Stupid, cruel and counter-productive? The government's employment and benefits policies.
There's lots of talk at the moment about the government increasing the penalty for those who refuse a work placement ordered by the DWP. At the same time, Atos continues to make the most perverse judgements about peoples' capabilities for work and the government derides the TUC's Frances O'Grady for wondering aloud if the cuts have a political motivation, such is their impact on women particularly.
Well, here's a story that came across my desk today that shows how stupid, cruel and ultimately counter-productive the situation is.
This story - which is true - involves someone who has been in and out of work but currently and for quite a while has been unemployed. He's had some issues to deal with but has done so and has really turned his life around.
"You should get some training" he was told when signing on for his JSA. "Ok" he said, as he'd not had much (well, any) luck in his many job applications to date. So he's sent off to train up as a Security Guard. DWP fund the training course. And this is fine. He completes the training and reckons there is a good chance, at last, of finding employment.
But of course - as those who know about these things will have already guessed - there's a little thing called the SIA to deal with. Thanks to the last Labour government, Security Guards needed to be accredited by the Security Industries Authority. This was to stop just anyone being a bouncer and generally has to be regarded as a good thing. Accreditation costs around £300. But JSA (as many of you will know) is just over £71 per week. The obvious question for our colleague who has done the DWP-paid training: "Who pays because I cannot?"
So here's the equation for the DWP: Pay £300 as a one-off and get someone into work, paying taxes and spending their wages, or pay £71 for a protracted period with no tax income and no consumer spending.
It's a no-brainer isn't it - in less than 5 weeks you will be ahead, in financial terms, by helping this person back to work in a job that you have paid for him to be trained in.
Well "no brainer" seems to be right, because the DWP said "We won't pay - you'll have to..." And then, the DWP said - "By the way, you need to go and do work experience for 30 hours a week. If you refuse to do what you are asked or get sacked, you lose your benefit."
So not just "no brain" but clearly no heart or soul either.
Stupid and cruel - yes, surely. Counterproductive? Well, not if your political objective is to deliberately create an economy based in part on insecure, under employment - just as some wise heads have been saying.
The DWP called Frances O'Grady's comments "laughable". Methinks they protest too much.
- Threat to cut benefits - Guardain article
- BBC Panorama on Atos
- Frances O'Grady on Employment Policies - Guardian interview and DWP response