Two thing stand out from the big story of today, the roll out of the Tory-led Government’s back to work programme:
In Scotland, apparently over 100,000 people have been on Job Seeker’s Allowance, incapacity benefit etc for over ten years. First, there is and always has been a cap on JSA – I don’t think, except perhaps in very particular circumstances, you can actually receive JSA for more than a year or two.
Moreover, people in receipt of incapacity benefit can be on it for life but that is because they have significant disabilities and long term health conditions that prevent them from working. In 2001, the then Labour UK Government scrapped Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) and moved people on it on to incapacity benefit. Before then, people with the most complex disabilities, often incorporating physical and learning disabilities, did not receive incapacity benefit. These are exactly the kind of people who receive benefits for life – and should do, without a murmur or moan from any of us.
There is no doubt that more could – and should – be done to support disabled people into work. But the fact remains that this Government is yet to set out how it will persuade employers in a flat economic climate where jobs are at a premium and applications at their height, to take on people whom they have always treated prejudicially in terms of assessing their work capacity. No amount of back to work programmes will shift such entrenched and erroneous attitudes.
The second spun myth is in relation to all the *charities* who are going to be helping people – disabled, lone parents, young, long-term unemployed, over 50s – back to work. None in Scotland. The preferred bidders for the Scotland back to work programme are two big multi-national partnerships, neither of whom have any track record of doing this sort of activity in Scotland.
One is Ingeus UK Ltd which claims to be one of the “leading welfare to work providers”. It is a joint venture between Deloitte, the big international accountancy and management consultancy business, and Ingeus, a global charity which started in Australia. While it does appear to have a strong track record on successful welfare to work measures, one questions why it was necessary to bring in an Australian provider to work in Scotland when there are perfectly good Scottish charities capable of doing the same thing.
The second provider has no such charitable links – it is called Working Links and is an offshoot of recruitment and employment services business, Manpower. A multi-national whose main concern is its bottom line and profit margin.
If the Tories have to spin their back to work measures on a tissue of lies, it does not augur well for the all the people who are being forced, under threat of benefit sanctions, into this programme.