Thursday 2 May 2013


For some time I have wondered about the claim from Iain Duncan Smith that people can be better off on benefits than in work....a claim widely accepted now as the truth (although in fact not), the acceptance of which leaves him free to reduce these benefits and and vilify those on them.

I thought, surely if it were true people would leave low paid, unsatisfying work in droves to take advantage of life on the Costa del Unemployment.

I feel somewhat justified in my assumptions having read this article (below) by Mark Serwotka taken from the New Statesman. (Lifted with full credits but without anyone's permission.) 

What it shows is that IDS, Osborne, Cameron and indeed Liam Byrne and Ed Balls are wrong about this, and are playing to the Daily Mail reader who needs to hate several things before breakfast just to get through the day.

The policy of the Tories is to engender in the public a hated of the unemployed in general, (and the sick and disabled) so that it is justified in taking away their benefits leaving them and their kids hungry and cold. Instead of being shocked, the taxpayer, in turn, feels justified in rubbing their hands together and wondering how long it will be before the top rate comes down to 35%. 

After all, these people are wicked skivers, aren't they?

Never mind the facts of course: Around nine million people looking for proper full time work, and very very few vacancies. 

Well Mark has done the research and they are...simply put...lying. Read on...

Earlier this month work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and chancellor George Osborne claimed their changes to our welfare system mean, "no longer will it be possible to be better off on benefits than in work". The prime minister wrote the same in the Sun, calling it a "crazy situation".

The government's line, as it very gradually rolls out Universal Credit from today, that it is "making work pay" has cross-party support. "We would make work pay," promises Duncan Smith's mini-me Liam Byrne, while shadow chancellor Ed Balls affirms that "it must pay more to be in work than live on benefits."
My union's members, tens of thousands of whom work on the benefits and tax credits system, are confused. A jobcentre worker told me: "All the calculators that we use in jobcentres are designed to show that you would be better off in work."
So if politicians are telling us all that you can be better off on benefits, and jobcentre advisers are telling claimants that they would be better off in work, someone is being lied to. But who? Iain Duncan Smith should come clean. But not being one to look for pots of gold at the end of rainbows, I asked my union researchers to look into it.
They found the DWP’s "tax benefit model" – data which showed how much better off people out of work, in a range of circumstances, would be by moving into employment. Publication of this data was, intriguingly, abandoned in 2010 – just after the coalition government was elected, but a similar calculator is still used by DWP staff. It shows what would happen if someone moves into work for 30 hours per week. Even on the minimum wage, the legal minimum, benefits only deliver 79 per cent of what you would be paid in work.
We looked again to see if the same was true for only 16 hours of work – after all there are 1.4 million people working part time because they can’t find full-time work. This time benefits were only worth 81 per cent of a working income. Jobcentre advisers tell me these figures closely match the ones they use today.
For verification, we checked against data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on all major countries’ welfare systems, including the UK’s. Like the DWP calculator, it factors in housing costs and benefits, and it assesses what is called the "replacement rate" for moving from benefits into work for 30 different household types – and in not one single case would a household be better off on benefits.
It does not feature in either the DWP's or OECD's models, but work might not pay for those who work very few hours in low paid jobs. But the irony here is that Duncan Smith has himself actually made this more likely by increasing the number of hours people need to work before they receive working tax credits.
The "better off on benefits" fallacy has become common. In truth, there has always been a clue that it is an urban myth: no one who claims it exists has ever actually given up work to live the benefits high life. And why not? Probably because deep down they do not believe it, but it is also true that even when the benefit of working is highly marginal, most people want to work. As unemployment climbs above 2.5 million, and 6.8 million counting as underemployed, the reality is there are fewer than half a million job vacancies. The real issue for the government is not making work pay, but making work exist.
PCS members working in jobcentres face a bullying management driving down their own living standards and setting targets that staff are told to deny exist. Low pay is so endemic that up to 40 per cent of the DWP’s own staff will be eligible for Universal Credit themselves. It is grim, far worse than when I started working for the DHSS in the early 1980s. Back then we helped claimants and took as long as was necessary to get them the benefits to which they were entitled.
On the other side of the counter (or more likely now on the other end of a phone) it is even worse, with claimants subject to more and harsher sanctions, unprecedented demonisation from ministers and a Pavlovian press trained to foam at the mouth at the mention of scroungers and skivers.
As well as challenging ministers’ myths, we have a duty to challenge their hatred-inciting rhetoric. So the next time Iain Duncan Smith – or anyone else for that matter – claims people are better off on benefits, hand him a pen and paper and ask him to show you how.
Mark Serwotka is the General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union 
*Illustrations are mine as are the red emphasis in Mark's text.


