Labour’s perverse inconsistency on the Work Programme

19th March, 2013 12:26 pm

There has been much anger and consternation about Labour’s plan to abstain on today’s jobseekers (back to work schemes) bill (incidentally, it’s widely being called a “workfare” bill, but it’s far more complex, and includes far more programmes than that).

I don’t have a particular problem with sanctions being levied against the small minority of people who refuse to look for work, as long as those who have tried to seek work are not penalised and those who the economy is unable to employ are not treated as “skivers”, when they are anything but. If someone has persistently refused to look for work, and fails to take work that it offered to them (at the minimum wage), then there should be (a limited use of) sanctions (as was the case – for example – in Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, and would be the case under Labour’s compulsory job guarentee).

To do otherwise would be to undermine trust in the welfare system.

And yet – there has to be more coherence to Labour’s approach to welfare and unemployment. Today, Labour MPs will abstain on the bill brought before the house designed to clarify the sanctions regime across a range of government welfare programmes. In return for allowing the bill to be “fast tracked”, Labour has extracted concessions, including a full review into the sanctions regime (which may help deal with some of the problems outlined below), and maintaining the right of appeal for all of those who have been wrongly sanctioned.

And that’s better than nothing. But lets consider the case of the Work programme – which is clearly the main focus of the Bill, as it’s mentioned prominently in the accompanying explanatory notes.

Only a few months ago, Labour put forward a motion in the Commons that said:

This House notes that only just over two in every hundred people referred to the Work Programme in its first year have gone into work; further notes that it has delivered a worse outcome than no programme at all

The Work programme is – in words drafted by the Labour Party – “a worse outcome than no programme at all”. And yet today Labour will tacitly endorse a sanctions regime that includes the Work Programme. Liam Byrne set out his case here yesterday afternoon, but saying Labour “won’t be voting for a bill that is rammed through the House at lightening speed” means little if the alternative is Labour abstentions leading to an inevitable government victory.

So to be clear, Labour believes that the Work Programme is worse for jobseekers than leaving them to their own devices, but anyone who decides that they’d rather be left to their own devices and try to find work on their own, should still be sanctioned.

There’s a place for sanctions in any system, and Labour have extracted some worthwhile changes to the Bill that will go through the house today – but allowing people to be sanctioned for failing to take part in a scheme that is actively against their interests is perverse.

As is drafting emergency legislation explicitly designed to continue penalising such people.

As is seeing the flaws in a system and abstaining on a vote, rather than opposing.

Value our free and unique service?

LabourList has more readers than ever before - but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labour's policies and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.

If you can support LabourList’s unique and free service then please click here.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • I expected this issue to be kept under the radar on Labour blogs, it’s a very good and brave thing to be talking about this on here.

    • AlanGiles

      I agree Michael.

      That said, if Miliband wants to retain any degree of credibility amongst the core Labour vote, and start speaking up for the underdogs then he has to replace Liam Byrne as Shadow DWP Secretary with somebody who is more straightforward and competent.

      • John Ruddy

        But since you’re never going to vote Labour in any case, why should he pander to your views?

        • AlanGiles

          Well, the fact that I voted Labour at every election since 1964 (the first I was entitled so to do in) and wouldn’t now, and I am only one of many, ought to shake you out of your complacency, but for Christ’s sake, Mr Ruddy, this isn’t about me: it is about doing what is right. It is not “pandering” to me or anybody else for Byrne to realise – for all the reasons many other posters have pointed out – that abstaining is not sufficient.

          The problem is with supporters like yourself, prepared to forgive and forget everything wrong, just because it’s done by a man in a nice red rosette, means people like Byrne can go on turning Labour into a cheap carbon copy of the Conservative party.

          • John Reid

            Alan You voted labour in 1983 when we got 27% of the vote and you didn’t vote labour in 2010 when we got 29% of the vote, so you not voting labour now seems irrelevant

          • UKAzeri

            Spot on Alan.

            I personally had enough! I am waiting for the vote later today and if my Labour MP abstains then i am leaving the party.

            I am not a neo-liberal and i certainly don’t want to be a member of such a party.

        • Liam Byrne has made a massive blunder and has lost the confidence of the Labour Party. He must be removed.

