded behaviour on its part?
The answer is, of course, that it would not. This government wants to convince an undecided electorate that it knows what it is doing and that the country’s future is safe in its hands. But its right hand doesn’t seem to know what its left is doing – with regard to press releases, at the very least.
Therefore we can say that, in trying to prove that it is competent, the Coalition government has in fact proved the exact opposite.
So someone really needs to watch what they’re saying – if they don’t want people all over the UK to come to unintended conclusions!
AFTERTHOUGHT: The BIS press release adds that the government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, published with the 2011 budget, included an aim to create “the most competitive tax system in the G20”. By “competitive” the Treasury meant the system had to be more attractive to businesses that aim to keep as much of their profits away from the tax man as possible. It is a commitment to turn Britain into a tax haven and the VP post earlier this week shows that the government has been successful in this aim. What a shame that it also means the Coalition government will totally fail to meet its main policy commitment and reason for existing in the first place: It can’t cut the national deficit if the biggest businesses that operate here aren’t paying their taxes.
What do you do with a policy that has caused misery for thousands, has harmed the job market, removed jobseekers from work experience that would have led to a decent job and forced them to stack supermarket shelves instead, and actually had a judicial review held against it?
If you’re Chris Grayling, you roll it out in 16 London boroughs – all notable for being sites of the summer riots in 2011.
According to the Evening Standard, Mr Grayling plans to force young unemployed Londoners aged 18-24 to work in charities or care homes for 30 hours a week, while spending another 10 hours a week searching for a proper job, for a 13-week period. The policy will be applied to everybody who has spent less than six months in employment since leaving education; if they don’t agree to it, they’ll lose their £56-per-week Jobseekers’ Allowance.
He denied it was “slave labour” – the common nickname for the Work Placement scheme – instead claiming it would help young Londoners improve their career prospects.
I wonder what it will do for the prospects of people living in care homes who’ll have these inexperienced youngsters put in charge of them. It’ll probably make Winterbourne View care home look civilised – and through no fault of the youngsters being forced to do the work.
Mr Grayling also said it was reasonable for youngsters to be asked to give something to the community before the community gives anything back.
This might be a valid argument, but let’s ask one vital question: Who really gains from these work placement schemes?
The youngsters don’t – all they get is £56 per week and the loss of time that could be spent in voluntary work that will lead to a proper job.
The economy won’t – the jobs these young people will be doing should have proper wages, contracts and conditions of employment attached. This would pump money into the national economy and might actually help get Britain working properly again, but instead we’re seeing a silly publicity stunt from the government.
And the taxpayer won’t benefit either – because the government is using our tax money to fund the scheme. We’re paying for these youngsters to work for organisations that should be offering proper employment to people instead. And if you think all we’re paying is £56 per week, per jobseeker, think again!
If this system is anything like Welfare to Work (and I think it is), then each jobseeker will be sent to a placement by a provider – a private company employed by the government to shoehorn them into a placement. These are the people who will benefit from this scheme. It’s another backhander for Grayling’s fat-cat business buddies.
According to a commenter on my Facebook page (the ‘like’ button is at the top left of this page) “The WTW provider gets a £600 attachment fee. They also get paid fees for “providing support” i.e. bulllying her into doing what THEY want. Later they get an “outcome fee” for making her stay in the minimum wage job of their choice. If she finds something with no help from them, they still pocket the dosh. If she finds training other than their useless ‘courses’ she gets rewarded with a sanction (benefits withheld indefinitely) to ensure compliance.”
Is the reasoning behind this starting to make sense now?
The comment continues: “The job centre sent me to work (unpaid, natch) as a learning support asst with pre-ESOL classes. Six months later the college offered to fund my teacher training. Jobcentre promptly ordered me onto Work Programme. I now belong to Maximus [this will be the WTW provider] for two years. They told me to dump teaching plans and do contract cleaning. I dumped Maximus instead. Now I’ve been sanctioned. The Prime Minister goes on about literacy (which I also intend to teach) but is willing to keep throwing money into the WP to use the unemployed as a commodity. Maximus get to keep the attachment fee, by the way.
“The reason given [for the sanction] was ‘you had opportunities’ meaning the useless, unaccredited courses at À4E. I found a part-time job to help while training and the college want to pay my fares. The jobcentre seems to be under pressure to send people on WP. The Govt line is that the WP is for the ‘feckless workshy’ and the press seems to be colluding in this.”
That last comment is particularly telling, as there’s no mention of any of this in the Standard’s article.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.