How to work the benefit system…

Posted: February 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

by HarpyMarx

There are benefit scroungers who exploit the system but not the ones politicians and the right-wing media say it is. The mounted hysteria that points the collective finger at the unemployed and disabled. No, it’s corporate capitalism, big business. Most readers of this blog would say, “Duh! You don’t say”… But a powerful media peddles a lie where alternative voices are silenced or just ignored. “We have a deficit”, they cry and “tough choices have to be made”… So the constant drip-drip-drip lies saturate the morning papers with the drip-drip-drip whispers of “benefit cheats”, benefit scroungers”, “benefit cheats live in a mansion”, “disabled benefit cheat not really disabled”… “benefit cheats living off the tax payer”… then the whispers build up into an almighty crescendo of hate. That’s how lies are perpetuated.

Obviously, we don’t see headlines splashed with the “rich tax evader living in a mansion at the tax payer’s expense”. Scapegoating is about demonising the powerless not the powerful. Distract people from the bleeding obvious to point the finger at the already vilified.

On the other hand the story still in the shadows is the taxpayer funded gravy train that is the Work Programme. People on Employment and Support Allowance are now getting called to work focussed interviews. The first anecdotal evidence accords with the recent Guardian article. The interviews and the support offered is little more than a session of being moralised at. Often this is done in a group session so as to save the Work Programme provider company as much money as possible. Little seems to be on offer of practical assistance such as provision of free or cheap broadband, transport to interviews etc. There seems to be little interest in either what discovering people have to offer or what are the real obstacles that people face.

The structure of the Work Programme with long chains of prime contractors, a middle “wholesale” level of contractors and then further subcontractors who are supposed to do the supporting all taking a cut. It seems an expensive way of getting a group of people together to receive a dumbed down lecture consisting of bits and pieces of culture of dependency theory.

Perhaps the Taxpayers Alliance would be interested in checking out how much is paid out in management overheads along the Work Programme supply chain?

So what of JSA? The future is workfare. The future is unpaid labour.
The approach seems to be a turbo-charging of the way the Flexible New Deal was being used to restructure the bottom end of the labour market. In particular there is a pressure put on people to accept 16 to 20 hours work each week. People are told off for wanting full-time jobs. The reason for this pressure is simple. In the world of social security and tax credits 16 or more hours each week counts as full-time work. A person working 16 hours each week can claim JSA. They lose entitlement to this benefit once they work 16 hours each week. Instead they may become entitled to tax credits.

For example say there is 80 hours worth of work going at the local chicken plucking factory. If you get employment for 2 people you only get two people back into work and only collect two lots of payments from the government for reducing the JSA count. If you split the work into 5 lots of 16 hours each week you collect 5 payments from the government.

Now if two people on minimum wage start working 40 hours each week they will be paying tax and national insurance and doing their bit for reducing the deficit. They will be two extra ragged trousered philanthropists channeling money back to the bankers. Their tax credit/housing benefit and council tax benefit entitlements are also much reduced.

The five people working 16 hours each week pay no tax or national insurance between them. They may well be getting a relatively large amount of housing benefit and council tax benefit.

This is the real way to work the benefits system: get yourself a Work Programme contract. Spend some of your plush salary on a photo of Charles Murray to worship.

What is either ignored and hidden away in a liberal leaning newspaper is the realities of this continued class war, such as, “Councils fail to spend thousands earmarked for housing poor tenants” or Local Authority’s cutting social care, rationed or withdrawn completely (this began to happen under NL). Birmingham Council, for example, changed the criteria for care as “super critical” but backed down after protest however will still increase its threshold from substantial to critical. It is nothing more than a cut cutting exercise that puts disabled people at risk. See this report about Elaine McDonald to illustrate the barbarity of these cuts.

So there you have it, private companies making a quick buck in profits while the powerless get shafted and blamed…..

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