Used and abused: inside a failed UK workfare scheme. Will Universal Credit claimants be pushed into schemes like this to make up labour shortfalls after Brexit?

The post below – based on Kyla’s story (named changed) – is an excerpt from a collection I’m working on.

The project collects interviews I’ve made since 2014 with people directly affected by benefit cuts and welfare reform.

This collection is being made possible thanks to a Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust grant. I’m posting extracts from this collection here as I work on it.

Amiel_Melburn_logo

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Workfare: how government gets something for nothing out of people in deep poverty

This article is about workfare – that failed (for workfare workers), but electorally-popular concept where benefit claimants must work for unemployment benefits.

Tory, coalition and Labour (and American, Australian and Canadian) governments have been keen advocates of workfare schemes for decades – even in very recent decades, when the widespread failure of workfare as a means of placing people in ongoing paid jobs has been extensively reported.

I’ve written about workfare in the UK and in America many times in the last five years.

To my mind, politicians persist with workfare schemes for one reason when it comes down to it: harsh workfare programmes, with their punitive street-cleaning and charity-shop workfare placements, and tough benefit sanctions for non-compliance, give politicians a chance to crack down on the unemployed for show. Governments are desperate to prove to welfare-skeptic electorates that people who claim unemployment benefits are made to toil for their dole.

Toughlove,” is the word that workfare’s advocates like to use when they talk about forcing people who are out of work into gruelling workfare jobs on the threat of sanctions.

A Clinton government would “end welfare as we know it,” pledged Bill Clinton on a campaign promise which led to the game-changing (not in a good way for the poorest social security recipients in particular) Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act with its exacting work-for-welfare conditions in 1996.

Clinton said that as though ending welfare as people knew it was a good thing. The reality was that PRWORA, with its strict time limits for social security eligibility and tough workfare and sanction conditions pushed thousands off welfare rolls and into dire poverty. Workfare schemes such as the Wisconsin (W2) programme and the New York (WEP) scheme became notorious for such exclusion, particularly as millennium recession deepened. Lockout from social security was no joke as escape from poverty through any type of paid work became harder.

Workfare’s champions didn’t care. They didn’t care where society’s poorest went as they were excluded from much-needed state support. No matter that society’s poorest went into dangerous and illegal activities such as selling blood and food stamps, skipping meals, shoplifting, scavenging and returning to violent partners to make ends meet. Social security is a numbers game for movers and shakers in the modern age. All that mattered and matters is that the number of people claiming support drops.

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Workfare in the UK

This article is based on in-depth interviews with forced participants in a recent failed UK workfare scheme: George Osborne’s Help to Work programme with its Community Work Placements.

Community Work Placements – CWP – were workfare placements, mostly in charities, aimed at people who were long-term unemployed and thought short of workplace skills, whatever that meant. Actually, the people I interviewed on CWP tended to be older and short of decent work opportunities, rather than skills, but government didn’t talk much about that.

Neither did government talk much about learning from the failure of American workfare schemes, or about the dangers of imposing strict workfare schemes and benefit sanctions on in-need people in a recession.

CWP was rough. It wasn’t tailored to meet people’s circumstances and needs. Some participants I spoke with were older people who were pushed into hard physical work from which they gained nothing, except confirmation of their own suspicions that they were being punished. That “work” included walking around with charity collection buckets in freezing cold weather, or standing all day to sort and clean donated clothes in charity shops.

CWP was memorable for the two reasons that such blunt workfare schemes so often are.

The first was that it was launched at great cost (£300m) with a shifty and strident politician (Osborne) banging on in the foreground about long-term unemployment being a fault of a widespread benefit claimant sense of entitlement (“no something-for-nothing any more“), rather than the economy.

The second was that it failed spectacularly. Launched into jobcentres in 2014, CWP was shut down just two years later after falling short most of the way along of its own modest targets for workfare placement companies to place 15% of CWP “graduates” in jobs. CWP was ditched not long before Osborne was.

Workfare never goes away, though. The hardline political infatuation with workfare – that fetish for proving that benefit claimants are made to toil and made to hurt – dies hard.

Which is why, in my many cynical hours, I think about the ways in which CWP-type workfare schemes might become widespread to Universal Credit conditions.

I wonder we’ll see CWP-type workfare schemes spread after Brexit – if government and business will force benefit claimants to take up the agricultural, cleaning and care work that business has been screwing out of EU migrants for a pittance.

No doubt arrangements will be made to keep those sectors supplied with poorly-paid migrant workers, but it is very possible to imagine Universal Credit claimants on forced workfare in the mix. It’s certainly easy to imagine how such schemes would operate. Charlatan private companies will be paid millions to source workfare jobs. Those companies will manage relationships between the DWP and unscrupulous businesses which don’t have to pay claimants wages and can do whatever they like with workfare workers.

I’ve seen how recent workfare schemes operate. The template is already there.

That’s why I wanted to show you CWP.

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Kyla, Help to Work Community Work Placement at Marie Curie, 2014.

This description of CWP follows Kyla’s experience of workfare at a Marie Curie charity shop.

This part of Kyla’s story has it all (there’s a second part about another workfare placement which we’ll get to).

Kyla’s experience at Marie Curie incorporated every one of workfare’s major drawbacks: a physically gruelling workfare placement, bullying at the hands of one of the aggressive private companies to which the management of CWP was outsourced, the ever-present threat of benefit sanctions, and, most importantly, her powerlessness as a workfare worker to change the situation.

Nobody involved in administering CWP during this leg of it cared a fig for Kyla, or for her prospects: whether she learned genuine job skills, or found paid work after the placement, or even if the job physically hurt her. She was a means to everyone else’s end. She was absolutely irrelevant as a person as charities, workfare placement companies and the DWP battled for points and spoils.

That’s what I wanted you to see.

Kyla, 54, was one of three long-term unemployed East Londoners I interviewed at length about workfare in 2014 and 2015.

All three were forced workfare participants in CWP.

Like all people on CWP, the three had to work 30 hours a week for six months in local charities in exchange for their jobseekers’ allowance of about £72 a week. Refusing the work, or even complaining about it, meant risking benefit sanctions.

Kyla’s first workfare placement on CWP had been unpleasant indeed.

For that first placement, she’d been sent on a forced 30-hour-a-week workfare job at Marie Curie’s Highbury and Islington charity shop.

She was still riled about that placement when we met.

Kyla had three very good reasons for fury about that Marie Curie workfare job.

To Kyla, these three problems underlined the extent to which she was used by people who ran CWP – and how little she was able to do about it.

The first reason for Kyla’s anger was that the Marie Curie job was physically punishing. Kyla said that she struggled to cope with the work at her age.

Kyla was 54. At the Marie Curie shop, she had to lift, sort and clean piles of donated clothes. She had to stand all day. The demands of the work were out of all proportion to the so-called reward – Kyla’s already-small unemployment benefit. Kyla’s weekly jobseekers’ allowance of about £72 was hardly a fair exchange for such work. There were no other rewards. Kyla wasn’t taught new skills, or prepared for a job. The work did not lead to paid employment.

Said Kyla:

“We were steaming clothes out the back and putting clothes out on the shop floor. You were on your feet all day – the manager pushing us to work harder and harder. We weren’t paid…I hated the boss…

…I needed a break. I got sciatica in my back… it was when I was standing up a lot at Marie Curie. It was hurting.”

It was meant to hurt, of course. Workfare is always meant to hurt one way or another. Like most people on schemes such as CWP, Kyla was on workfare to satisfy a sort of societal sadism. She knew that. She was on a workfare scheme that George Osborne had backed to provoke and then satiate electorate hunger for claimant toil.

The second reason Kyla was angry was about Marie Curie and CWP was that she’d been treated very badly by staff at Urban Futures. Urban Futures was the unscrupulous (do read on) workfare placement company that had organised Kyla’s Marie Curie workfare job and forced her to take it. G4S had a DWP contract to run CWP in various regions. G4S brought in fly-by-night companies such as Urban Futures to find local charities to put benefit claimants to work in workfare jobs in their organisations. G4S described the selection of swindlers such as Urban Futures (read on, as I say) as choosing “top-performing placement brokers,” (still makes me laugh) “to deliver the customer journey to all Community Work Placements claimants.”

