Sunday 29 September 2013

Shouldn't "Policy Exchange" be honest? "Propaganda Exchange" is more Accurate

We hear that Iain Duncan-Smith may announce a scheme whereby jobseekers will be forced to work 30 hours a week in exchange for their benefits. Quite when they are expected to look for work is another matter, one that appears not to trouble IDS.

And hark! What’s this I hear? Is it the sound of right wing think tank hooves clattering in to save the day? A perfectly timed “study” that should be ashamed to use the name, released and heavily trailed by the Daily Mail to convince an unsuspecting public yet again that an army of feckless scroungers deserve all they get?

Hail the all distorted Policy Exchange and a howler of a “study”assuring us the public are all in favour and the divide and rule rhetoric of the last few years is paying dividends. But let’s take a closer look shall we?

In the opening words we are assured

“if any government is serious about both tackling the issues of long-term unemployment and concentrated benefit dependency and improving living standards for millions of workless individuals and households, further reforms will be needed.”

Who says? This conflates relatively small number of long term unemployed with wider jobless figures.

“Evidence from both fully implemented schemes and pilots has shown that they can be effective in moving people off benefits.”

What evidence? Citations please? As far as I’m aware there is no evidence that sanctions work long term. The author goes on to cite a handful of American and European schemes entirely selectively  to “prove” his point. Oddly, he doesn’t mention the astonishing failure of the UK Work Programme anywhere...

“For instance, in some trials between a third and a half of eligible claimants move off benefit rather than turning up for the placement”

Why? Implication is they were cheats – did they find work? Did they feel unable to comply with the sanction? Did their health stop them? Unless we have that information it’s a totally pointless sentence. But one that sneaks in a nice little value judgement.

“Workfare schemes are also popular with the public.”

Where are the actual YouGov tables please? Where are ALL of the questions actually asked? How were they framed? Was any background information given (ie relatively low numbers of long term unemployed, poor performance of work programme for sick/disabled etc?)

“Up to 10% (65,000) of individuals leaving the Work Programme without finding work after at least two years of support should be moved onto a workfare scheme”

Define this 10% please – why was it not defined in the headlines? Figures of “80%” “52%” etc, imply it is for all claimants.

“A further 10% of those with the most significant barriers to work should be moved onto a separate scheme, Route2Work, which would provide support through expert third sector providers, social enterprise and social finance.”

Should we not be asking why the Work Programme is failing people in those first two years, rather than introducing yet ANOTHER scheme to pick up the pieces?

“Workfare schemes should also be considered as a sanctioning option for benefit claimants who are not undertaking the jobseeking activities that they should be”

EXTENSIVE evidence shows that in many cases they cannot. To qualify for Employment and Support Allowance, a claimant must score 15 points. This denotes a very considerable degree of ill health or disability. As an example, someone with bowel disease may only qualify for long term unconditional support if they are FULLY incontinent (not partially) or are fed intravenously. Anyone else, no matter how sick, how much surgery they need, will be found fit for work if the qualifying descriptors are adhered to faithfully.

This leaves an army of people with long term conditions or significant disabilities, scoring between 1 and 14 points, with very significant barriers to the labour market, being treated as jobseekers. Often the JCP contact who sees them first disagrees with the assessment of fitness for work, leaving the claimant in a kind of limbo, bouncing backwards and forwards between a sickness system that will not support them and a labour system that won’t engage with them.

If they ARE placed in the Work Programme, both anecdotal and statistical evidence shows that they will be the most poorly served. Contractors “cherry pick” the easiest to help and “park” harder to help claimants with very little interaction. It is commonplace for claimants to receive just two phonecalls during the entire time they are on the “Work” Programme. Steven Lloyd, disabled MP, recently said he would like to “chuck someone out of a window” following the utter failure of Work Programme to help these people in any way.

All the while we have a system failing sick and disabled people so utterly, further sanctions are self-defeating and cruel.

Mr Holmes refers to “the generosity of, the existing benefit system”

Nonsense. The UK has one of the most punitive overall social security settlements in the developed world.

Youth unemployment has been on an upward trajectory since in the early 2000s, rising from 248,000 in 2001 to 369,000. Over 68,000 have been claiming for more than a year.

Oh, selective reporting eh!! Youth unemployment fell from 1997 until the global financial crisis, down almost 90% over that period. The global financial crisis in 2008 hit the young hardest leading to sharp increases. If we take figures from only 1997 – 2013, it is possible to paint a picture of systemic rises. This is misleading and has no place in a rigourous study.

“child poverty based on a relative income measure remained stubbornly high and millions of children were assessed as living materially deprived lives.”

Oh dear lord, the FRAMING! This is true, child poverty is “stubbornly” high, but it FELL by 900,00 – 900,000 under the last government It is set to RISE by 300,000 under this one.

But you know, I’ve lost the will to live.

I’m SICK of right wing think tanks releasing “research” set to prove exactly what Iain Duncan Smith demands. SICK of “evidence” with no citations – nowhere in the study could I find the actual data tables from the YouGov “survey” that apparently found the public want everyone unfortunate enough to have no job to work for free indefinitely. Just a few cherry picked results with no qualifiers at all. Respondents are simply asked if those out of work for 12 months or more should be made to work for their benefits. Absolutely no information to make that decision. A “research” paper that quotes “surveys” with no link or data tables for goodness sake!!!