        • Dave Postles

          Well, he’s sealed the deal – we won’t now.

          • aracataca

            Time to be honest Dave – you know, I know and everyone else knows it wouldn’t have made any difference.

          • AlanGiles

            Take a look at the word “principles” in the dictionary.

            Even if you are going to lose, you should vote for what you believe in, not what is expedient.

          • It’s not too late for Labour to do one important principled thing: drop the whole sorry charade and rename themselves Progress.

          • Monkey_Bach

            Using the same logic Labour might as well not bother to oppose anything the Coalition does, no matter how wicked, no matter how wrong. The Party is deceiving itself if it believes that this abject and cowardly behaviour will go unnoticed. This moral lapse will be massively damaging. Mark my words. Eeek.

        • aracataca

          I can see where you’re coming from John. When we didn’t have policies in place AG repeatedly said that he wasn’t going to vote for a party with no policies but when we have proposed policies he has opposed every single one of them without exception so from that point of view you’re right to say it’s pointless trying to garner the support of AG and his ilk. That said we should engage with as many perspectives as possible even with those like AG and his ilk who prefer personal abuse to political debate. As a pluralist party committed to including all views in the formation of policy we have a responsibility and duty to engage with everyone.

          • AlanGiles

            The fact that he has acted as he has done, proves Byrne agrees with Coalition policies, so he looks as stupid as the party faithful look hypocritcal when he offers his pretend “concern” and “outrage”.

            I wouldn’t want to “engage” with my-party-right-or-wrong sycophants who engage in condescending tosh like “we should engage with as many perspectives as possible even with those like AG and his ilk”

            I have no doubt if Labour advocated slaughter of the firstborn you would find some pathetic excuse to condone it, and fawn over the minister concerned,

            For somebody who pretends to be immune from personal abuse, you are pretty good at dishing out – both under your current screen-name and your previous incarnations as “William” and “W.O’Connor, so I should’nt be too sanctimonious. Last week you dragged my name into a Rob Marchant thread that I hadn’t even contributed to. How pathetic is that.

          • aracataca

            See what I mean. There isn’t even an attempt at politics here and obviously nothing is being offered in this comment.

          • I think, however, that it is quite clear that nothing will ever change Alan’s view. He just keeps on demanding things, and nothing is good enough. So what is the point? Because the problem is, just as if Cameron starts heading rightward he risks loosing people to the centre-right who thinks his policies extreme, so would Labour on the left.

          • rekrab

            Why don’t you just join the tories,Jeez! trade unionist? you’ve never shook hands with one.

          • AlanGiles

            aracataca said I wouldn’t vote for the party if it had no policies. That is quite true.

            But when they start producing policies, which replicate coalition policy, or they “abstain” from voting on an unjust Coalition policy – in effect conniving at it, out of cowardice, or for whatever reason, I have to ask myself a simple question: If I wouldn’t vote for the Conservative party under their own name or under the Coalition banner, why would I vote LABOUR to merely approve coalition or Conservative policy?

            If a bald headed grinning idiot pushes through an unjust policy with a blue rosette, why would I vote for a bald headed grinning idiot doing the same thing with a red one?

            I find it frankly incredible, that it seems to be only you and aracataca who find this stance acceptable.

            You seem to think that departing from the current right-wing Labour stance would lead to their downfall. I think the truth is the poorest people in this country would welcome a real alternative – not just Miliband and co proving they are not any better than the coalition.

            To the very poorest people in society, the sober truth is they know that their problems won’t be dealt with any better whatever party is in power.

            Labour has become irrelevant to them, and also to those of us who are concerned about such people rather more than the lobelia growing “squeezed middle” Daily Mail readers ersatz New Labour are courting.

          • aracataca

            How does that argument account for a 12% opinion poll lead for Labour?

            http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/

          • AlanGiles

            That is now. If your party continues to connive at the sort of Coalition policies they have done today, if they see that Labour are merely saying “it’s our turn again”, and merely repeat their own old mistakes and those of the coalition, and will say or do anything to get there, people will question their motives and standards more closely. They have two years to see what you can do (or say you would do). I shouldn’t think you won many friends today, or got back any votes that you’ve lost for your unwillingess to stands for standards of decency and compassion. I think some careerist Labourites should look up “compassion” and “deceny” along with “principles. 40 years ago politicians knew exactly what these words meant.