Workfare workers didn’t have quite as romantic a view of “placement brokers” such as Urban Futures, or the “customer journey” they were on. As far as they were concerned, Urban Futures was nasty: obsessed with pushing people into workfare placements (companies received a start fee for placements secured and for job outcomes) and quick to get heavy with CWP participants.

Kyla hated going into the Urban Futures offices in Wood Green.

In addition to her 30 hours a week on workfare, Kyla had to spend one day a week in the Urban Futures office searching online for jobs while staff watched. She felt that Urban Futures staff menaced her:

“You go in. They make you do your jobsearch and make you wait. It’s like being institutionalised. It’s like being in a detention centre – a holding cell, I called it. They just patronise you. [Tell you to] go do your jobsearch….I was reduced to tears there. They took me into this other room [because] I was a bit late. I said I felt [an Urban Futures staff member] was interrogating me…

…Then, they banged me into Marie Curie.”

Which brings us to the third – and in some ways most significant – reason that Kyla was angry about her Marie Curie placement:

She’d found out that she’d been sent to Marie Curie on a false premise – on a very dodgy premise, even.

The truth was that Kyla should not have been on workfare at Marie Curie at all. She shouldn’t have been there, because Marie Curie claimed to have pulled out of DWP workfare schemes. Marie Curie had abandoned workfare to some fanfare in 2012. Nonetheless, there was Kyla two yeas later, sorting and cleaning clothes on workfare in Marie Curie’s Highbury and Islington shop.

There were two possible explanations for this. Both involved Kyla being used in a very cynical way.

One explanation was that Urban Futures had decided not to tell Marie Curie that Kyla was on a mandatory DWP workfare scheme when Urban Futures rang Marie Curie to offer the charity the “volunteers” that Urban Futures had on its books.

If that was the case, Urban Futures had lied to Marie Curie about Kyla’s status.

There was no doubt that workfare placement companies had motive for lying in such a way in 2014.

Workfare placement companies collected start fees when they secured workfare jobs for CWP participants. The problem at that time was that charities were starting to run scared from workfare – doubtless the reason why Marie Curie had pulled out of workfare in 2012.

Powerful activist groups such as Boycott Workfare and Keep Volunteering Voluntary were running successful campaigns to target organisations that participated in DWP workfare schemes. Charities that did take workfare workers found themselves on the wrong end of fiery online campaigns and protests outside their front doors. Workfare as a concept may have been popular with the wider electorate, but at the same time, charities and some businesses began to worry that participating in workfare meant risking a reputation problem in the social media age.

The upshot was that companies such as Urban Futures had their work cut out to secure workfare placements – and, of course, payments for placements. It was entirely possible that workfare placement companies decided not to tell charities that the volunteers it offered were workfare workers on mandatory schemes.

Certainly, Marie Curie was keen to sell that line.

Marie Curie told me it was likely the problem was that Urban Futures had lied about Kyla’s status as a workfare worker when I rang the charity to ask how her workfare placement had come to pass.

Said Marie Curie’s spokesperson:

““We do try wherever possible to check if we are approached by companies or organisations that are offering us volunteers… but [if] they’re [workfare placement companies] not quite honest with us. They might be disingenuous about the stipulations under which the volunteer has to work.”

Kyla reported that Urban Futures had been desperate to find her a workfare job:

“They [Urban Futures] rushed you into a [workfare] placement. [They kept saying] “got to get you a placement…got to get you a placement….They [Urban Futures] have this obsession with pushing people into charity work.”

There was a second possible explanation for Kyla’s Marie Curie placement, though. Marie Curie may have known that Kyla was on a mandatory workfare scheme, but decided to try and get away with keeping her on in the shop. Kyla was, after all, free labour.

It did seem odd that Kyla’s being on workfare had slipped everyone’s notice.

For one thing, Kyla was on workfare in the Marie Curie shop for several months. She talked about workfare while she was there.

For another thing, Marie Curie charity shop managers would surely have signed Kyla’s weekly CWP attendance sheets. People on CWP needed signed timesheets (here’s an example of a CWP timesheet) to prove they’d attended their workfare placements and to claim travel allowances. Urban Futures did, at one extraordinary point, lose a bunch of CWP timesheets, or forgot to fill them in, or something. Urban Futures staff actually turned up at various charity offices to demand that charity management help fix that problem and/or paper over Urban Futures’ mistake by filling in CWP timesheets retrospectively. The thing was an absolute shambles.

As time went on, Kyla became aware that Marie Curie was worried about her placement.

Kyla said:

“The manager [at Marie Curie] there kept us on for five months.

In October, she [the manager] said, “there’s been concern that Marie Curie don’t want to take people on from Urban Futures, but I’ll keep you on. If anything comes back to me from my manager, I’ll have to let you go…”

…I don’t know what’s gone on – whether she [the manager] lied, or [Urban Futures] lied, but we were there on borrowed time.”

Marie Curie ended Kyla’s workfare placement before Kyla’s six months on the programme were up.

Alas – no response from Urban Futures

As you might imagine, I was keen to raise these issues with Urban Futures. I wanted to put these issues to the company – the claims that Urban Futures lied to secure workfare placements, the accusations of bullying and the mystery of the missing timesheets. I also wanted to know how much money the company made from workfare placements.

Nobody at Urban Futures would answer my questions.

I’d ring and be told that managers were out and to call the G4S media line. The G4S media line literally never worked. I often wondered if it was connected. The line would make a strange buzzing sound and ring off. I’d ring Urban Futures again after trying the G4S line. People who answered the Urban Futures phone would claim not to know what I was talking about, or say that the managers who would know what I was talking about were out (again).

On other occasions when I rang (I sometimes set aside a morning or afternoon to try and get hold of an Urban Futures’ manager, just to see what would happen), I’d be told that managers were in a meeting. I presumed managers finished those meetings at some point, but they’d never ring back when they did.

Sometimes, I would ring the number for the Urban Futures training building in case the management team had sprinted over there to avoid calls. I knew the training building and HQ were opposite each other in Wood Green, because I’d interviewed people outside Urban Futures and watched people in suits hurry from one building to another. I thought I might catch one on the outward journey.

Once after a morning’s pursuit, I finally got an Urban Futures manager on the phone for a few minutes. He laughed and said something like, “Kate! Kate!” a few times. That was it. He told me to ring the G4S media line and ran.

—–

So much for accountability.

Which is the point I’m making in this article, of course. There was absolutely no accountability in CWP at all. CWP was a shambles of vacuous charities, voracious workfare placement companies, and sociopathic politicians such as George Osborne who wanted to be seen screwing benefit claimants into the ground. Nobody who was profiting from the mess would take responsibility for any part of it.

Workfare workers, meanwhile, had to put up with it all  – the hard physical work, the bullying and the threat of sanctions for non-compliance.

They weren’t in a position to push back.

But one group did.

PART ONE ENDS

130 thoughts on “Used and abused: inside a failed UK workfare scheme. Will Universal Credit claimants be pushed into schemes like this to make up labour shortfalls after Brexit?

