Workfare: Hardly Fair
by Felix McHugh
Mon 4th Nov 2013
Workfare has been in the news again this week. The Supreme Court ruled for Cait Reilly and against the DWP on three out of four counts, and yet IDS declared that the Department had "won" the case, which is just one more example, I guess, of the Government's Orwellian way with the truth. See also the claim that there is no connection between benefit cuts and the number of foodbanks which have appeared in our towns and cities. Basic common sense screams otherwise. When Torquay United drew against Mansfield Town after having a man sent off, their manager Alan Knill said the result "felt like a win". IDS, on the evidence above, would have claimed that it really was a win and would have demanded the three points. The facts of the case were that Ms Reilly, who was unemployed and signing on but had arranged to do voluntary work for a charity, was ordered not to do so but to work for Poundland for nothing instead. The charity lost a willing worker ( a "hardworker" if you like) and Ms Reilly was robbed of the opportunity to do something useful and to make new contacts; the only winner was Poundland, who now did not need to actually take on a paid worker (and genuinely reduce the dole queue by one) since they were given one for free. Disappointingly, though, the Supreme Court declined to find that Workfare amounts to slave labour, although I for one find it difficult to tell the difference other than that Poundland are not allowed to actually beat and rape their unpaid staff. Other companies who are reported to have taken advantage of the DWP's 'Have A Free Worker' scheme include Asda, Tesco, Primark, Hilton Hotels and B&Q.
Meanwhile, documents leaked to the Guardian have reveaedl that the best estimate for Universal Credit is that by the date of the next General Election 25,000 claimants (that's 0.2% of the total) will be claiming UC. They also show that the DWP is considering two options: carry on trying to fix the current shambles (UC was supposed to have rolled out by last month) or scrap everything, write off all the money spent so far (officially amounting to £119 million) and start again. IDS (actually GIDS since his first name is George) has repeated time after time that UC is on time and on budget, but then again I’m sorry to say he has a history of telling lies. His tenure as leader of the Conservative Party came to an early end not simply because of his poor performances in the House and the embarrassing Quiet Man Turning Up The Volume speech at the Party Conference. The revelation that his CV had been altered to show that he had been a student at Perugia University (he wasn’t) and Dunchurch College of Management (he didn’t) plus Betsygate, a scandal over Mrs Smith being paid for Parliamentary work when GIDS’ agent stated that all she did was look after the house and kids were all more than enough to see him off.
This year Smith claimed that he could live on £53 a week if he had to; a claim that was undermined when (a) he refused to demonstrate that he could do so in spite of a 300,000 signatory petition asking him to do just that and (b) the Daily Mirror’s story about his £39 breakfast expenses claim. That’s one hell of a Scotsman’s Full English!