            If they see your party being unprincipled – we detest the Coalition and all they stand for, but if the Leader and shadow cabinet don’t want to embarrass themselves by standing up for what they don’t believe and prefer to go along with it (albeit with faux outrage), because your party are so frightend of “upsetting” the press and ring wing journalists. If they see this weak weedy “leader” who couldn’t stand up to a day old chick, they might come to the conclusion that there isn’t much to be said for any party, and we will have another hung parliament

            Those figures could go either way – but if the Conservatives replace Cameron and a few of his rejects with figures they can warm to more (don’t ask me who I am not intetrested in the party games these days)
            Opinion poll results are like the daily FTSE 100 results – they can go down as well as up.

            The only poll you need worry about is the May 2015 one.

          • aracataca

            Yes but the current 12% opinion poll lead might suggest that your statements:
            ‘To the very poorest people in society, the sober truth is they know that their problems won’t be dealt with any better whatever party is in power.
            Labour has become irrelevant to them’,

            is in fact not correct.

            As so often you have shifted away from your original point on to something else here without defending it-in this instance you’ve moved away from talking about what is happening now to talking about what might happen in the future which of course are 2 different sets of circumstances.
            What was that about coherence?

          • AlanGiles

            You remind me of a gambler on a winning streak. You have won so many horse races this week, it’s a cert you will finish the week with a massive win. You are confident – over-confident, you get careless. Come Friday…. you’ve blown the lot.

            Opinion poll leads can disappear overnight,like a gamblers lucky streak, and, it seems to me, apart from Messrs Reid, Ruddy and yourself “loyally” agreeing that the party knows best – when even the editor of LL questions their behaviour.

            Younger people will look at yesterdays charade, and their parents will look at the charade. What they will take from it is this:
            Labour SAY they don’t agree with a portion of the Welfare Reform Bill, they watch Byrne gurning away while he says how unjust it is, how they won’t vote for the bill, but when the time comes, instead of voting AGAINST the bill, which they said they disagree with (or that part of it that is convenient to disagree with), and rather than show moral fibre by voting against it, they adopt the attitude of Pontious Pilate and wash their hands of it, by abstaining.

            Those who have been forced to work for Tesco and Poundland etc as if they were charities, will, I think question just whose side Labour is on.

            Don’t be too surprised to see the opinion polls reflecting a drop in the months ahead, as the public see what I and others have been saying for some time, that is, that there is little real difference between all three main parties, and Miliband is so weak, so useless, he hasn’t got the guts to take a principled stand.

            Cameron is a weak leader. Clegg is a weak leader. Miliband is definately a weak leader. When the public are asked to choose between three weak leaders in 2 years time, they will remember days like yesterday – because you can be sure there will be more examples to come. Yesterday’s sorry performance was, I am afraid typical of what many of us now expect from the party which has lost it’s principles. It’s given up on the very poorest people, and don’t be too suprised if they give up on you. Labour now is stuffed full of posh little Oxbridge boys and girls who know virtually nothing about life on a council estate, and don’t want to know and try to make up for it by condescending to stuff their mouths in a branch of Greggs. It’s patronising – it’s the modern equivalent to white people telling black men back in the 50s they have a good sense of rythym.

            You can fool some of the people some of the time and all that…..

          • rekrab

            Alan, during part of the debate yesterday Mike Weir had an intervention on a labour speaker and asked the question with real bemusement “are the labour party really going to abstain on this” seems Mr Ruddy has no idea why Angus returns Mr Weir.

          • I read the debate and didnt see an intervention from Mike Weir, although I’m pleased he voted against.

            I saw interventions from Pete Wishart – perhaps he is confusing Mike with him? Or with Angus McNeil?

          • AlanGiles

            Mr Weir rebelled (though I prefer to say he stuck to his principles) at the third reading

          • John Ruddy

            I know he voted against – hence my comment. But as far as I am aware he didnt speak during the debate.