  1. Thank god the Community Work Programme got stopped. I was referred on to it in 2016 (I think it was) but didn’t even make it through the Induction, I said “fuck you” to the clever bastard tutor who was ranting at me about how it is all “voluntary” and that everyone here is a “volunteer”, even though the scheme was mandatory and he had just told is that if we didn’t attend our Benefits would be Sanctioned, therefore how the fuck can it have been voluntary work? So I stormed out. I was under the impression that I wasn’t on the scheme having stormed out and not gone back, and not received any further instruction to attend. Then a couple of weeks later out of the blue I got a letter through the post saying I had an appointment that morning at a RSPCA charity shop 10 miles away. The appointment had been at 11.00am that morning, unfortunately my post doesn’t arrive until about 12.30pm and I had opened this letter at 1.00pm, obviously too late to attend the appointment. I rang the RSPCA shop and they just told me to ring Interserve (the CWP provider), which I did. The woman on the other end of the phone immediately got on her high horse and started berating me for not having answer my phone, saying they had been trying to contact me for past 2 weeks. But they hadn’t sent me a text message or a an email, or a letter. I felt the blood rushing to my head and I blew my top with this Interserve woman, I told her I didn’t even know I was on the scheme, and how the fuck do you expect me to attend an appointment 2 hours prior to notification? What do you think I am a Time Lord? I calked a stupid fucking bitch and yelled at her and hung up, absolutely fuming. Somehow though, I managed not to get sanctioned, my JCP coach just sent me on a different scheme instead, called “Skills Conditionality”, which lasted for 2 months and included a 4 weeks work placement. It was shite and took one & half hours to get there each day (and then back again), but it was better than the Community Work Prog. I suppose.

    Now the Jobcentre are trying to pressure me on to yet another course/scheme called “Right Steps To Work”, which I have discovered is voluntary, but the JCP coach/adviser gave me few details and didn’t tell me it’s voluntary, or that it lasts for 12 months. Trouble is, i know from previous experience that even thouigh some of these bullshit schemes are ostensibly or technically voluntary, once you have signed up to it you can be sanctioned for not turning up or for not competing the scheme, which seems incredible but that was the case with something I did called “Work Experience”, I didn’t find out that it was governed by sanctions (even though participation was voluntary) until after I had signed up to do it. Luckily though I did that at Oxfam and they said they never report anyone to the jobcentre for not being there or for being late, they said as far as we’re concerned you’re here voluntary, you are a volunteer and it’s up to you. So now I’m wondering if this same sort of back-handed voluntary/mandatory/sanctionable bullshit applies to Right Steps too, and I want a definite answer to this before I sign anything. I cannot afford to put myself in the position of being at greater/higher risk of getting sanctioned and I refuse to do any such “voluntary” scheme under those conditions.

      • I know, I’ve done them all over the years. The only employment scheme I remember that was any good was in the early 8/0s, under Thatcher oddly enough. It was called CEP, the Community Enterprise Programme, and you actually got paid for doing it. I did it in 83, for 9 months, worked 4 days a week, didnt have to sign on, got double amount of dole, and didnt have to do any jobsearch. It lead to me being kept on in full time employment at the company (a textile mill) where I worked for another 4 years.

    • trev I would never give these company’s any contact details I would say “They are for friends & family only and you are neither.” They have a postal address and that should be enough. If you then get a letter for a time that has passed, phone the sending company, I think that would be the CWP place, and tell them you didn’t get the letter until after the time of the appointment and if they contact the jobcentre to initiate a sanction you will prosecute both party’s for substantial compensation.

      • Yeah I suppose you’re right Terminator, i tend to be not assertive enough and then end up blowing my top at some point – the joys of living with Borderline Personality Disorder, which no one ever seems to take into account. This latest referral (to Right Steps) the JCP adviser told me very little about it, just showed me a small one-sided flyer, then got on thephone to give this private company my personal details; d.o.b. , name, address, phone number,email address, and N.I. number. Then I got a call later that day, still didnt say much about it just that it’s voluntary, which JCP never mentioned. I have an appointment tomorrow morning, supposedly to sign up to the course, but I need to know a lot more about what it entails and what I’d be letting myself in for. I don’t really want to do it obviously,bbut they make it hard to refuse without having some sort of argument & confrontation. I wish they would just fuck off and leave me alone.

        • This reminds me of the energy salespeople who used to come to my door. I remember being offered a special deal, but there was no leaflet, no website, no further information. Instead, I was told the deal was available for one day only. Needless to say, I did not sign up. That company has now been fined for mis-selling.

          If you had a choice about this training, you would of course favour a training provider that offered you proper information over one that did not. Yet the Jobcentre has removed that element of choice from you, no doubt for reasons to do with funding and back-room deals. This is corrupt.

          • Yes,and if this course is voluntary they should have made that clear, and seeing as it’s not a mandatory scheme defined inlegislatin why are they taking it upon themselves to push people on to it, in effect outside their legal remit?

          • Why are they mandating people to build bridges with pasta and tables with newspaper anyway? It’s not going to make a blind bit of difference to their job prospects.

    • I cannot count the number of times I have been told, “We’ve been trying to reach you. We phoned you many times.” In fact, they almost always only made ONE telephone call. They don’t even take the opportunity to leave a message! It always happens where there is very poor administration anyway, which is also when you get a letter about an appointment that already happened. It’s surprisingly common.

  2. Thanks for that Kate, it’s good to be reminded how nasty it can be for those who are in poverty who don’t feel they have a voice. Despite the legal definitions that will deny it, what you are writing about here is slavery, pure and simple. At the very best, it’s corvee labour, which to me, looks to be nothing other than slavery of a slightly different type. The biggest problem, it seems to me, are the attitudes of the general electorate who seem to lust after seeing the unemployed suffer in some way for being unemployed.

    Whatever charities using slave labour may claim, they are culpable. From a charities perspective, all workers should be treated as if they are employees, and, apart from the obvious fact they aren’t being paid, still need to be insured, and that is an area that is a huge black hole. Charities are obliged to have insurance for all volunteers, but people forced to work in charities are not volunteers, and so would not be covered by the charity’s insurance. Indeed, the DWP regulations for these schemes deliberately leaves out any considerations of the insuring of people consigned to these slave labour schemes, and to a large extent the DWP treats these schemes as a ‘black box’ leaving it entirely to the providing companies to deal with such issues. The DWP deliberately does not ask questions about worker welfare whilst on these schemes, and is only interested in whether or not the worker has attended, performed adequately for obvious reasons – so they can ‘discipline and punish’.

    I too expect things to get progressively worse for those of us unfortunate enough to not have a job that pays adequately. or indeed a job at all. As we slowly slide into a fascist nightmare, which is the trajectory we’re on at the moment, things will get worse for the poor. Those of the electorate who have, up till now, been the cheerleaders of this hateful regime, are in for a very rude awakening. It’s going to start affecting many of them soon.

    There hasn’t been widespread protests against workfare in the past couple of years, and that’s probably because the old systems of workfare have probably come to an end whilst the architects of welfare reform rethink how slave labour schemes fit in to Universal Credit. Workfare will reappear, but one strong argument against it is that it takes away people’s jobs in a way that EU migrants never did.

    I’m sure there will be some kind of attempt in post Brexit Britain to force people on the dole into slave labour schemes in the fields, but I strongly suspect that it will be a huge failure, as it won’t be efficient, and due to the nature of much industrialised agricultural production, would require the construction of labour camps – concentration camps. Surely we don’t really want to see a return of these?

    https://thelearningprofessor.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/anarchists-and-work-camps-in-1930s-britain/

    • God, imagine.

      I wonder if things will change as more people on tax credits are moved to Universal Credit and associated conditionality…there’s something very disturbing about all of this.

      • Indeed there is something very disturbing about all this. I think the government is probably banking on people being too apathetic to fight back, but I think they may be on something of a sticky wicket if they persist in such thinking. I’m not saying there will be a revolution, but people can only be pushed so far. I think the wiser minds in the Tory party know this, and will have also thought through the likely consequences of having everyone on a low income in the UC system, that just doesn’t work, is a very bad idea, even a dangerous idea. I think we could see much Tory opposition to this scheme once this Brexshit nonsense is out of the way. I’m just surprised that Labour hasn’t latched onto UC as a way of winning a lot of votes, but it seems they are equally wedded to the notion that the poor and unemployed must be punished because there are no fucking jobs. UC could be this generation’s Poll Tax – though I hope we get something better than UC reformed – we need something at least as humane as the system Beveridge introduced.

