From the TUC

Is this the lamest story of 2010?

02 Jan 2011, by in Society & Welfare

Yesterday’s Telegraph had an arresting story. Leading on to a story plainly based on a DWP briefing, the headline claimed

750,000 welfare claimants ‘refuse work’, figures show

Quite a bit of my work is taken up with looking at news stories like this, following up the data sources and thinking about different ways they can be looked at. This is a rare example where everything you need to see that its a lot less impressive than it looks is there in the report.

Someone just scanning the headline might get the impression that what we have here is three quarters of a million work-dodgers. But the 744,000 total is for several years,  ten in fact. I suppose they added up ten years’ worth because

74,400 a year refused to work or gave up jobs to claim benefits

would have looked a lot less impressive.

Secondly, of that three quarters of a million, 444,000 were people who left their jobs voluntarily and another 123,000 were sacked for misconduct; they then found when they claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance that they didn’t qualify.

Trades unions have a fair bit of experience of these rules. For one thing, the employer’s definition of ‘misconduct’ may not be what you or I might expect. Another problem is that the rules on leaving work voluntarily simply aren’t widely known; we’ve tried to publicise them to workers in the past, but its very hard to get people to take an interest in JSA rules before they make a claim.

What we know about both these groups of workers is that they aren’t people who’ve thought to themselves “I’ve had enough of work, I fancy an easy life on benefits instead.” Some are people have been sacked unfairly, some have reached a point where going on seems impossible, most think they’re going to get new jobs quickly. We can have a debate about whether the benefit system should be open to them, but they aren’t lazy, they aren’t out to abuse the benefit system.

In fact, the average number sanctioned for turning down a job offer was just 17,700 a year (remember that there are more than a quarter of a million JSA claims every month).

The point of the article in the Daily Telegraph was to justify the government’s harsher new penalties for people who break JSA rules. But the problem with the people who leave work or are sacked is that they don’t know that’s against the rules, it isn’t that the penalties are too weak to deter them.

The government wants to give the impression that people on JSA can claim the benefit and then turn down every job offer. We agree that that would be wrong, but there simply isn’t the evidence that this is a widespread problem that justifies harsher new rules.

3 Responses to Is this the lamest story of 2010?

  1. Alexis
    Jan 2nd 2011, 10:49 am

    There is a big difference between giving up your job to go on benefits (it astounds me who would, unless it was really bad) and refusing a new job whilst on benefit. Personally, I was made redundant, but that was the employer’s way of dealing with a situation that would have resulted in a constructive dismissal claim by me. Have I refused jobs or interviews? No. I wrote to my MP who said that what IDS was getting at was to target those who can but won’t work. Quite right too. One of the problems is that there arn’t jobs. A lot of employers are looking at lateral moves and there are more “white collar” unemployed now. So, say, experienced people who have lost their jobs and are prepared to take a step backwards to go forwards and aspiring graduates, for example are going for the same jobs as the lateral movers. In my experience, a well qualified person will not be taken on in an unskilled job because of (a) the fear of that person being singled out by others and their life being made hell by fellow employeers (b) that they will eventually move on, so what is the point of recruiting them and (c) the employer knows that in a lot of cases, the person looking at that job is far more qualified and able than them. I know. I’ve had that position myself. Short term contracts, fine, they’ll take you on. Permanent, no. Plus the fact that people are now having to look to relocate to get a job and getting a travel warrant is a trauma in itself. On the one hand, you can’t go over 300miles without assistance to go to an interview. On the other, if the warrant is refused and you can’t afford to go, they may suspend your benefit. I’m one of those who is desperately trying. There is an element out there who think that the world owes them a living. I see them at JCP, but on the whole, it is not the case. The jobs just arn’t there. Taxation for lower paid jobs is too high. NMW is inadequate. Council tax is prohibitive. Get that balance right and more people would take lower paid jobs, because by and large, that’s all there is.

  2. Davey
    Jan 3rd 2011, 9:53 am

    There is an initiative in the village where I live that has some relevance to this. We figured that if you don’t have a job for whatever reason, you are out of work, you are retired or whatever, that it actually isn’t the easiest thing in the world to get the job. All right, perhaps it shouldn’t be as no employer is going to hand you work on a plate, but we were looking at some way of being able to get money to people who were willing to carry out a simple task. Maybe just one task, on one day, and money provided at the end of the day. No need for a job, just the willingness to turn up and do some work for someone in the village. Well, we found someone to put up the money to invest in a website and over 12 months had one created. The fruit of our labour is a not for profit website that has set the village ablaze with people carry out tasks for each other: ‘taskedo’ is getting lots of coverage in the local press but most importantly it’s actually, really helping people out :)

  3. Payment protection insurance
    Jan 5th 2011, 5:47 pm

    Its about time the government introduce a pay as you go system for benefits. You dont work you dont get any.