          • Not very long ago I thought Labour had 2015 in the bag but now it’s beginning to look otherwise. After today’s (in)action thousands of young bright students, who may well be conscripted into Poundland/Tesco etc, will look at Labour and think what’s the point of supporting Labour if Labour does nothing to support them. These students are the future middle class, and probably mostly they are the off-spring of the current middle class. I thought Labour wanted to win support from this section of the population, not drive them away.

            Byrne thinks he’s gaining credibility by mimicking the Tories. Isn’t it about time someone told him: outside Progress circles the Tories don’t have much credibility.

          • Dave Postles

            Looks like plenty of people commenting at CiF might be reconsidering now. There is a damning indictment of Labour’s abstention there.

          • aracataca

            Agreed – see his and my comment above. He isn’t offering anything politically. It’s the road to nowhere and as he states he doesn’t want to engage in a political discussion with us. However, as a political movement we have a responsibility to offer policies and political engagement with everyone. There are all kinds of people who don’t want to talk to us but we should of course attempt to talk to them.

          • AlanGiles

            Well, if you go around talking to people – a word of advice: drop the Mystic Meg and FibDem “jokes”. After 100 times neither are funny.
            And another word of advice: don’t on the one hand castigate Coalition policies at the same time as you defend the Labour hierarchy acquiescing in them. It looks at best, incoherent and at worst, dishonest.

          • Dave Postles

            Proud to be an ‘ilk’.
            Good job Caroline Lucas acts as a decent opposition.

          • aracataca
          • aracataca

            Will that ‘decent opposition include aping the Lib Dems?
            Again, for your attention:

            http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/

          • aracataca
          • aracataca

            Two points:
            1. Emma doesn’t play a leadership role within the party.
            2. She’s talking about internal party democracy not aping the Fib Dem’s campaign tactics.

            On a different note there are left wing people in the Greens such as Romayne Phoenix and Peter Cranie whose anti-fascist work in the North West has been fantastic. However, they have been s**t upon from a great height by the leadership of Lucas and Bennet.

          • AlanGiles

            More double standards. Several writers on LL go on about all women shortlists, yet the Greens is the only party which has a female leader and as yet, their one MP is female.

            Anyway as you despise the Greens so much, what business is it of yours?. As Ruddy said elsewhere, as you won;’t vote (for the Greens) why should they “pander” to the likes of you?

          • You know you’re being insulted when people use your last name only.

            Very polite.

          • aracataca

            It’s when it’s nothing but insults that you know the argument is in trouble.

          • aracataca

            I was in fact responding to Dave’s claim that Caroline Lucas was ‘acting as a decent opposition’ – that’s how the Greens issue came up and i have explicitly stated that I think we should engage with people who disagree with Labour

          • AlanGiles

            ” I think we should engage with people who disagree with Labour”

            Perhaps with people like Mark Ferguson, whom as editor of LL had the courage to point out the bogosity of Labour’s stand, and those LL posters like Mike, Amber and so many others who are honest and straightforward when they disagree with the party and say so, but not, frankly with toadies who go out of the way to try to justify the unjustifable.

            You are in a very strange position: On the one hand you say you despise the coalition and all it stands for, yet on the other, when Labour decides to turn a blind eye, you are all for that too. You can’t serve two masters – your own conscience and the party line.

            As for Ms. Lucas – unlike Margaret Moran at least she isn’t a criminal (and a criminal at that who couldn’t take her punishment). She hasn’t been caught out stuffing her own pockets while “rocking the boat”, so before you sneer at her, I’d remind you about throwing stones in glass houses. Even if the house has been flipped or remortgaged more than once.

            Really Bill I have nothing to say to you, and you have nothing to say to me. Whatever the policy, provided “the party” sanctions it, that’s fine by you.
            I can’t live like that and I have no respect for those who do.

          • aracataca

            ‘As for Ms. Lucas – unlike Margaret Moran at least she isn’t a criminal (and a criminal at that who couldn’t take her punishment). She hasn’t been caught out stuffing her own pockets while “rocking the boat”, so before you sneer at her’

            Couple of points Alan

            1) IMHO we should have voted against this measure last night.
            2) I haven’t accused Ms Lucas of any of the things that you have referred to above.

          • Dave Postles

            Yes, that’s a strong endorsement for the Greens, especially the comments. Now, how many Labour-controlled councils are having to make unfortunate cuts in urban locations? It’s inevitable with Pickles dictating to local authorities.