        I’ve been re-reading some stuff I found a couple of years ago when I started to get my head around this apparent passion of our lords and masters to mortify our flesh because there are no fucking jobs. Internationally, as you know, Workfare type schemes have been popular, if moronic responses to the lack of any jobs, let alone decently paying jobs in economies that actually work. Even Scandinavia (briefly) flirted with Workfare, though I think many of those countries did struggle with the morality of Workfare schemes. Scandinavia quickly abandoned workfare as it realised it just doesn’t work. After some 20 years even New York abandoned workfare because is just doesn’t work. Quite amazingly to me, all of these studies seem to have ignored the massive elephant in the room: that these schemes were seen to be necessary because the economy had tanked and there were no fucking jobs.

        After reading a bit about British labour camps, I found this book, and have ordered it.

        https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/British-Concentration-Camps-Hardback/p/11631

        It looks like it will be an interesting read.

        It seems strange to me indeed that our societies should have shifted from an economic system that more or less worked, based on Keynsian economics, which delivered the longest period of economic growth and relative stability where workers actually saw an increase of their stake in society to a system that has signally failed in the past 40 years since it came in. Neo-liberal economics are an utter failure except in making the already disgustingly rich obscenely rich.

        • I agree. I’m not sure there’ll be a revolution as such, but I think there comes a time when it’s too hard to make a living… as you say, relative stability and prosperity came about at times when it was possible for more people to work their way to a better standard of living – more work around, pay you could live on more or less and mortgages that more people could afford… so people saw the point of buying in as it were. Nowadays, you can have a job and still find you can’t meet the rent. The rewards and the autonomy that went with such rewards aren’t there.

          • It’s also interesting that this phenomena is affecting the USA as much as it is the UK, perhaps more so, as mild forms of socialism seem to be hitting a chord over there chiefly because the candidates are in tune with what so many people are hoping for – affordable health, social housing and meaningful work that pays decently enough so that ordinary working people can enjoy life. I think the Labour Party over here has probably said similar things, but somehow that message has become garbled due to trying to pander to the sensibilities of the Daily Mail readership. It’s resulted in a very mixed message that is still leaving the poor and dispossessed with no hope, and that is something that sooner or later an organised voice on the right will exploit fully.

  3. These Workfare scams…erm…schemes can’treally be about “helping” people into sustainable employment because the success rate of “outcomes” are dismally low. It’s all about providing free labour for participating companies like Poundstretcher, Poundland, etc. so maximizing their profits. Also it’s about transferring public money into the coffers & shareholders of private companies that provide the schemes, Interserve, Ingeus, Serco, Pluss, Standguide, etc. etc. And at the same time makes claiming Benefits so awful that those in work will be afraid of losing their jobs – control and subjugate the Working Class through fear & intimidation. It’s Fascism alright.

    • I agree Trev. It is Fascism. And it scares me a lot. It scares me that since the Brexshit vote it has become okay to voice some pretty obnoxious opinions, such as those expressed by some commenting here. Having a go at ‘foreigners’ has become normalised, though it was always there, Brexshit has made it socially acceptable, and it’s not helped by the truly disgusting revelations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

      It seems to me that too many people seem to forget that we are talking about fellow human beings, and not aliens, foreigners, ‘illegal’ (sic) immigrants etc. Nobody seems to be asking fundamental questions as to why so many people are moving around the globe, and not because the want to. People need to look at the much bigger picture, and start to join the dots – then they may realise that their lifestyles are behind much of the impoverishment of sub Saharan Africa, and that their governments are behind the huge influx of refugees from places like Syria, Libiya and lots of other places.

  4. My first taste of slave labour was on the youth opportunities programme working as a Car Valter. After 9 months working there some guy from the DWP turned up and told us all that we should not have been employed working for him as he was self employed and had no other workers apart from us yoppers.

    Far more wiser nowadays and fight everything they try throw at me I am a professional jobseeker it is not my fault that the job market does not see me as an asset due to my outdated skills age and lack of work history, but when it comes to jobseeking no course or scheme can teach me anything new and it is up to the work coach to prove otherwise which they cannot, as most of them do not know what it actually is they are referring me to.
    Last conversation went like this.
    You have to attend this course to improve your chances of finding work.
    Do you have any leaflets about the course ?
    No
    Have you visited the provider to see what they do ?
    No
    Then how can you say it will improve my chances?

    So I just no thank you I just want a job.

    It is wrong that you have to read and understand the 1995 jobseekers act and the 1996 job seeker regulations and welfare reforms act to keep them of your back not to mention the decision makers guides but when you do they have very little power and are always over stepping the line.

    • Back in 95 there was something called Training For Work and I discovered that it applied to certain College courses so I managed to blag a year at Art College under this guise and had a great time, didn’t have to sign on or do any jobsearch and got an extra tenner a week for doing it 🙂

      Early 80s there was something called TOPS (possibly Training Opportunities?) Courses, held at special training centres, and I applied for one that was advertised for a course in Panel Beating can’t remember if it was in Batley or Wakefield somewhere, anyways I got turned down and didnt get on the course! I have a vague memory of doing a few months at a Youth Training centre before that in about 80 or 81, think that might have been YOPS. Then did CEP in 83. Later on did New Deal 4 or 5 times between about 2002 – 2010, and what a fucking nightmare that was. There were also some 2 week mandatory courses prior to New Deal, sat in a classroom doing crossword puzzles and cellotaping eggs to balloons as a team building exercise. Then came the Work Programme for 2 years, followed by Mandatory Work Activity, followed by Skills Conditionality, followed by Work Experience, and now they’re trying to get me on Right Steps To Work. There is no end to this bullshit.

      • THInk I also got sent to A4 eat one point but I stormed out before I even got started and booted a litter bin over on my way out. Some right bossy woman got my goat right from the off and that was enough for me.

        • The League of Gentlemen got it spot on with Pauline and her pens. Those guys must have spent a spell on the dole at some point.

          • I have been the Ross to many Pauline’s.
            Brilliant show love comedy although I was disappointed with last episode.

            The 80s was the best time for political comedy just don’t seem to have anything comparable nowadays, have I got news for you and a couple of radio 4 programs about all I can think of that’s mainstream.
            Jonathan Pie on Youtube is about the best around at the moment imo brilliantly funny and sums all this crap we going through well .

      • Yep also done new deal, flexible new deal and the work and health programme and few courses in between.
        There are no courses now that could teach us anything new or useful we probably could run them ourselves.
        And get better results having an intimate knowledge and understanding of the real barriers and mind set of most of the participants.
        All that money wasted on these courses (£2000 just for my CV) could have paid for us many times over to have gained an apprenticeship in something useful not just CV creation.
        Bloody too late now though this should have available years ago.
        So at this point in the DWP “Journey” it is wasting tax payers money and time to send us yet again to the same old shit.
        As a civil servant they have a duty to protect the public purse they should not hand out these courses like confetti. But often do.

        Workfare although practically dead it is still entwined in the welfare reform act and Universal Credit so could raise its ugly head again.

        • Workfare still exists under the guise of Work Experience placemen ts, & Work Trials as part of courses such as Right Steps, & Skills Conditionali ty (if it’s still going). Some of these are supposedly ‘voluntary’ but people are pressured& bullied into doing it.

          • It’s fine for people to decide to do volunteering and unpaid work experience. It’s not OK for private companies to make £millions by posing as agents or “brokers” for such opportunities. It’s also not OK for such private companies, with a vested interest, to take away the element of choice from the individual. Nor is it OK for the Jobcentre to have a financial interest in pushing a jobseeker into one opportunity rather than another. We need Jobcentres to be offering impartial advice, not making a mint from biased advice.

          • The only schemes now for our age are all voluntary apart from the W&HP program but there is little chance of getting mandated to attend that.

      • Trev, please explain what on earth was the idea behind taping an egg to a balloon? I mean was it meant to be a helium egg or a hard-boiled balloon?

        • You might well ask! It was a team-building exercis, totally pointless. We had to tape eggs to balloonsand drop them out the window,see who’s egg survivedunbroken = the winner. Later it got banned for health &safety. That was at Appleton House, Bradford Council Skills For Work – mandatory.

