Friday, 5 October 2012

Tories cut jobs – then increase penalties for unemployment!

Government's New Sanctions Regime for the Unemployed

Workers in Jobcentres around the country will be trained up in the government's new sanctions regime over the next few months, ahead of their implementation on October 22nd. These include much harsher penalties for claimants who fail to follow directions, forget to attend meetings or when advisers doubt that claimants are available for work or are “actively seeking” work.

Penalties for all of the above are being increased from one or two weeks to an automatic four weeks for the first offence. Second offences will carry an additional sanction of 13 weeks. New sanctions will also apply to people claiming Employment Support Allowance, involving open-ended suspension from benefits as well as a fixed period penalty up to a maximum of four weeks.

Leaving a job or being sacked for “misconduct” (a flexible concept with some employers) entail an automatic thirteen week sanction under the new regime.

Capping the government's plans is a 3 year sanction – three years of exclusion from benefits – for those who commit three “higher level” offences; sacked for misconduct, leaving voluntarily, failure to participate in mandatory work activity, neglecting to avail of an employment opportunity or refusing / failing to apply for a job.

With Slasher Osborne already moving to freeze benefits for two years, and thereafter to remove the link with inflation, all of these measures are about saving money, not about encouraging people to look for work. Staff on the training day I attended expressed indignation that yet again the government was simply trying to bludgeon people out of the benefits system.

Much of the education and training offered is held in low regard by DWP staff, by claimants and by employers, and many of the jobs being touted are short term, involve work in difficult conditions and/or come with piddling salaries that even augmented with tax credits and housing benefit are hard to live on. Both of those, by the way, have been recently cut, and housing benefit is to face, apart from tighter caps, a further 10% cut by 2014.