It’s The End Of Workfare As We Know it, and I Feel Fine. Welfare Reform Pt.II

welfare_2478950bcaitSome time ago, around the inaugruration of the ConDem coalition, I wrote about the the potential of the new governments Universal Credit scheme and the looming Workfare programme. Well, finally I have got round to continuing the analysis now that we have had a couple of years to see how it has all panned out. Shockingly enough the answer is: not very well.

The coalition’s workfare scheme has been one of the government’s most high profile policy directives since they came to power. On the face of it, the idea sounds great. Continue reading

Iain Duncan Smith – Liar, Prat, etc…

In an article for The Telegraph today, Iain Duncan Smith says that “Labour’s legacy on tax credits tells a sorry story of dependency, wasted taxpayers’ money and fraud.”, and that “Even for those in genuine need of support, tax credits were not fit for purpose”. Now, for sure I am one who is almost always cynical of claims made by politicians – especially by conservative politicians – but does he have a point? After all, there is no doubt that the benefits system is outdated and inefficient.

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“I always lie, Who gives a crap?”

On some of the specifics, he may have a case; It is true that the level at which your income must increase before your claim for tax credits is reassessed was raised from £2,500 to £25,000 in 2008 by Labour, and it is also most likely true that this raise was put in place as a means of attracting votes for the election – not that the conservatives would ever cynically invent policies for that end (and assuming that the public actually pays attention to policy). This increase most definitely would have increased the bill, for obvious reasons, and does appear to legalise what seems like bona fide fraud. So score one for IDS.
Continue reading

Fare Well, or Fare ye Well, which is it to be for Welfare? Pt.1

"Is this a smile? Kinda looks like Tony's"

Right, so, I’ve got a whole pile of stuff on my mind right now that I’d like to get off my chest. i’m going to try and write up as many as I can as soon as possible because I have the feeling that they are likely to become common themes on this blog. So, the background:

The coalition is proposing welfare reform. Now, I don’t think any reasonable person can deny that we NEED welfare reform. Especially those who are within the welfare and benefits system – they are the ones who can best let us know what is broken about the systems in place. It is sadly (as is always the case) up to the politicians to cook up the proposal. What we all know is that the proposal is known as ‘Universal Credit’, which will replace all the myriad other entitlements presently on offer. Of course, this will save us money, simplify the existing system, will be ‘fairer’ (to whom is unspecified, or just everyone) etc., etc..  Well, we’ll start by looking at Ian Duncan Smith’s speech announcing the policy. Bear in mind this is just a preliminary excursion on the issue, so I’ll hunt down the facts in a later post.

With the usual blah dominating the first section of the speech, with an oddly confusing reference to ‘fighting poverty within government’ (hmm..), he moves on to make a couple of interesting arguments;

Firstly, he notes that despite 16 years of continuous growth and the creation of 4m jobs (hitherto known as megajobs, or MJ for short),

"No, Dunc, that's not right either.."

“…some 4.5 million people remained on out of work benefits before the recession had even started. So inactivity was persistent, despite the unprecedented level of job creation.”

The suggestion, of course, here is that despite the rise in job creation, the unemployment levels have remained the same. Only that’s not what he said. He makes no mention of  the previous numbers of benefit receivers and conflates the issues of unemployed workers with that of out-of-work benefits claimants. which could vary the figures significantly. To deal with the issue of out-of-work benefits claimants, you need a highly multi-pronged approach, as changing the welfare system is going to do little to help the numbers of people who are, for example, in bad health. I’ll look up the numbers and see what the real cause is, or if the statement is even true, but just now remember that these incomplete, suggestive statements are one of the politicians favorite tricks to deceive. They think you are STUPID.

He furthers this to make the second interesting claim:

That is one of the reasons why around 70% of the net rise in employment under the previous Government was accounted for by workers from abroad. Businesses had to bring people in from overseas because our welfare system did not encourage people to work.

Interesting. Could be true, maybe it aint. What’s interesting is the way he tries to bring the issue of immigration into it (which he knows people respond emotionally to). Like I say, the statement may be true, I don’t know where he got the 70% figure from, but if overseas workers accounted from the rise, then surely they are a great benefit to us as hard workers (which would contradict the anti-immigration, Euro-skeptic stance of the Conservatives). Other than that, what the hell has it got to do with your previous argument? Another politician trick, follow a seemingly logical argument with evidence of another point unrelated to the first. They do this particularly when the point they just made is duff, to confuse you so you stop paying attention to, and thus debunking, the phoney argument. If you don’t think they do it, just read transcripts or listen to their public addresses.

OK, so despite the usual political trickery all he really said is that, basically, everything you want from welfare reform will happen, whilst also claiming that it was no panacea. Hundreds of thousands out of poverty, more beneficial for people to move from benefits into work, more folk in work, and those already working low-income jobs will benefit. No-one is to be left behind. Right, well fair play but it doesn’t sound any different to anything else I’ve ever heard.

As per usual, there is nothing here that the listener could possibly glean that would allow them to come to any kind of informed point of view. God, I hate it when they do this (which is ALL the time). Why bother tell us anything? Make a goddam point will you?

Next, the government white paper.