          • If only someone had made a comedy programme about this! But it would have been rejected for being “too unrealistic”.

            To think that my parents’ hard-earned money was paying tax for someone somewhere to earn a fortune by compelling you to sit and tape eggs to balloons and drop them out of windows!!! This is the modern version of workhouse inmates digging holes in order to fill them back in again. It is such an insult to your personal dignity. Being unemployed should not mean that you must be humiliated like that.

            If government would like to pay to train the unemployed, it should be paying its own adult education colleges to provide this training, rather than syphoning off public funds into private companies. Colleges are the main providers of adult education for the general public. They provide a vast range of courses, usually of a high standard, taught by qualified, motivated people. Yet they suffer due to lack of funding. There is no justification for the government using public funds to bypass instead of invest in its own education institutions.

            In the same way, if government would like information about a person’s health, it should be paying the NHS to provide this service, in order to invest in the NHS.

          • A guy at foodbank yesterday told me he did a scheme in Wakefield a couple years ago and they had the group making a ‘coffee table’ out of old newspapers as some sort of team building bullshit. You feel such an idiot doing these stupid things knowing how pointless and ridiculous it all is.

  5. It is suprising how many people still hold the view that the unemployed have had all this coming for years. A neighbour of mine, nice guy but an unrepentant Conservative, is convinced that ”50% of these claims are fraudulent anyway. ”
    It shows how much attitudes have hardened after years of deliberate government propaganda against the disabled and the unemployed.

    • Well they shot themselves in the foot with that argument when it became clear that sanctions cost £156 million more to administer than it makes in savings.
      More than 280,000 public tip-offs on benefit fraud in the past two years have resulted in no action being taken against a claimant due to lack of evidence.
      https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/benefit-fraud-public-tip-offs-legal-action-police-no-evidence-dwp-work-pensions-department-a8144096.html

      That is another slippery slope having your friends and neighbours snoop which was at the top of the agenda at one point few years ago.

      • Yes, “Rev” Sourchimp, I think, we, the public should have been properly consulted before the government embarked on spending £billions of our money on schemes that take money away from us, as claimants, when we fall into need. Quoting a few opinion polls or the Murdoch media or talking about the public finances is nowhere near enough of a public consultation in a democracy. These schemes should have been clearly set out to the public in an election or a referendum, with a clear choice of a party/vote AGAINST as well as FOR them. In my view, Jeremy Corbyn is the first main party leader since 1997 to have represented anything other than more of the above.

        • We’re all hoping Corbyn will make v a difference but it is a bit weird and disconcerting that all the leaders of the past 40 or so years, both sides of the pond, have supported and furthered this neoliberal agenda, even bloody Clinton. I

          • Yes, it is weird. I guess the key is in the word “neoliberal”. I guess it’s a way of thinking.

          • Clinton was one of the worst protagonists of Workfare in the USA – it was him that made it a federal programme. Before that it existed in some of the states, most notably Wisconsin.

        • JC does seem to be the only hope to deliver the 99% from evil at the moment, I would go as far as to say he is possibly even a closet anarchist with some of his views.

          I am definitely voting for labour if he is still leader come the next GE and the way the government are behaving taking the piss with parliamentary protocols and everything else that should be some time soon.

          They got a tough job ahead of them though that’s for sure undoing all damage.

  6. This is all very bad indeed. Taxpayers’ money should not be spent paying dodgy companies to supervise job search and place people with charities. If someone wants to volunteer, the shop has a door – there’s no need for agencies to get involved.

    I would have thought it was against the ethics of any decent charity to accept “volunteers” doing 30-hour weeks on behalf of an agency. That’s clearly not voluntary work.

    I think it should be illegal to employ someone for less than the minimum wage. I don’t see why that shouldn’t apply to workfare. It applies to everybody else.

    As for charity work, most is not like that at all. It is unusual to volunteer for 30 hours a week – usually, people do 4-hour shifts in charity shops, perhaps 2 days a week. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for a job-seeker to choose to volunteer on a part-time basis, while looking for work. However, there is no need for an agency to get involved and hours of volunteeeing ought to be short to allow time for job search, interviews, signing on, etc.

    Looking for a job is not just about using a computer. Most shops, cafes and pubs advertise in their windows. So a job-seeker ought to be able to take time to walk around and look.

    I don’t approve of compulsory job search in an office somewhere anyway. Both the job search and the charity work in this post sound very similar to the regime of the workhouse. I don’t think that unemployment benefit should be regimented like that.

    Work should involve both pay and freedom to choose to leave. I am very concerned about these sorts of programmes because neither pay nor choice are present. Therefore, it’s really much more like modern slavery.

    Which is why I opposed workfare at the time. Yet my opinion was never sought by policy-makers. In 2010, all 3 main parties made very similar pledges on welfare. There was no real choice for the voter. It was as thought the unelected bureaucrats had reached a consensus that no amount of public opinion would shift.

    • Agree with you all the way there Alison well said, even the jobcentre take on unpaid work experience 24,000 I think over the years I remember seeing in a recent FOI and very shy about the figures of those who obtain a actual job from it, yet they say work should always pay, hypocrites.

      There is one now at my Jobcentre they just work at front desk directing folk where to sit normally.

      All they are doing is using them to cover for lack of staff due to training holidays or sickness.

      • Well it does take away paid jobs. I have nothing against students doing a week or two of work experience, but I’m not in favour of long, unpaid “work experience” as a receptionist or administrator. Those are entry-level jobs. People who do those jobs should get the Living Wage.

  7. They should bring back supplementary benefit, life seemed so much simpler then when job centres were separate entities to where you made your deceleration and they had no affect on your benefits at all.

    Got your giro and left to your own devices and help was out there if needed and the net affect on employment compared to today’s regime was people moved in and out of employment at roughly the same rate and some reports strongly suggest that sanctions can have a negative impact on the numbers.

    So bollocks is this all down to austerity it is ideology that drives it.

    • Yes, it began long before so-called “austerity”.

      Not that they were ever short of money to bail out their friends the bankers. I don’t remember the bankers having to tape eggs to balloons in exchange for their bailouts…

    • Austerity IS an ideology, not in any way a necessity as the Tories claim. If they can throw away Billions on Universal Credit that alone makes a mockery of Austerity and shows we’re all being taken for mugs.

      • If government want to save money, they shouldn’t pay for courses where you build tables with newspaper, build bridges with pasta and tape eggs to balloons! I don’t see how any of this would improve your job prospects.

      • It’s also very strange that governments always manage to find magic money trees when it comes to waging war against some unfortunate country that the ruling regime in the USA has decided is Public Enemy Number One.

        As you say Trev, austerity is ideology, and a pretty stupid piece of ideology too actually akin to shooting oneself in the foot. A counter intuitive approach would have been to spend a way out of the mess, and also, instead of paying huge bonuses to the bankers that created the mess, jailed them like Iceland did – Iceland also nationalised the banks instead of bailing them out, and as a result the economy of Iceland has now bounced back.

  8. “Three months without a Universal Credit payment. Astounding DWP bureaucracy setting people up to fail. Universal Credit isn’t working.”

    ….” The whole DWP system is rotten to the core. There’s no care involved anymore, and everyone is just an expendable number, even DWP employees. It’s a culture of fear and created to be thus.” – Charlotte Hughes

    https://thepoorsideof.life/2018/07/19/three-months-without-a-universal-credit-payment-astounding-dwp-bureaucracy-setting-people-up-to-fail-universal-credit-isnt-working/

  9. No doubt we will be seeing a considerable increase in workfare when Universal Credit is full rolled-out. UC itself was designed to incorporate a potentially unlimited amount of workfare for claimants, under the guise of ‘work experience’.
    This has the advantage to the DWP of avoiding named schemes like Community Work Placements, or the notorious Mandatory Work Activity. It keeps the whole issue private, a low-key intervention. It also means that placements are not time-limited, and a claimant could in theory be referred again and again.