          • aracataca

            So aping the campaigning tactics of the Fib Dems is worthy of endorsement? Sorry have to disagree.

          • Alan is absolutely right here, though, and certainly expresses the views of the vast majority of Labour people I have heard from tonight

      • postageincluded

        Or even someone more devious and glib. Whatever the policy is it should at least sound as if it makes sense. Not sure that’s the case here.

        • Monkey_Bach

          I doubt Yvette Cooper would move back to the DWP and James Purnell is going back to the BBC and is no longer a Labour MP and so is not available…

          • postageincluded

            Neither of those are anywhere near subtle enough. I suggest Peter Mandelson.

            A.k.a. Lord Monkeyhanger….. Eek.

          • Monkey_Bach

            Also no longer an MP. Although still easy to find by following the trail of slime he leaves behind him like a slug. Eeek.

      • Absolutely, Alan. Byrne ought to be deselected and drummed out of the party. Kate Green knows her stuff and is far less wedded to outdated Blairite views

  • Felix

    Excepted Labour has failed to extract the most worthwhile change it could have, namely that the law this bill introduces should not be retroactive. Its failure to do so shows the Labour Party is still willing to collude in deeply undemocratic and illiberal practices and I for one, a returning disaffected Labour voter, like millions of others who switched to the Lib Dems, will certainly not countenance voting for a party which shows such blatant and contemptful disregard for the rule of law and the independence and sovereignty of judicial judgements.

  • Moose

    If this Parliamentary Labour Party daren’t even vote against slavery I shudder to think why they suppose anyone has the right to own someone else’s home – which is one of the questions that might otherwise have helped the left capture the agenda.

  • Moose

    This now faces us all with the question, do we spend the next 1000 days on a Yellow Labour purge or are 25 million unused 2015 ballot papers the only feasible purpose we have left?

  • Martin

    I just cannot support what we are doing on this. It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that law-makers are totally divorced from the realities of benefits. to say nothing of the press who are probably even further removed.

    I have been lucky to only have had to claim dole, but my other half needs disability, but gets none.

    now, even if the system is perfect, taking money away from poor people sounds a very bad idea, not morally but in terms of how they would pay their bills. I chased every job i could, and that’s right, but i’m not convinced these sanctions are the right way to go.

    and another thing: we are supporting stopping people get compensation from the government for the government’s error. How is that right?

  • No excuse for this. Its wrong on so many levels
    1. retrospective legislation – not on
    2. ignoring court decisions – not on
    3. seeing all sanctions as acceptable – ridiculous to make people do useless work placements when they are already doing relevant job-based volunteering
    4. not wishing to distinguish between the sanctions we find acceptable and those IDS wishes to impose

    Byrne has to go, and soon. He is an absolute disgrace to the party and should have never been selected as a Labour MP. Tory, through and through

  • Daniel Speight

    This smells of policy made on the basis of focus groups and smart young things doing their triangulation. It really is time for the party to get back to an old fashioned backbone of principled argument. Good start would be sending Tom Baldwin back to the Murdochs.

  • Brumanuensis

    The pusillanimity of the front-bench is galling beyond description. Do they really think public opinion will shift because Labour sits on the sidelines and does nothing in response to the government’s programme?

    The fact is, the majority of the public are ignorant of how the welfare system works – as is Iain Duncan Smith – and will remain ignorant as long as no-one challenges their ignorance.

    According to YouGov polling from last December ( http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/xzmltcdt5i/YG-Archive-results-TUC-121212-welfare-benefits-knowledge.pdf ), the average Briton thinks:

    -That 40% of the welfare budget goes on the unemployed (actual figure: 3%)

    -That 27% is claimed fraudulently (actual figure: 0.7%)

    -That JSA is £147 per week (actual figure: £71)

    That said, the case that this is an unalterable trend is nonsense. I don’t agree with the view that the public are spiteful or contemptuous towards those on welfare. For example:

    -Only 19% think the media accurately portray those on benefits, as opposed to 54% who think they don’t

    -When asked “The government is limiting the increase in many benefits to one percent which is less than the current rate of inflation (i.e. the level of prices) for at least the next three years. To what extent do you support or oppose this move?”, the initial figures are,

    Support: 48%

    Oppose: 32%

    Then, when informed “Some of the benefits which will be affected by the one percent cap go to people who are in work but have low paid jobs. This can help their families have enough money for the basics. To what extent do you support or oppose a cap on benefits for people with jobs?”, the figures become,

    Support: 30%

    Oppose: 40%

    -A plurality agree that benefits should be increased in line with prices (34%)

    So this is matter of education, rather than accommodation.