  1. Well what do you know Labour AND Tories caught out lying AGAIN! Wonder if they have to go to lying school before becoming an MP or if lying is inbred into them much like them all being millionaires!

  2. They teach it at the better schools methinks, Arbroath.

    But they aren't very good at it, perhaps because they come form long lines who never thought that the oinks would have the nerve to question them.

    How they must hate all this power from ordinary people.

  3. I've often wondered if that is why they introduced tuition fees. Universities teach people to think critically. A populace able to dssect your argument analytically is a dangerous thing when you practise "dog whistle" politics,

  4. That's a thought PP... You ahve a devious mind. Have yopu thought about politics as a career?

    There's a petition set up on to try to get IDS to stop lying. Huh, fat chance.

    1. "You ahve a devious mind." Well it has been said ;-)

      Have yopu thought about politics as a career?

      Well yes, loads of cash and never having to pay a household bill again just bung it on expenses. Sounds great!

    2. Now you mention it...see if you can get me in as your assistant...

      Loads of pay, not much work, loads of nice expenses... Oh yeah, I'll have some of that.

  5. Replies
    1. Yes. He's not ever going to tell the truth is Mr £55, and it won't cause him any embarrassment because we're only plebs and we can't embarrass his type, but, yeah, it makes you feel you did something...

  6. I cannot believe that these altruistic Tories, who a significant number of Scottish voters seem to want to rule over us for ever, would ever tell us lies.

    1. I found it odd too, John...

  7. Tris

    The whole social security debate is about ideology, the right wing parties (Tory, Liberal and sadly Labour) have a set of ideas that they all agree with a cater to middle England or the people who currently don't have to use the system.

    For Labour this is about getting a vote in the areas where previously they couldn't so have given up all of their principles to try. The Liberals will say anything to anyone to get a foot under the table but have more than likely killed their party to the point where they might have a couple of strong areas but are pretty much a spent force to be replaced by Ukip now. The Tories are just doing the things they always wanted to do but couldn't as they would not have gotten away with it, then Brown/Darling come along and a banking crisis and way hay Christmas for the Tories they can now do what they want. Ukip might even be a blessing as they move further to the right to cut off Farage and the people they want to attract will be loving it.

    You were never better off on the dole, financially, socially, personally and certainly in relation to your health and life expectancy as we know all to well in Dundee. They are all liars, IDS/Osbourne/Cameron/Alexander/Clegg/Cable/Faron/Miliband are all disgusting characters.


  8. Yes Bruce. This is ideologically driven. The Tories have wanted to do this since the days of Thatcher. She managed to send pensions on downward trajectory, get rid of the Earnings Related supplement and reduce the entitlement to benefit to 6 months rather than a year.

    Cameron has reduced it to nil. All unemployment benefits are now income in fact income support, or what they used to call "Supplementary Benefit".

    In changing these things, they have put the unemployed in their place. You are entitled to nothing. If you cannot afford to live we will give you £55 a week (and anyone, even a fat, bald old man can live on that).

    [Quite often when I'm walking round a supermarket, I try to work out what I would be buying to eat if I had £55 to pay all my bills.]

    They have made the unemployed beggars.

    I see the Liberals lost their deposit in the seat of Miliband the elder. ()You know, the one who, once he realised he would never follow his beloved Tony into being assistant to Barack Obama decided to bugger off and do something else that would make him rich.

    The interesting question is ... do the English really like UKIP (if so is it only to get rid of tiresome foreigners telling British people what to do, or do they actually like the rest of their right wing hate policies?) or having lost the Liberals to vote for as a protest (the reason so many councils in England are Liberal), they have to vote for someone, and Nigel does sometimes wear bright yellow trousers.

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