    • This begs a question as to why the mainstream trade unions have just meekly accepted this policy and why they are merely calling for Pause and Fix’ to UC. UC potentially offers many employers legions of free labour, which would seriously undermine the position of paid workers.

      All this is taking place against a backdrop that is indicating that the kind of jobs that we’re expected to take are precisely those that will be automated in the fairly near future. We can try and refuse to use automated checkouts in supermarkets if we wish, but if the supermarkets choose to only staff one or two of the conventional checkouts, thus tending to cause long queues, then msot will opt for the automated checkout.

      Though this link relates specifically to Wales, it has relevance everywhere. We need a system of unconditional basic income, sooner rather than later. UC is a system predicated on a mid 20th century notion of work, and as such is way out of date.

      https://nation.cymru/news/mark-hooper-yescymru-economy/

      The slave labour options included in the UC legislation are not only grotesque, they are quite simply absurd.

      • Way I see it is the conservatives are too weak to make any new changes in the law since the welfare reforms and those have been beaten down in lot of cases in court. So they are sort of lame at this moment in time and almost powerless as to what they can and cannot do. Then the GDPA kicked in adding a further barrier to the DWP’s main goal which was
        24 hour monitoring and bothering of claimants using UJM.
        If you watched over the last years how many schemes and shit have been quietly vaporised its surprising.

        Now there’s just its lame bastard offspring FAJ compared to UJM.

        • I’m glad the balloon eggs, pasta bridges and paper tables have “vaporised”, though it’s likely they will return for yet another government scheme. The public is told the government is investing in skills for the workforce of the future, but the future of work is not pasta craft! It wouldn’t do any good to list these activities on your CV.

          • I’ve got Mandatory Work Activity on my CV described as “Successfully completed 120 hours Community Work”, because that’s what it says on my completion letter, and of course that won’t look good to employers because they will assume that I’m a convicted criminal, but when you assume it makes an ass out U and me. I was told at the time by the Jobcentre that the reason I was doing MWA was to give me extra experience to include on my CV, and after I’d done it I was instructed to update my CV to include that experience, so I did exactly what I was told to do but they don’t like it one bit because several JCP advisers since then have suggested I should describe it as voluntary work but I refused by saying but it wasn’t voluntary it was mandatory. Incredibly I even had one JCP Adviser saying that I didn’t have to have done it and that I could have chose to be sanctioned instead so in effect it was voluntary, my answer to that was then why is it called “Mandatory Work Activity”? The clue is in the title, i.e. MANDATORY! you should have seen her face. She then just said “well you won’t get a job with that on your CV”, so I said well that’s very interesting, that a Government scheme is going to negatively affect my chances of employability, and asked her if she would put that in writing as I said I’m sure either The Guardian of Channel 4 News might be interested in that. She just shut up.

          • She should have advised you to describe it as “work experience”. What a twit.

      • Yes, it is a problem that government is providing free labour to various companies, regardless of their ethics. It is also a problem that human beings are trapped between unpaid labour and destitution. They should be paid the Minimum Wage.

        • Quite simply Alison, it’s slavery. And think about it, even the Minimum Wage is a gross insult to any worker. Workers need a wage they can comfortably live on, which, outside of London meeds to be at least £10 an hour, or £19,500 a year. Still not enough to buy a home in most places, but at least it would give a single person a decent-ish standard of life with some dignity.

    • BUT it costs money to organize, set up and administer all these schemes via third party providers, which up until now has been partially funded by the European Social Fund, and all that will stop after Brexit, so governments would have to put their handin their pockets and find a way of funding it, then enterst

      • ….(phone’s on the blink again!)….enter the National Audit Office and other depts. that control/monitor spending, Budget Responsibility, Fiscal control etc. Mind you, they didn’t stop the Tories from wasting Billions on UC.

      • So the EU is responsible for pushing people to provide free labour? Another good reason to leave…

        • Yep, all of those poverty pimp companies and the schemes they ‘provide’are funded in part by the EU. So the gravy train is going tobe derailed after Brexit.

          • So we pay the EU to pay private companies to make people tie balloons to eggs, build tables out of newspaper and build bridges out of pasta, on the basis that any of this will help them to get a job. All we need to know now is that the companies which benefit are linked to the EU.

          • As far as I know last time I checked the EU funding will continue after Brexit for these companies for some time to come.

            This is why the DWP are using them, it costs no money and by taking a arms length approach it protects them in a way against from all the criticism and the DWP appear to be doing something.

            This is why they say the allow providers a black box approach to how they go about their business.

            Those that do cost the Government national schemes like the WH&P which is a shadow of the work program and run by the same idiots, Ingeus in my case.

            They have no money to spend on anything worthwhile and once you strip it all away very little power, the main damage is done by the perception and fear of not knowing.

            After all the recent evidence from long term studies it is quite easy to make a case that being left alone without pressure interference and when allowed to make your own route into work at your own pace produces a far better outcome, and they can provide the help when asked.

            Slightly off topic but I got a letter yesterday from the DWP after making an official complaint about maladministration leading to hardship, was not happy with just an apology on the first response and the second response was £25 compensation and an apology, what you think should I deal or no deal ?

            They also agreed to change the working practices at my local office and will provide complimentary slips when asked for, previously they did not.

            I took a JSA28 into local office and they failed it process it so I went the weekend without money.

          • I know, the whole thing is absurd. And who has shares in these companies? David Blunke t t was a direc tor of A4e years ago and they were ge t ting governmen t con trac ts. It’s all corrupt.

          • Yes, A4E were prosecuted for corruption and their boss had a mansion funded by profits from government contracts.

          • Ingeus so they could get a result payment in the early days were telling everyone for an easier life claim tax credits instead and try and start up a business so 10s of thousands did, but then the DWP changed the rules surrounding self employment and tax credits seeing as a loophole then Ingeus were scrambling around try plead leniency for their clients.

          • You could have set up your own business “training” people for work through pasta sculpture…

          • Only if you promise to be the first customer and I will promise I can help overcome your barriers into the meaningful wonderful world of paid work.

            If that it is what you want.

            I offer all my courses online for free and by taking an holistic approach to those barriers I am able to formulate a bespoke program just for YOU.
            YES YOU !
            Using the latest techniques in aversion therapy on a one to basis in my online therapy room,not only will you begin to feel reinvigorated, empowered and back in control of your life, you will also be able to help grease the wheels of the economy giving you back dignity, which is what everyone wants right ?

            Your dignity means a lot to us.

            Just give me a shout and I will sign you up.

          • Good news: my friend says the NHS has finally stopped using aversion therapy now.

          • Perhaps marketing is your talent, Sourchimp? You could take a marketing course at your local adult education college, if it hasn’t been flattened by funding cuts.

            I did a business start-up course a few years ago. It was fun and interesting, although I didn’t start up a business.

          • Nice one Chimp,I’d take the money, in fact £25 would be a lifesaverr right now, go t zero money & hardly any food. Found some food in my neighbour’s bin yesterday, fresh toms. and mushrooms not even out of date, & some sliced turkey & 2 unopened tubs beef spread slightlyover da te but cats didn t mind.

          • Same here trev naff all till Friday, going to accept the offer cba to carry on with it paltry sum though but if it were in my bank now would be a blessing.
            My neighbours bins just full of beer cans.

            It has made me curios how high they will go or they could just withdraw the offer if I persist.

            But yep like Fletch in porridge small victories keep me going in the prison.

            This hot weather is not helping at all keep fantasising pints of lemonade and lime top with plenty of ice, ice creams, suckers, pineapples and melons and all that crap not beans cheese and bread in every frikkin combination possible.

          • I’ve been picking blackberries today and I picked some apples from an overgrown tree yesterday. Is there any free fruit around near you, Sourchimp? Cravings for fresh fruit are only natural and it would be good to eat some while it’s ripe.

          • Any day now, Sourchimp, and you’ll be able to make berry-ade, jam, beans with baked/toasted apple…

          • Most of the food I eat is out of date and cats have stronger stomachs than we do anyway.