I’m SICK of half truths and misleading sentences. Sick of cherry picked data that uses random figures to paint false pictures. Sick of assumptions about the Labour market and fraud that just aren’t true. Sick of  assumptions that sanctions work better than incentives when all the evidence points to the contrary.

And most of all I’m SICK of “studies” that suggest that because “the public” support their point of view it must be OK. We are told to believe that because a public fed false information at every turn now believe what they have been told to believe, however untrue, it is justification for going even further, destroying even more lives.

The “research” was written by an Ed Holmes who is apparently Senior Research Fellow for Economics and Social Policy!!!!! What a grand title for someone so willing to twist and stretch data like elastic!! 


  1. Well said sue...... I'm sick of stupid people who read all this so called research an believe it..... that much dam spin I feel dizzy....

  2. "Written by Ed Holmes", who bounced from Cambridge to a PR firm to a bag-carrier job in Parliament to a job with a think-tank. How isolated from reality is that: no conception of the real world, no conception of what an actual proper hard days work is like, no conception of life with a debilitating health condition, no conception of a life that isn't lubricated by luck and privilege.

    1. Another privileged type pontificating from his ivory tower hey?! Had every advantage in life and sneers at every one he feels are beneath him. How very Right wing.

      There are lies, damned lies and statistics... and then there are studies from Right wing 'think tanks'.

  3. Research Fellow? Don't make me laugh. That job title has no place outside academia where it is awarded on the basis of proper qualifications and international standard peer reviewed publications.

  4. Did you see the piece a couple of months ago showing where the main think tanks are on the left/right spectrum? The Social Policy ones were even more right wing than the defence oriented ones!

  5. Perfect summing up Sue. So many -'reports' are misguidedly trumpeted as proof of one thing or another. People are so trained to accept what are essentially lies it is no wonder IDS gets away with almost everything he foists on us.

  6. Guess who's doing an independent review on benefit sanctions (not the impact or fairness you understand, just the associated paperwork)? That would be Matthew Oakley with the impeccably independent credentials of working on the Social Security Advisory Committee... and for Policy Exchange

  7. Put them all on benefits for 6 months and make them look for a job, following their very own sanctions and programmes, that would change their points of view: From the author of -

  8. 30 hours a week on workfare, that leaves 138 hours a week when they can look for work. Ignore the 56 hours for sleep, fourteen hours a week for eating, and seven for the toilet and hygiene (approximately) and ten hours for travelling to and from "work", leaves fifty one hours a week for job-search.

    The fact that the sixty one hours are between the hours of 6 and 10 p,m, means that the only real way to look for work is onliine. This means it is imperative that the job seeker is connected to the internet burning up money that would spent on food or travelling costs.

    The need to visit the JobCentrePlus would mean that DWP staff have to work nights.

    Thought through? I think not!

  9. Get these F**kers out of government, as soon as possible for Christs sake. Is there no depth to their hatefulness? They are not of human mind. The b*****ds.

  10. Try being a single parent of a disabled child. JCP won't help they misfle you and then they cheat you out of Child Tax Credits saying you do not qaulify when in fact you do. Great system....NOT!

  11. The amount of money the workfare system would cost?! Try using all the money your wasting trying to push people into non-existent jobs to give councils the money to employ those people to do the job's cut by austerity. Public services are saved and all those workers would pay tax back into the treasury. Politician equals thick as 2 short planks!

  12. When are they supposed to look for work? Unless they have qualifications there won't be any point in looking for work. Workfare will have replaced unskilled paid work. Remember the B&Q memo? The one encouraging their branches to take workfare 'staff' instead of employing someone to do the shelf filling, etc? I've put staff in ' ' as I read the company won't have responsibility for them the way a proper employer does because they aren't technically employing them.

  13. "There's a fair chance that the fact would get lost in the mix that the numbers of those who are very long-term unemployed (exceeding five years) are surprisingly small."

    The current DWP percentage figures for benefit fraud and disability benefit fraud are also remarkably small. The issue is that benefit claimants are caught in a propaganda war and neither the DWP nor the right-wing press have any interest in telling the public the actual truth.

    1. Sam - If just 3% of the welfare budget goes to jobseekers and 94% of jobseekers find work in the first two years, then this mirage of "long term unemployed" as far as I can work out, make up about, 0.13% of the welfare budget!!

      And 99% of the headlines.

  14. Thanks for this analysis Sue.
    Not today, but I could check up on him via the stats and research bodies. And ask him for the data.
    And try to get more publicity via those groups?

  15. If I wrote an essay for college like that (no citations etc.) it would be sent straight back to me to redo! I'm not even sure if they'd allow me to use an article so poorly referenced as a source for my essay.

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  17. I'm a little confused, as if there are these jobs to put people into to work for free, why aren't there enough paying jobs to solve the problem in the first place? (I'm commenting about job seekers who are able to do the work, just to be clear.)

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