This week the ONS has officially confirmed that people on workfare schemes are not being counted as unemployed. We now know how the government is able to claim that unemployment has fallen by 50,000. Against shamefully scant critical media coverage this week, Minister for Employment Mark Hoban proudly announced that as of this week for ‘failing to do something’, such as work unpaid for Argos, people will now face up to three year sanctions.
The UK makes its citizens carry out forced unpaid work on threat of destitution – for private companies such as Poundland, which has seen a vast increase in its profits. No wonder Argos have been keen to get involved.
Sanctions have tripled since this government came into power and the use of food banks has rocketed. The new sanctions regime, with its threat of a maximum three year penalty, has massive implications for poverty levels in the UK and tears up the social contract. This makes the lack of critical media coverage truly shameful. Almost as shameful as the Labour Party supporting the idea. Whilst those struggling to find work are denied a right to welfare, it ís a different story for those organisations eager to be subsidised by state and taxpayer. Which takes us back to Argos.
Argos and Barnados, both profiting from workfare and so promoting this government’s austerity drive, are now working together and have launched the ‘Toy Exchange programme’. In return for your old toys, Argos will give you a £5 voucher, which can be redeemed only if you spend another £35. Argos is a business in trouble. It is closing 75 stores, and judging by the number of reports of mass workfare in its stores, forcing people to work unpaid appears to be a key part of its business plan. Whilst this joint venture is a nice little money spinner for Argos and Barnardos, who will end up doing all the work for this scheme for no wages with the threat of a three year sanction?
Not to be left off the state subsidised gravy train, the lobbyists appear to have had the ear of banker and self appointed welfare expert Lord Freud. He has asked companies to tender to deliver ‘budgeting help‘ for people moved onto Universal Credit. Between £80 and £145 hundred million is to be made available for companies to help claimants manage their budgets. If current form is anything to go by, this will mean the likes of A4e who missed its Work Programme targets and received a £46 million payout from the tax payer, whilst now threatening people with three year sanctions, will also end up telling people how to spend their money. A cynic might suggest that this money could perhaps also be used to prop up companies struggling to make the failing Work Programme profitable. But then workfare and welfare reform were never about getting people into work. Just ask A4e or Argos and follow the money.