            Sorry to hear you have no money and hope you get some soon.

          • Ha funnily enough I’ve been craved cold ginh&…(fkin phone)…ginh…gin h giner ginger beer! Onlyh got black coffee, cheapes t Aldi coffee, no money for bottle milk.

          • All you need is some pasta and old newspapers and you could make a fortune running “job skills” courses for the Jobcentre!

          • Blackberries aren’ t out here until Autumn. Bilberries should be ou t anytime soon. But it’s miles away to the moors & I’ve got no transpor t.

          • Hopefully now Alison is aware of our plight they might send up north some of this early fruiting bounty from the tropical south sourchimp@ PO box planet earth northern territories.

          • Ha-ha!

            I watched the Bradford series of “Back in Time for Tea” (BBC2) and they took the little boy up on the moors to pick liquorice. There were lots of northern recipes that have been forgotten now that people are in the habit of buying processed food.

            It’s happened down south as well. I volunteer with a lady who picks elderberries and makes her own cordial this time of year. I don’t even know what an elderberry looks like! Dreadful, isn’t it?

          • It is sad we have lost the ability to identify food out in the wild, I see people buying small bunches of rosemary for £1-£2 and yet its abundant all over the place.

            I was lucky in that I came grew up on a pre war council estate which was the largest in Europe at the time and a role model for many more to come.

            So every garden had some form of food growing in it, a legacy from the war effort and could scrump every garden and find something different.

            All the gardens have changed now and been replaced with slabs patios and lawns.

          • Round here, there are blackberries wherever there’s a bit of overgrown hedge. Most of them are still green, but there’s a crop of ripe blackberries by a fence on the council estate across the road. So I’ve been eating them.

            There’s a tree loaded with apples on a posh road and there’s a tree full of ripe plums on another posh road. Rich people so often don’t care about their fruit trees. The fruit just drops all over the road.

            We have a heath with blackberries all over the hedge that runs alongside the road. Every year, most of them rot because people don’t pick them, even though there’s a food bank and a huge council estate across the road. It’s amazing how much food is wasted!

          • Whilst the rest of us struggle to get through the week on out-of-date food, cheap beanz and food out of the neighbours’ bin, I was told yesterday by an older gentleman who volunteers at the foodbank that his son, who works as a Solicitor in London, has been frequenting a posh hotel where he and a friend went for tea, which consisted of two teapots of China tea served with a few buns/cakes, then they asked for the bill…..£84 !!! EIGHTY FOUR FUCKING QUID for tea and buns. He also said that his son had looked on the hotel’s website/menu and ascertained that the most expensive Scotch whisky they sell is £6000 per single shot!!! SIX GRAND FOR A WHISKY!!! It really is time for a Revolution. Start building a Guillotine now.

          • I hear you trev, know exactly how you feel, it is perverse, but the oppressed eventually become the oppressors when violence is ever used as tool to bring about change.

            Still saying that, I often hear “that peasant is revolting” when in the company of those more refined than me.

          • Round here, they prefer to degrade the poor with the term “chav”.

          • Which hotel was this??? The Ritz??? I had dinner for £10 at our local independent cafe today.

            Good news about the Jobcentre: we went there to sort a friend’s documents for her Pension Credit and they were absolutely delightful!!! She gave the receptionist a big hug but was too shy to thank her with a traditional Zulu dance…

          • £10 for a meal where was that that the Ritz ?

            £10 is 3.5 days worth of food for me I hope that at least included your £2 a shot coffee.

            Esther McVey was attacked recently for spending £9 on a breakfast so I would be wary of the press getting hold of this news.

          • “Person on benefits had audacity to spend £10 on meal with friends. It should’ve cost no more than £1.50. How dare person on benefits venture out with friends? Plethora of outlets serving chicken dinner for less.”

            We await the juicy details in Kate’s next blog.

            N.B. This is what you can pay for if you’re not buying tobacco or cannabis.

          • Hey don’t shoot the messenger, only saying what other folk might be thinking.

            Your on benefits, able to top up your rent by £90 per week, paying £2 for coffee and eating fancy £10 meals at some trendy sounding eatery might lead some to believe your being paid too much.

            Just saying how it could be perceived, not my views.

            I thought we had established that I cannot afford to buy the medicine of my choice on my £20 per week budget after bills.

            £20’s or 2grams worth would last me a day, possibly 2 at a stretch.
            So if your curious about how I manage to self medicate for free click my user name

            I am the self appointed president of the Derby Medicinal Cannabis Collective.

          • Likewise, some might say benefits are too high because anybody buys tobacco or keeps a pet. It’s a slippery slope, Sourchimp. Once you say somebody else is spending too much, it won’t be long until the fury is pointed at you.

            As for paying £90 per week to meet the rent, I’d call that a necessity. I have no choice. If I don’t do that, I will struggle to find anywhere cheaper that will accept benefits.

            F it. If I can’t do anything fun, I might as well commit suicide.

          • It’s the politics of envy, Sourchimp. The papers are full of it. So is my judgemental neighbour. One time I spoke to him, he was complaining about single mothers spending their benefit money sitting in coffee shops all day. Personally, I don’t blame them. What else are they going to do all day?

            When a person loses a job, it’s possible to cut back on all spending and socialising for a few months, but nobody can live in a cocoon forever. We’re told social isolation is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. I’ve been told to do things and make friends. There’s a cost to quality of life and a cost to social activities.

            It’s easy for the media and characters like my neighbour to look down on people for spending their benefit money, but life is expensive and there is more to it than eat, sleep, rent, bills. There’s nothing to live for if we see no one, do nothing, live completely cut off from wider society. This is a big problem for people on benefits and especially when their benefits are stopped. It leads to declining mental health and eventually suicide. It’s not something we talk about nearly enough as a society.

          • It’s obscene, nothing’s changed since the disparity tha t exis ted centuries ago. We are s till Peasants.

          • I live opposite a junior school there was 4 stretched limos waiting outside end of term, big enough to carry 20 kids at least, sad to watch the poorer kids or ones whose parents are not stupid enough to pay for the pleasure of waving wealth in front of folks eyes look over in envy.

            Jeremy Corbyn was in my home town today but never bothered to tell me, Coincidently or not they did a mass purge of the city center the other day of arresting over 50 spice zombies.

  10. I see in the news that the DWP have lost their legal battle to swindle ESA claimants of refunds to their Rightful Entitlement going right back to 2011. Good news for all those due a big refund, but I wonder how many have since died, and who is to be held responsible for this blunder, IDS? Osborne? Don’t hold your breath on that one because you can bet no one will be personally held to account or jailed.

  11. At least Universal Credit is finally coming under some criticism in the media.
    It’s a cruel system, designed to control and discipline the unemployed.
    And Tories like McVey are finding it much harder now to just ignore things and hope they go away. When 8 million are claiming it, with no proper payments, the Poll Tax riots will be the least of it.

    • Yes, at least wider society is increasingly aware of the importance of having a social safety net, although it’s a shame so many people have to suffer in the process.

      • I don’t know how McVey can still be clinging to her job in the face of such damning evidence. She should resign, along with the entire Tory government, get rid of the bloody lot of them, the incompetent reckless bastards. Is there any aspect of Society that they haven’t destroyed with their insanity? They’ve got to go. Go now! Do not pass Go. Goodbye Tories. Don’t come back!

          • Jeremy Corbyn and Billy Bragg are both now regarded as raciest, we are now endorsing execution, stockpiling food and medicine for when we get this Brexit bounty that is going to save the NHS and we have in place one of the most punitive and uncaring social security systems ready and waiting for the mass unemployment that is set to follow post Brexit hard soft or not.

            Thatcher was a breeze when I look back over the last 8 years compared to this shitzstorm.

          • Am I to infer from this that you’re no longer planning on voting Labour, Sourchimp?

            No politician is perfect. Jeremy Corbyn seems pretty harmless, really. It’s Trump I’d worry about.