  • AlanGiles

    Mr Reid: Yet another monument to complacency. Another one who turns a blind eye to unjust policy from the coalition just as long as it is embarrassing for “the party” and the leadership chooses to act in a cowardly way. By the way, I didn’t have a problem voting Labour in 1983 but I did in 2005, after Iraq. God knows, if I had had the gift of hindsight, and known that in that Parliament we would have got Brown allowing Purnell and McNulty two of the biggest expenses scammers , to implement Freud and cause untold distress to vulnerable people, I wouldn’t have voted for them then. Labour conned me once they never will again.

    Labour in Havering has not done well for some years, and with you at it’s helm, I don’t see that situation changing, quite frankly. If some of your election material is as clear as your postings on LL, it seems to me you will actually not do even as well in 2015.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Mark,

    why do you not ask the Leader’s office for a comment on why this decision (to abstain) was made? It has really caused an upset, and that is bad, and worse, poor timing the day before the Budget to cause internal divisions.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Mark,

    why do you not ask the Leader’s office for a comment on why this decision (to abstain) was made? It has really caused an upset, and that is bad, and worse, poor timing the day before the Budget to cause internal divisions.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Mark,

    why do you not ask the Leader’s office for a comment on why this decision (to abstain) was made? It has really caused an upset, and that is bad, and worse, poor timing the day before the Budget to cause internal divisions.

    • AlanGiles

      I doubt that Miliband will find the courage to sack Byrne outright, the very least he could do would be to have small reshuffle and put Byrne somewhere where he can’t do any more damage.
      But I doubt he will even do that – yet again Ed fiddles while Liam Byrnes *

      (*This is a repeat of the joke first broadcast in February 2012, when Byrne told EM he would leave the shadow cabinet if he could become the Labour Mayoral candidate for Birmingham)

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        “…and put Byrne somewhere where he can’t do any more damage.”

        To borrow my wife’s lovely phrase, “my mind is boggled”. Where could such a place be? I can only think of him as the on-board technician for the excellent NASA Curiosity little golf buggie that is performing great science for us all on Mars. Although the little machine has apparently its’ own Twitter account****, so that may not be remote enough.

        **** and according to one – I think fanciful – account in New Scientist, at least some of the Twitter messages really have been sent from NASA up to Mars, and then sent back down from the machine, so they really are inter-planetary communications. Why…when they can just as easily send them from the NASA office in Texas?

        I am sorry, but with such a thought, it really is time for Karen Carpenter:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BrSVOOK610

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        “…and put Byrne somewhere where he can’t do any more damage.”

        To borrow my wife’s lovely phrase, “my mind is boggled”. Where could such a place be? I can only think of him as the on-board technician for the excellent NASA Curiosity little golf buggie that is performing great science for us all on Mars. Although the little machine has apparently its’ own Twitter account****, so that may not be remote enough.

        **** and according to one – I think fanciful – account in New Scientist, at least some of the Twitter messages really have been sent from NASA up to Mars, and then sent back down from the machine, so they really are inter-planetary communications. Why…when they can just as easily send them from the NASA office in Texas?

        I am sorry, but with such a thought, it really is time for Karen Carpenter:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BrSVOOK610

    • postageincluded

      Yes, or it needs justification if “explanation” can’t be given for reasons politic.

      Avoiding “Labour loves scroungers” headlines is all very well, but this looks so implausible as policy and remains so unjustified that it draws attention to itself as a political manoeuvre. It looks duplicitou when we should be striving for at least the appearance of sincerity. It might have been better politics to oppose, look principled and take the tabloid anti-claimant hit on the chin.

