The Green Paper — “No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility” — will allow firms in the private sector (who may or may not also involve the voluntary sector) to be awarded contracts and bonus incentives to find work for those on benefit. Companies that currently deal with the mentally ill provision will, for example, be allowed to run schemes aimed at finding them work. They will then be paid a bonus for each person who finds employment.
The new Green Paper follows the Welfare Reform Act 2007 which will phase out Incapacity Benefit and replace it with a new 'Employment Support Allowance'. All 2.7 million recipients of Incapacity benefit will be forced to undergo tests by doctors other than their own to determine whether they can work. Anyone who has claimed Job Seekers Allowance for more than two years will be made to take full-time community jobs in return for their benefit payment and will be required to “sign in” each day. This would mean claimants working a full 35-hour week to earn a £60.50 Job Seekers Allowance payment. This equates to £1.70 an hour, less than a third of the minimum wage.
However, on Page-44 of the Green Paper, where it outlines the proposal to enforce compulsory work-for-benefit for those on Job-Seekers Allowance (to be replaced by Employment Support Allowance) who have been out of work for 2 years, it quotes a report which cites a scheme in Australia where there was a 7% net increase of participants going into jobs compared with non-participants. However, this is quite different to the complete picture provided in the actual report, which in the same paragraph that contains the DWP quote, goes on to say that the workfare scheme was ineffective in helping participants find sustainable employment, and that the scheme had little impact on the very long term unemployed which in fact grew by 68%!
The government in pursuing their proposal do not want to consider the Swedish, Danish and Netherlands model of a basic income scheme.
The original research and report
was undertaken by the Centre for Regional Economic & Social Research (CRESR)
at Sheffield Hallam University by Dr Richard Crisp and Del Roy Fletcher.
They are reported to not be happy with the way their research has been intepreted by the DWP in their Green Paper. Upon representation from Stephen Fisher from RSI Action, the Cabinet Office published the full report on the DWP website on 29th August 2008.
The Green Paper states, “We will enact powers in the Welfare Reform Act 2007 to require new customers in the Work Related Activity Group to undertake general work-related activity. Customers who do not meet these requirements will have their benefit reduced. We will also extend throughout the first two years of a claim, the period during which new customers are required to engage with us by introducing Work Focused Interviews.”
On September 15th, the DWP held a Consultation Forum in London. During a seminar on the subject of "the next steps for the Work Capability Assessment" (WCA), several participants from a range of disability groups raised concerns about the DWP's record in recognising all disabilities and the rigour of assessment procedures they have formulated in the past, and they further raised concerns about the thoroughness of the new WCA in properly recognising these conditions and the Healthcare professionals who will carry out the WCA on behalf of the DWP. Atos Healthcare currently provide this disability assessment service for the government at present. Amongst the disability awareness professionals who raised these concerns were representatives of the following: RSI Action - a national charity for the prevention of RSI conditions, the National Autistic Society, and a group representative of people suffering from ME who raised the issue that those who suffer from ME have a fluctuating condition which can change on a daily basis (a similar trend within those who suffer from Hypoglycemia). The latter representative also drew attention to whether imcomplete awareness of this condition may lead to a lack of sensitivity in the WFHRA process within the WCA (the WFHRA stands for the work-focused health-related assessment).
The new work for your benefit measures are to be implemented in six pilot areas before being introduced nationwide. These include Greater Manchester and Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth in London, inner city areas which have been blighted for generations by poverty, unemployment, an increase in mental illness, low mortality rates and other social ills. Earlier this year statistics released by the Conservative Party, based on Department of Work and Pensions’ Neighbourhood Statistics, found that 820 out of 1,074 working-age adults in Falinge and College Bank, two districts of Rochdale in Greater Manchester, were claiming out-of-work benefits. The figure of 76.4% was the highest in the country. According to the figures there are 60 wards (local districts) of Britain in which more than half of all adults are unemployed and on benefits. The statistics were seized on by the national press and highlighted as an example of “welfare culture.” The Sun described Rochdale as the “the
scrounge capital of the UK.”
Following the release of the figures, Paul Rowen, the Liberal Democrat MP for the town, commented on the widespread poverty and social misery, “You cannot destroy British manufacturing and expect it will not also destroy some of our working-class communities.” “Falinge scores highly in all the wrong ways—deprivation, joblessness and ill health. The large-scale shutdown of factories in the ’80s and ’90s has decimated the area.” Even while posing the question as to whether the residents of Falinge were “feckless scroungers,” the right-wing tabloid newspaper the Daily Express had to acknowledge that a council estate visited by its reporter in Falinge was “a depressing warren of poverty.”
Rochdale, as with most of the towns in south Lancashire, once employed tens of thousands of workers, mainly in textile manufacturing and other industries. Over the past 30 years these have closed, leaving a legacy of unemployment, poverty and ill-health. According to figures by Rochdale Borough Council, “life expectancy for men and women in the Borough is less than the national average and in some wards is ten years less than in other parts of the Borough.”