          • No far from it, I will be still voting for Labour if JC is still in charge come the next GE.
            And as that I typed massive bolt of lightning struck outside my window and the whole room shook.
            Is that good sign or bad sign ?

          • It’s a good sign because it means we might get some rain down south for a change. We’ve had none for 6 weeks and the grass is all dead. It’s been unbearably hot, as well.

          • Yep grass all dead up here , had some thunder and lightning but very little rain so far but it’s on it’s way.

            I prefer rain to sun so glad not that far south surprised there’s been no swarms of insects round here as of yet, generally is when we get weather like this.

            The Sky’s been clear all this time and soon as a decent astronomical event occurs the clouds come.

        • The Tories haven’t managed to destroy the NHS yet. British society may have turned a blind eye as the welfare safety net was removed, but the NHS is far more closely guarded.

          The Tories didn’t get away with charging higher social care costs to people with dementia, either. I’ve noticed people are now more scared of getting dementia than getting cancer. The tabloids seem to be full of stories about how to prevent dementia, instead of how to prevent cancer.

    • That could be quite fun, actually. I respect the fact that it was upsetting for you, but we all have different feelings and different things upset us. I might enjoy making a poster for a week’s work experience somewhere.

    • I expect the posters are designed using a computer. Therefore, people can show they can do “desktop publishing” on a computer, i.e. they can type, edit, move things around, add graphics, change margins, etc. It is an important computer skill that many employers require for work.

      We made posters using the computers at school. It’s a good activity for young people and it would only take a week or two.

      Again, I respect the fact the job room was very upsetting for you and that is fine. Clearly, your Jobcentre staff also respected your feelings.

      In the world of work, everybody has things they excel at and everybody has things they can’t bear. The system of workfare/conditionality/sanctions often ignores the fact that not every job and not every training course will suit every person. It is actually far better for society if we allow people to choose between jobs, instead of requiring them to apply for everything.

      I do observe that you excel at creating websites, Sourchimp! It takes considerable skill to attach a web address to your screen name! As my tutor at business start-up said, we may find something very easy, but not everybody can do it!

      • Alison seriously they are just push button print screen on A4 paper no desktop publishing skills taught nor non needed.
        Not something you can put on your CV wallpapering four walls with job vacancies.

        They mention that Jobs posted on the walls are from shop window vacancies who do you think gets to do that wonderful task on the claimants behalf.
        3 maybe 3 were from shops and that is giving them the benefit of doubt.

        And they scraping the barrel a bit if that is all they can offer is shop window vacancies.

        Paperless office ring a bell, the environment your seriously deluded if you think any of this is to help anyone, it is set up as a sanction trap and another layer of botherability to ensure the psychological pressure is kept to a maximum.

        This job shop was conceived by someone with the mind of a child.

        And really I hope your being sarcastic to make a site nowadays required nothing more than a few clicks of the mouse so its hardly a sought after skill as I am sure you are aware.

        And if you want to add any website to your name simply add it where you input your user name and that is hardly frikkin rocket science.

        As for this upsetting me, if anything it empowers me that I still have control of my life.

        • Sourchimp, there is no need to get so worked up about this.

          I have no idea how to make a website and neither does about half of the population. Many people are computer illiterate. Many more only have basic computer skills. So you do have a skill. Accept is as a compliment.

          I did two weeks’ work experience at 16. Just stuffing envelopes, using the photocopier, copying forms onto the computer and making telephone calls to update a database. Oh yes it did go on my CV! A week of work anywhere doing anything is important if you have no work history.

          • Alison you probably had a choice these are people who have maybe worked for years already and do not need work experience, they need real world work, with real world pay, that is part of the experience of working.

            Slave labour and pretty and lame excuses for it does get me rattled yes.

            Remember the majority of these folk do not want to be there, they have been pressurised through fear of losing benefits.

            How do I know this, I walk and talk amongst them.

            Of course I understand that some would see this as a positive experience and some would even volunteer I have nothing against that, it is when it is enforced that bothers me.

          • I think you’re confusing two things. There is the problem of sanctions and then there is the separate problem of lack of experience that holds back many young people from getting work. I am not trying to justify workfare or slave labour. I am simply commenting on getting work experience.

          • Work experience you get on the Job with over 2000 sectors you cannot cover them all just by sticking a few adverts up what has that got to do with warehouse work, caring, the service industry ?

          • A young jobseeker can show punctuality, teamwork, courtesy, obedience…soft skills.

            I agree there should be more work available.

  12. A different take on possible reasons behind Universal Credit:

    “Universal Credit is a crime against the British people – and is there a Brexit connection?”

    “What’s IDS’s game? New research by Thiemo Fetzer, of the University of Warwick, has found a close correlation between Brexit-backing areas and austerity measures. IDS is a hardline Brexiteer. That gives me the shivers. Was this all part of a long game plan? To deny people basic sustenance , tell them it’s the fault of European bureaucrats and foreign workers? The next part of the plotline will reveal itself after we leave Europe. Those deprived Brexiteers will feel more planned pain and will get less state help. Jobs will not suddenly materialise, the high streets will not revive. It’s unbearable to imagine such bleakness. Think how it feels to live in it.”

    https://inews.co.uk/opinion/columnists/universal-credit-yasmin-alibhai-brown/

    https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/08/13/universal-credit-is-a-crime-against-the-british-people-and-is-there-a-brexit-connection/

  13. I now have a good job that I enjoy and i have been offered promotion prospects and other work within the company. That is because I was always good but I got absolutely ZERO help when I was unemployed for a long time.

    I was unemployed because nobody cared about offering me a starting position again. They all wanted to employ very young or very old workers to save on wage costs. I was seen as a threat that would take their business after any training
    I couldnt borrow much if anything (yeah the booming economy NOT) and starting up myself was risky in a declining and highly competitive market.

    I know all about the dwp. I was there long enough. They bullied and constantly threatened me with sanctions. It was all stick and no carrot of hope. The schemes I was sent on were nothing to do with helping or educating me. Organisations ( a term I use very loosely) like Seetec were just sanction centres in my opinion and as soon as they found I was too educated to patronise, they dropped me like a ton of bricks and tried to sanction me

    Yes I was ill with it and I got no help for that either. Eventually after a few nasty sanctions I was just sanctioned out of the door and told to sign on at another job centre miles away . It was then only pure chance that I was taken on by a horrible place that nobody else would touch on very awkward shifts. It was a nightmare and I soon found out why that job was always available…even then it was a pure lottery of being taken on but at the very least it gave some recent experience while I suffered greatly

    Let me stress that it wasnt the sanction or desperation that got me work it was pure random chance after countless meetings where I was told I was overqualified for the job

    I got tough with the dwp after that job and stood for no more of the nonsense that comes out of their mouths. I took a part time job that was so bad I stayed for half an hour…that is the extremely poor quality employers are offering. Not shy of the work. its the atmosphere and nasty staff makes it impossible to feel remotely welcome

    I hate the dwp for what they did to me .They are simply sanction clerks living on tax money. They spoke to me like garbage…like dirt. “training” programs were pure scams and I was eventually sent on a trade course that was one size fits all scam…tutors that didnt care, the coursework was of very limited use and I spent more time dealing with antisocial behaviour than learning anything.

    The core problem is that working people are set up to hate the unemployed so few seem to care. Its all competition with few extra jobs. There will never be full employment and its getting worse. The dwp however are programmed to hate and take the line its all laziness with plenty of jobs going.

    So stand up for yourself and take no nonsense. whats interesting is that when standing up for myself the dwp clerks revert to talking like nasty children in the playground because that is essentially what many of them still are…nasty bullies and creeps that couldnt get work anywhere else

    My best advice is they will try and sanction you anyway so be ready for them and dont be meek. Dont generally trust a word that comes out of their mouths for they are on targets as evidence has shown.

    Believe in yourself . Dont stand for any nonsense. You can get proper training if you look for it yourself It is a tough market and its all about getting to someone who can recognise we all have talents

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