Queen’s speech: still blaming the unemployed
The Government’s attack on unemployed people continued today, with the publication of proposals which still seem likely to introduce work for benefits schemes for those who have been out of work for two years or more. This is depite the Gregg Review concluding yesterday that workfare doesn’t work.
Although Government spin suggested that yesterday’s report focused entirely on a scrounger clampdown, Gregg’s garden digging idea was actually proposed as a last ditch sanction, expected to apply to fewer than 1500 people who have been found to be in breach of benefit rules and as an alternative to cash sanctions – therefore preventing hardship and meaning that real jobs wouldn’t be taken from workers who would otherwise be paid. And on workfare the review was progressive, noting that Intermediate Labour Markets (ILMs), essentially subsidised employment options, that provide skills and jobsearch support are more effective at enabling people to move back into jobs. It also called for ‘extra financial reward’ to be provided when placements are anything other than short term and recommended that efforts should be made at central and local Government level to build the ILM sector.
With respect to pure workfare schemes, which include Austraila’s ‘Work for the Dole’ schemes, the review concluded that:
Evidence suggests that this type of scheme has some deterrence effect but has little impact on the employment outcomes of participants, as was strongly shown in an evaluation of nine workfare schemes in the US conducted by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) in 1993. This evaluation found that outcomes improved when work experience was combined with other support services as job search assistance and training. As such, although there are exceptions we have seen a general shift away from using the traditional workfare model and towards greater use of the ILM approach, which offers additional support and assistance to help individuals overcome their barriers to employment and find mainstream employment in addition to the work placement. In New York, for example, negative evaluation of the large WEP workfare has led to a shift towards a less punitive model involving putting more people onto subsidised work placements that offer additional assistance, in particular for those with multiple barriers to work
But the Government chose to spin the proposals as a crackdown on fraudulent claimants, with unemployed people presented in as negative a light as possible. Maybe offensive myths about those who can’t find jobs are popular in marginal seats, but adding fuel to the Daily Mail’s fire is simply irresponsible, immoral and near unforgivable from a Labour Government.