George Osborne has announced that benefit claimants who have been out of work for three years will obliged to choose from three choices on a new Help to Work scheme.
They will be made to:
Work 30 hours a week for six months doing community work;
Attend the jobcentre on a daily basis to look for work, or;
Undertake a mandatory regime for dealing with the issues causing their unemployment, such as mental health problems or drug addiction.
I've worked with unemployed people for 15 plus years. In my experience most people who are unemployed, want to be employed.
I accept absolutely, however, that there are those who don't want to be.
I think that many of the people who “appear” to be workshy are in fact not.
They may seem to be disinterested but this is because they are fed up being bullied by Jobcentre, not because anyone gives a toss whether they work or not, indeed live or not, but because the Jobcentre has targets, and as long as a box can be ticket, that’s all that matters. Once you talk to them properly and try to help them, they start showing real interest in the possibility of a life with some money in their pockets.
Note: Any criticism here is levelled at Jobcentre and DWP management and not the jobcentre staff, many of whom DO care, but aren’t allowed the time or scope to work with their clients.
In most cases, people who have been employed for 3 years have some sort of problem. It may be drug related, it may be health related, and very possibly mental health related. Osborne and Smith would do well to remember that not everyone has good health, or the benefits of excellent education, connections and pots of money.
'Prison works' was, I seem to recall, the slogan of failed Home Secretary Michael Something of the Night Howard. While that may be true in some ways, it also leaves people with records that are now readily available to potential employers, and almost certainly damn some employees before their application has even started. This problem doesn't seem to have been addressed.
But I'm always happy to see some initiative come from Jobcentre or the DWP. I wonder just what this one will do, and how it will be funded.
Firstly, it is notoriously difficult to get people to work for dole money, particularly if they are being asked to work alongside others on proper wages. It is resented, and rarely produces positive outcomes. (I worked on a similar project at the beginning of my career. We dealt with over 400 people and only 2 ended up employed. Attendees did what they had to do, mainly with bad grace, and then left to return to the dole queue as short term unemployed. In the process, they made the figures look better, which was the real object of the exercise.)
If you want people to work you must pay them. But what do you pay them to do without taking jobs away from other people? It's a problem that JC+ will have to solve.
Making people attend the jobcentre on a daily basis is of questionable use.
There is no longer the number of staff there to deal with them. There aren't very many suitable jobs advertised and if the jobcentre is any distance at all, the cost to the claimants will be proportionally very high (in Dundee around £15 a week; a lot from the dole cheque). It will be seen as the pointless exercise it is.
The only merit in the above two is that they will make it difficult for someone who is working off books to continue to do this. But as they will be doing the illegal work with compliance from their employer, who will be saving a lot of money on the deal, it is quite probable that the second option will be managed.
The third option though seems a sensible one. Mandatory treatment for dependency type problems.
Almost no-one will employ people with drug or drink problems, and this has needed tacking for many years. The questions of course are, how will it be afforded, where will the treatment staff and facilities come from, and what other medical services will be cut as a result?