  • Isaac Phiri

    One thing that everyone fails to realise is that the sanctions regime has not changed. During the last government, the same system was in place in job centre plus and in flexible new deal, the precursor to work programme. Exactly the same structure with the same rules and the same safe guards. There is an independent review process and an appeal process. Job centre plus and work programme providers do not sanction. They raise a sanction request which is put through a decision making team. There has to be a robust and watertight justification for it to be approved. Sanctioning willy nilly is not constructive nor particularly successful so it’s only done when all other avenues have failed.
    The only difference now is that the system is being recorded and made public, which has never been the case previously.
    Labour started the sanctioning system outside of job centre plus and the Tories have continued with it.
    No one is sanctioned without a justifiable reason and this needs to be understood. As in work, failure to abide by the general rules will result in disciplinary, so to should sanctions be used to ensure failure to participate has a consequence.

  • AlanGiles

    ” It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that law-makers are totally divorced from the realities of benefits. to say nothing of the press who are probably even further removed.”

    No, Martin. I think you have it right. A lot of people think the out-of-work, be it through disability, illness, or that you are one of three dozen (or more) people fighting for one vacancy, are somehow “beneath” them. they are encouraged to think they are lazy and scroungers because, to suit their own purposes, the Blair/Brown government told them it was OK to think that, and of course the vile Duncan-Smith/Grayling duo encourage them to think the same thing.

    But – when Mr and Mrs Middle England, who nodded knowingly when Blears told her story about canvassing on a weekday lunchtime and coming across an out-of-work family in their night kit watching TV, find that their own son or daughter can’t get a job, or dad loses his job at 50 and can’t get another, or, God forbid, misfortune comes to the family and a person becomes too ill to work, suddenly, those people who used to turn their nose up at the JobCentre queues, thinking they are “all the same”, see their own son, husband, daughter or wife in that same queue, and realise that they are all in the same boat.

    Of course, you will always get the few who really are work-shy, but I think punishing everybody for their faults is totally without credit. If somebody is absloutely determined not to work, there will always be a way (just like even though the Parliamentary expenses system has been tightened up, there are still some MPs pushing their luck. Mrs Dorries for example is currently under investigation. She cannot be a lone rogue.

    In the meantime, some MPs think that living on benefits means they live the life of Riley. Very recently there has been a newspaper campaign regarding a women with numerous children who is having a large house built for by the local authority. Of course, by printing that story several times in several papers, with added titbits (“she keep a horse on OUR money!” one of them screemed last week).

    In these exceptional circumstances, it is convenient for politicians of all persusations and the newspaper editors to fan the flames, to imply these cases are the rule rather than the exception.

    Of course, anybody who has ever worked in an advice centre, even for a few hours know the reality is quite different – claims left outstanding, wrong decisions taking weeks to be corrected, massive housing waiting lists, trying to palm off the severly disabled or sick in the hope they will just go away. You see them all.
    Before the more complacent LL poster (I can think of three) swallows all the government propaganda, they should go and get acquainted with some of these situations.

    it has got to the point that if you speak in favour of helping people through difficult periods of their life, “Labour” supporters (or a few of the “let them eat cake” brigade on LL) think you are die-hard Communist, or a benefit claimant yourself (or cheat, the words are interchangeable with right wingers). Speak up against unemployment law and you are yourself workshy.

    I am now retired, luckilly apart from the usual things age brings, arthritis mainly, I am in good health, so I genuinely have no personal axe to grind. I was (again very luckilly) never out of work, but I know many people who have been, or are. I have been very lucky, but I will never forget my own origins and what my grandparents (who bought me up) had to go through (including my grandad being sacked at the age of 63 for being inconsiderate enough to have a heart attack – at work! – 18 months before he was due to retire. A hard physical job he had worked at, in the same organisation for thirty years). Even all these years later it is still painful for me to remember how he lost half his pension, and all the other indignities they had to go through just to get some sort of help, and they were very proud people who felt ashamed at having to ask for help.

    That’s why Modern Labour disgusts me so much. The hierarchy have lived such priveleged lives, and all the parties have the same sort of people with the same sort of backgrounds now, they don’t know what it is like to run out of money half way through the week (and even if they did they could still get free food with their “food allowance”).

    You almost expect Tories to be decadent like Duncan-Smith and his Betsygate scam and lying on his CV, and Osborne like a spoilt brat, but you would hope that Labour, as it used to have, would have people who either knew about hardship or at least had the decency to get off their backsides and go out and see for themselves, and listen. But they can’t be bothered.

