The government has announced the next phase of roll outs for Universal Credit, along with changes to the jobseeker’s agreement, which will now become Claimant Commitment, and the announcement of pilots of workfare for in work claimants.
Universal Credit, which was supposed to launch in April in the North West, and then roll out nationally in October will now only be started in 10 job centres, and only for single people on JSA. The delay in the roll out amounts to an admittance that the project is failing, probably under the weight of a doubly complex IT project, the kind of thing that governments have shown themselves to be unable to manage in the past, with things like the NHS computer system being expensive flops.
Claimants in Birmingham will not face being pushed onto Universal Credit, the implementation of which spells disaster for many claimants, who will struggle to find advice now that the Birmingham Law Centre has closed and the CAB has cut its offices and hours as it tries to cope with increased workloads and cuts in funding. The CAB has said that 90% of claimants are unprepared for the reforms coming their way.
The inability of the DWP to get this policy in place or to run pilots that include the most complex cases shows that the project is failing and that it should be abandoned.
Unfortunately, the new Claimant Commitment will be rolled out nationally. This will see jobseekers made to do 35 hours of job search each and every week. Some weeks this is fine and no problems, but there is no way that anyone can look and apply for jobs for 35 hours week in, week out – there just aren’t enough jobs out there. So claimants will be forced to “volunteer” in order to make sure they make their hours each week and don’t join the two and a quarter million people who have had their money stopped by the jobcentre. Workfare just got a little bit more subtle.
Not only did it get more subtle, but it’s also expanding:
Ten in-work conditionality pilots will test how to best encourage claimants to progress in work.
No details of the pilots but you know that at least one will involve forcing people to work for free on workfare programs. This may see someone who works part time in a workfare profiteering shop like Marks and Spencers or Poundland doing their job for free for the rest of the week. It may also see jobcentre advisors sanctioning their part time colleagues for not doing enough to get more hours or find a full time job. It’s not clear how this will work, given that those on working tax credits won’t be in Universal Credit yet, but that little detail won’t stop the DWP.
Join the Boycott Workfare week of action, and the picket of Marks and Spencers in Birmingham on Saturday. Help stop workfare, help to defend our social security.