According to Lord Freud, the banker-turned-welfare-minister: “The fact that those in work will come under the ambit of the JobCentre Plus for the first time as a result of universal credit gives the government radical new opportunities.”
Having learned their lessons from New Labour in the spin of framing retrogressive steps as ‘radical’, the ConDems aren’t content with their efforts to grind down unemployed and disabled people. They now want to extend workfare and ‘conditionality’ – let’s call it profiteering, time-wasting, potentially life-sapping harassment – to working claimants when Universal Credit kicks in. However, the government is well aware that the usual divisive rhetoric about benefits robbing ‘the taxpayer’ will be more difficult to direct against people who are already working and paying taxes.
Therefore, the DWP and Policy Exchange are both asking for suggestions on how to widen the range of their nets to self-employed, part-time and low-paid workers. In a document with the catchy title of “Extending labour market interventions to in-work claimants – call for ideas”, the DWP requests feedback from “employers, behavioural economists, social psychologists, think tanks, welfare to work providers, academics, charities, application designers and those at the sharp end of delivering existing services”. Of course, this call-out doesn’t include those at ‘the sharp end’ of DWP schemes.
The DWP document goes on to ask: “What ideas could we trial to best support people in work, in receipt of Universal Credit… to take positive steps to achieve financial independence, both in the Tax Credit system and when Universal Credit is introduced?” They are boldly going where no poverty profiteer has gone before.
To this end, they are also pushing the discredited Universal Jobmatch website: “Automatic job matching means the system works 24/7 to find jobs that fit with people’s skills set or supplement their existing employment so their CV is working for them even whilst they sleep…” So, when working claimants aren’t working, they should be divulging their private data on this deeply dodgy website.
They go on to claim: “Universal Jobmatch also provides information on individuals’ job search activity, including their CV and application history.” But if we know our rights, it won’t! For those who are already getting pressure to register, here’s information on how to protect your privacy.
Alongside this, the Policy Exchange has formed a policy and academic group dedicated to this project. This workfare thinktank is also seeking suggestions and has a form to fill out here. These lovely folks kindly invite comments ‘on a personal basis’ for Matthew Oakley at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Policy Exchange’s official closing date for this ‘exercise’, as it’s known in its vile trade, was 22 February. However, it’s likely that Mr Oakley will be open to more informal comments at the email address above.
Suggestions, they want? Those of us likely to be on the sharp end of this stick could tell them what we think. Let ’em have it!