    At the next election I will either vote for the NHS party or the Greens. If neither stand in my constituency, I will spoil my ballot paper. I feel it a duty to vote even if for “none of the above”.

    There will be those on LL who will say it is a wasted vote, but I know a vote for Miliband’s Labour would be just as wasted because he doesn’t have the wit or will to implement different policies that would help the underdog. It will be more of the same, as it has been in British politics since 1979.

    Sorry for such a long reply, but I hope that my two LL stalkers will at least make an effort to understand where I stand. And why.

  • postageincluded

    Yes, or it needs justification if “explanation” can’t be given for reasons politic.

    Avoiding “Labour loves scroungers” headlines is all very well, but this looks so implausible as policy and remains so unjustified that it draws attention to itself as a political manoeuvre. It looks duplicitou when we should be striving for at least the appearance of sincerity. It might have been better politics to oppose, look principled and take the tabloid anti-claimant hit on the chin.

  • I would be interested to see the list of Labour MPs who abstained on this vote, as whipped – does anyone know if the information is available?

  • Pingback: Labour abstention on workfare bill prompts party infighting | Black Triangle Campaign()

  • Monkey_Bach

    Absolutely wrong in every respect. Eeek.

    • Isaac Phiri

      I work within this environment and have operational experience. What’s your experience and have you thought about setting out an argument? Or like all whingers on this subject are you just eeking without substance?

  • Monkey_Bach

    The sanctions regime is completely different, far more severe, and administered much more inflexibly than it was under New Labour. It is not the same. At worst a person can now be denied assistance from the State for up to THREE YEARS for , whereas under Labour it was six months. The way doubts about individual claimant’s entitlements also varies from Jobcentre to Jobcentre in order, according to David Freud, to encourage “innovation”.

    (But with such variation how can any claimant know precisely what is expected of him/her when expectation is so variable from place to place? This is why the Coalition got into all sorts of trouble recently and had to draft some disgraceful emergency legislation to wriggle out of it.)

    The shortest sanction length has been increased from one to four weeks. ESA claimants saw a new sanction regime come into force on December 3rd 2012, with a maximum of four weeks sanction, and the amount being sanctioned raised to 70% of their ESA payments.

    The new JSA regime changed how sanctions could be applied with three different levels attracting different lengths of sanctions. Lower level sanctions, including missing appointments at the job centre or workfare provider will see claimants left without money for four weeks in for the first offence and 13 weeks for the second. So if, say, you are 9 minutes late for an appointment because a job interview overran, you’ll have no money for one or three months.

    Intermediate level sanctions also attract four then 13 week sanctions, but it is not detailed what this is for, except that they follow a period of disallowance.

    Higher level sanctions are for the supposedly worst offences such as being unable take part in Mandatory Work Activity, or failing to apply for any job. The first will be 13 weeks, then 6 months and finally 3 years. If someone gets a job for 6 months, then any remaining sanction will be written off. So if you get an interview, and start MWA late so you can prepare for and attend it, you could find yourself sanctioned for 4 months, 6 months or 3 years.

    Hundreds of thousands of sanctions have already been dished out most often for minor and petty “offences”, e.g., arriving late for or missing an appointment, and its is clear that many more people will inadvertently get sanctioned, leaving them without money for food or bills. The increase of the minimum sanction length to four weeks is as much of a concern as the new 3 year maximum, and will no doubt see more people needing the services of food banks to keep their children fed.

    However the more people that get sanctioned the more money is saved which gives Jobcentres especially a great incentive to try to pick up “brownie points” by sanctioning as many people as possible and some seem to have taken a blunderbuss approach to this by trying to trip up as many claimants as possible and catch them out to sanction them cruelly, undeservedly, and to no good purpose simply to garner good stats.

    All of this information is in the public domain.

    Things are very different in 2013 than they were before May 2010.

    To insinuate that what is happening under the Coalition is similar, let alone the same, as what happened under Labour, as far as sanctions, go would be false.

    Here’s an independent perspective:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/heather-rolfe/work-programme-increases-hardship-and-makes-little-difference_b_2242832.html

x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit