Fit to work, but can’t work


1:52 pm - July 14th 2009

by Don Paskini    


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The FT reports:

More than two-thirds of applicants for sickness benefits are being rejected under a new testing regime, casting doubt on the validity of 2.6m existing claimants deemed unfit for work. According to data seen by several welfare industry figures, up to 90 per cent of applicants are being judged able to work in some regions and placed on unemployment rolls rather than long-term ill-health benefits.


About 65 per cent of applications for incapacity benefit were approved until it was replaced last autumn – suggesting the chances of passing and failing have been reversed under the new ill-health benefit, the “employment and support allowance”.

Between 2010-2013, all existing claimants of incapacity benefit will have these tests.

Lord Freud, the Tory spokesman on welfare, said:

These are remarkable figures. The tragedy is that it has taken so long to tighten the system, with the effect that hundreds of thousands of people have been locked into long-term dependency.

Just think this one through…

The first result of this new policy is that people will receive lower benefits, because Jobseekers’ Allowance pays less than Employment and Support Allowance. So the new system is taking money from some of the poorest people in our society. (£95.15/week for the higher rate of ESA, compared to £64.30/week for JSA).

According to Freud, that’s fine, because rather than being ‘locked into long-term dependency’, people will be empowered to be able to get a job, and being in work is better for your health, not to mention your bank balance, than being unemployed.

But at a time when unemployment is rising, it is a simple matter of fact that the overwhelming majority of these people won’t be able to get a job. Paying people Jobseekers’ Allowance and requiring them to look for work does not, in fact, create new jobs. Although one side effect is that it will increase the unemployment figures by up to 1.8 million (if the rejection rate of existing claimants is the same as that of new claimants) over the next four years.

The irony is that the taxpayer doesn’t even save any money from reducing the benefit bill. Carrying out these Work Capability Assessments costs money, over £1 billion. Then Job Centre Plus advisers have to be paid to give Work Focused Interviews to people claiming JSA. After six months, private companies get be paid to enrol them in the Flexible New Deal, and paid again to help them search for jobs (and paid again should they actually find a job, and paid again if the person stays in the job for 6 months or more).

There’s clearly a problem with the current welfare system, and many people receiving sickness benefits could, in the right circumstances, work. But the welfare reforms won’t create the jobs which people with health problems could do. Instead, they are taking from the poor and giving to public sector bureaucrats and private companies which are dependent on corporate welfare.

According to Lord Freud, the way to make people independent is to pay them less money and require them to comply with whatever their adviser tells them to do. It’s a very odd definition of ‘independence’.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


Queue trolls saying that all people out of work are lazy not sick in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.…….

Well we need to know a bit more about the tests, don’t we?

Troll

Definition: someone who doesn’t agree with Sally

So do you want an increase in JSA, or do you think that this move should have happened 10 years ago, in the boom?

Firstly “all people out of work” are not sick, some are simply out of work – whether they’re lazy or not.

Secondly if we believe in transparency (certainly in vogue) then shouldn’t we place these (1.8 million) people on the correct list. I can imagine that for various planning reasons it would be useful to know whether they are in fact sick or simply unemployed.

6. Shatterface

We’ve had decades where people physically and mentally capable of working were shunted onto other benefits in order to keep them off the unemployment figures. We knew this under the Tories and we criticised them for doing it – then Labour got into power and continued the policy and the Left fell silent.

This situation had to be corrected sooner or later.

‘But at a time when unemployment is rising, it is a simple matter of fact that the overwhelming majority of these people won’t be able to get a job. Paying people Jobseekers’ Allowance and requiring them to look for work does not, in fact, create new jobs.’

The fact that there are few jobs out there is a seperate issue to whether people should be excused LOOKING for work, which is the condition for claiming JSA (hence the name).

‘Although one side effect is that it will increase the unemployment figures by up to 1.8 million (if the rejection rate of existing claimants is the same as that of new claimants) over the next four years.’

Exactly – there’s no electoral advantage in redefining people as ‘unemployed’, is there?

It makes the government look like the government fucked the economy up even worse than they have done, which kinda takes the wind from the sails of those claiming this reclassification is done for purely political reasons.

Actually, being in work IS better for your health. The Social Market Foundation (Westminster wonks) did some research on this last year, and they found that keeping people in the workplace when they are suffering from health problems such as stress and depression is in fact much more likely to keep them off benefits in the long run. Falling out of the workplace for more than a few weeks often leads to someone going onto benefits for a considerable period of time. Physical disabilities are obviously a different matter, but do not assume for one second that going onto benefits is the right solution for everyone with an illness.

http://www.smf.co.uk/shifting-responsibilities.html

I have some experience of the culture of keeping people on Incapacity Benefit by government agencies and it stems from the flaws of gateway benefits, where if you take away one the whole house of cards collapses.

I’m all for the tightening of the rules, I saw plenty of abuse first hand working at JC+ as a freelance advisor or with Connexions or YOT teams; much of it centred around not wanting a fuss, also staff were poorly trained to deal with the issues at hand.

Thanks as ever for comments.

2 – more info about work capability assessments at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/FinancialSupport/esa/DG_172012

4 – interesting question. The current system does need to change (though rather than just going back 10 years, many of the roots of the problem are in the 1980s when the Thatcher government used incapacity benefit as a way of reducing unemployment figures).

One of the things about the current system is that people get more money if they can get sickness benefits than if they get JSA, so in principle I’d be quite interested in removing the financial incentive and equalising the benefits to the same level (though working out what that level should be is quite difficult!)

More generally, I think the whole approach about ‘personal responsibility’ is (at best) insufficient. If you want to get people off benefit and into work, the key thing is to create the jobs for them to do, which pay enough for people to live with dignity, which are flexible, and with supporting services such as affordable childcare and transport. It doesn’t matter how much jobsearch, training or whatever people do if there are not enough jobs. The USA had all the welfare reforms in the mid 90s, but their unemployment rate now is 9.5%.

5 – “if we believe in transparency (certainly in vogue) then shouldn’t we place these (1.8 million) people on the correct list”, yes in principle, but if the price of doing this is depriving people of a third of their income and forcing them to do intrusive and humiliating tests, at a high cost to the taxpayer, then it is not such a good idea.

forcing them to do intrusive and humiliating tests

Of course not.

Or are you suggesting that any test is “intrusive and humiliating”?

7 – “being in work IS better for your health”

Depends on the job. As the SMF report that you linked to says, “employers should be encouraged to take on responsibility for the provision of appropriate support and advocates a range of mechanisms which the government should explore to offer effective incentives.”

Working for an employer who doesn’t understand or care about the mental health problems which their employees might have can be much worse for your health than not working.

12. Shatterface

‘One of the things about the current system is that people get more money if they can get sickness benefits than if they get JSA, so in principle I’d be quite interested in removing the financial incentive and equalising the benefits to the same level (though working out what that level should be is quite difficult!)’

It goes without saying that discrepancy is indefensible.
‘More generally, I think the whole approach about ‘personal responsibility’ is (at best) insufficient. If you want to get people off benefit and into work, the key thing is to create the jobs for them to do, which pay enough for people to live with dignity, which are flexible, and with supporting services such as affordable childcare and transport. It doesn’t matter how much jobsearch, training or whatever people do if there are not enough jobs.’

Again, no argument from me – but this applies just as much for those already on JSA and has nothing at all to do with shifting people off ESA and onto JSA. The issue is whether many of those previously categorised as incapable of work by the government purely to fiddle the unemployment statistics should now be looking for work (albeit during a recession) just like any other capable person.

“but if the price of doing this is depriving people of a third of their income”

But if they’re on the wrong list then their income is also wrong; explain to an unemployed person why some other person in exactly the same situation should get more.

And, it’s not just about “principle”, I repeat my point about planning – 1.8 million is a big number – do you budget for these people in education (job training etc) or health; we need to know.

“The USA … unemployment rate now is 9.5%” – and what is ours? does anybody know because it certainly isn’t the headline rate is it?

if the price of doing this is depriving people of a third of their income

Who says it’s “their income?” Talk of ‘depriving’ someone of something (or ‘taking from the poor’) strongly suggests that it is rightfully theirs in the first place. And of course, whether people who are able to work are right to claim disability benefits is an open question…

Don,

I understand your concern that people who are currently receiving a thoroughly indequate £95.15/week will be reduced to receiving an even more thoroughly inadequate £64.30/week which is obviously a bad thing but then your argument gets a bit indistinct.

You point out that unemployment is rising anyway and that many of those forced onto JSA won’t be able to find work. Perhaps not, but at least there would now be an expectation that they should look. It may be the case that both JSA and incapacity benefit are far too low but, it is certainly perverse that some of those who could work but don’t are expected to look for work and others are not. It is more perverse still that it is the ones who are not required to look for work receive more benefits than those who are.

Naturally, this presumes that the bar for disability was set too low before and that it is now set at the right level – this is certainly arguable but this does not seem to be part of your case.

You seem aggrieved that this reduction in benefits won’t even result in a saving to the exchequer because a number of private sector organisations will then be paid money to find work for the people removed from incapacity benefit and placed on JSA.

Personally, I struggle to see what is so bad about people being helped to find work. Moreover, I fail to see the problem with paying the people who help the unemployed to find jobs on the basis of results. Certainly, the alternatives (doing nothing to help the unemployed find work or paying those employed to help people into jobs irrespective of whether anyone gets a job) seem difficult to support.

Your argument that these reforms will not create jobs seems to be somewhat at odds with the notion that the benefits saved will be given to an army of new bureaucrats but even that is to assume that the game is zero sum – that all of the cost saving goes to the bureaucrats – or their shareholders. But, unless the government’s sums are wrong (a distinct possibility admittedly) the money saved will not all go on administering the consequences of the shift. This will leave more money left over for other things that government does that do create jobs.

Finally, I just don’t believe that asking an additional 1.8million people actively to seek work will not result in some of them finding it. And this does not mean that they get one of the limited number of jobs in a strictly finite pool. Job creation is a virtuous circle – every person who gets a job not only goes from being a drain on the exchequer to a net contributor but, by raising their disposable income, they increase their disposable income and thus the number of goods and services they can buy – which supports other jobs.

Since you don’t put forward an alternative, I don’t know what you would prefer. You surely don’t imagine that it would be better to support the current system with its acknowledged unfairness on the grounds that it prevents the (relatively) privileged recipients of IB from competing with existing JSA recipients for jobs (at the cost of assuming that they will never find work).

My most positive reading is that you think that the money saved from the change to the benefit system would be better spent on job creation for those who are ill than on measures to help those who are able to work to find it. If this is the case, I’d be interested to hear about how you think that jobs could be created. But what it really sounds like is that you are arguing for more benefits as an acknowledgment that those removed from the ranks of the sick will never find work. That is not only fiscally improbable in current circumstances – but it takes a pretty pessimistic view of the ability of the poorest to do better.

Other people have addressed some of this since I started but I would just suggest that there is a reason why IB is higher than JSA – the presumption with IB that you are genuinely unable to work and that this may be permanent. It is therefore necessary to pay claimants an amount they can be expected to live on (the fact that the current rate of IB is so low is perhaps partly a reflection of the number of people claiming it is too high. If only the genuinely sick were on it then it would politically and financially cheaper to raise it). The underlying presumption of JSA is that it is a temporary situation and that the payment should be low enough to encourage people to look for work. Again, it would politically easier to raise it if the public did not suspect that many of the people claiming it were perfectly happy doing so and making little effort to find work.

16. Shatterface

‘Working for an employer who doesn’t understand or care about the mental health problems which their employees might have can be much worse for your health than not working’

And a single parent working for an unsympathetic employer might find they are inflexible regarding their employee’s parenting responsibilities, but the government’s responsibility in both cases is to provide in-work support ensure that employers make reasonable adjustments, not decide that the employee is better off not working.

#14

“Who says it’s “their income?”

Well, if it’s “coming” “in” to “them”, I think it’s fair to call it “their income”. Unless you’re suggesting that we apply the same rule to people “earning” six-figure sums, so they only get paid for the portion of their work deemed socially useful, and we top up the income of people whose entire job is socially useful but earn very little.

In the last couple of years we’ve had seven figure immigration

We have 2.5 million on invalidity benefit or suchlike

When I was at school the telephone exchange operator at the local hospital was an invalid – he had no arms.

17

Well, if it’s “coming” “in” to “them”, I think it’s fair to call it “their income”. Unless you’re suggesting that we apply the same rule to people “earning” six-figure sums, so they only get paid for the portion of their work deemed socially useful, and we top up the income of people whose entire job is socially useful but earn very little.

I guess it depends if the people ‘earning’ six figure sums are doing so by expropriating the products of other people’s labour; if we’re talking about Fred Goodwin, I suspect we’d agree. Others, perhaps not so much. As for ‘socially useful’ work, is this the standard usage of ‘social’ which serves to negate whatever it is prefixed to? Or does the term have some determinate content apart from ‘what tim f personally thinks is useful?’

Pushing people off the dole and onto the sick is a Tory policy. It was used to hide the huge umemployment figures of the Thatcher and Major years.

Also, sick people who get benefits have to give back some of that when they get a low paying part time job. Maybe Boris should give back his salary for Mayor seeing as he is taking £250,000 off the Torygraph. Or maybe all those Tory Mps with outside interests could give back their salaries and expenses seeing as they are making thousand in the private sector.

Silly Sally, its rules for thee and not for me with the Tories.

The thing to remember here is that a new fitness to work test and resultant increased failure rate (if that’s actually what it is, more later) does not necessarily mean that there were loads of people who were capable of working all along, it just means that there are a lot of people who would pass one type of assessment but not another. Sounds obvious but it needs saying.

It’s also fair to say that whether a person is ‘incapable of work’ is very much an artificial construction. As right wingers are fond of saying, pretty much anyone can pick up litter but is that the test we should be applying?

As far as I know there has been no evaluation of whether either old or new test really does reflect an ability to work in the real world, in fact what both do is to examine the ability to carry out a series of tasks, giving scores for each and the total score decides whether that person is incapable of work. In other words the test is no more than a proxy for ability to work with debatable effectiveness.

So, is the story that lots of people are being refused benefit when before they were simply passed onto a lifetime of DWP funded riches? Not quite.

The key difference between ESA and IB is that, under the old system, you were either capable or incapable of work. The former meant JSA the latter IB. Under ESA the assessment is supposed to work out whether you have LIMITED capability for work and, if so, whether it’s reasonable to expect you to work. It also has to decide whether you can carry out ‘work related activity’, if you can’t you get a higher rate of benefit and you don’t have to take part in work focused interviews and the like. In effect, this is the only category of claimants the new system accepts are totally incapable of work. If you don’t come under this category you get a lower rate of benefit and a lower rate still (same as JSA) if you refuse to take part in the work related activity.

Now, bearing this in mind, what figures are the FT reporting? Are they reporting the numbers of people who are being refused ESA altogether ie their ability to work is not limited, or those who have been refused the higher ‘support’ rate? If the latter it’s probably not too surprising, if the former it’s somewhat alarming. I honestly don’t know as I’ve not seen the article myself.

Of course, one result of these changes is that there will be great many more appeals as there are more decisions to appeal against. Good result.

As for DHG’s opinion that there is a lot of abuse in the system, I saw it from the other side with 14 years of advising claimants in various welfare rights agencies. I saw a great many people initially refused benefit who were eventually awarded it on appeal. Sometimes it was because of a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the medical assessment authorities. Tightening up the rules won’t stop that, just make the consequences worse for more people.

Hi George,

Interesting stuff.

“it is certainly perverse that some of those who could work but don’t are expected to look for work and others are not. It is more perverse still that it is the ones who are not required to look for work receive more benefits than those who are.”

Agree with that. But I think that the solution of ‘levelling down’ benefits is worse than the problem.

“Naturally, this presumes that the bar for disability was set too low before and that it is now set at the right level – this is certainly arguable but this does not seem to be part of your case.”

No one knows if the test is set at the right level now. It will be interesting to see how many appeals are successful. I think it is reasonable to conclude that ATOS healthcare (who have the contract for Work Capability Assessments) are more likely to find people fit for work than GPs were – the true figure is probably somewhere between the two.

Worth noting that there is a differential impact here – if they give it to someone who isn’t entitled, then the worst that happens is that they get an extra 30 quid a week, if they refuse it to someone who is too sick to work, then that person risks being forced into taking a job which they are not well enough to do.

“Personally, I struggle to see what is so bad about people being helped to find work. Moreover, I fail to see the problem with paying the people who help the unemployed to find jobs on the basis of results. Certainly, the alternatives (doing nothing to help the unemployed find work or paying those employed to help people into jobs irrespective of whether anyone gets a job) seem difficult to support.”

A partial answer is http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2008/12/04/four-facts-about-welfare-reform/#more-1707

“the money saved will not all go on administering the consequences of the shift. This will leave more money left over for other things that government does that do create jobs.”

The upfront costs are greater than the savings in the short term (according to the government).

“I just don’t believe that asking an additional 1.8million people actively to seek work will not result in some of them finding it. And this does not mean that they get one of the limited number of jobs in a strictly finite pool…by raising their disposable income, they increase their disposable income and thus the number of goods and services they can buy – which supports other jobs.”

The latter point cuts both ways, by cutting the income of IB claimants by a third, you reduce the number of goods and services that they can buy. I don’t know of anyone who claims that unemployment will be reduced over the next, say, 5 years by requiring more people to look for work – the reason unemployment is high and rising is not because there are not enough people looking for work.

“Since you don’t put forward an alternative, I don’t know what you would prefer…But what it really sounds like is that you are arguing for more benefits as an acknowledgment that those removed from the ranks of the sick will never find work.”

This really requires another article (or a book!), but quickly:

– there are some better ways of supporting people, e.g. reforming the commissioning system so that voluntary and community groups rooted in local communities provide the services rather than just large, private companies.

– but the main policy focus needs to be “supply side”, i.e. making sure there are more and better jobs, rather than trying to force people into chasing the inadequate number of unsuitable jobs that are currently available, e.g. a massive expansion in the number and pay of caring jobs which would (a) directly create new jobs and (b) increase productivity across the workforce and (c) remove the barriers to employment which parents and carers face; plus making sure that employers know how to get the best out of employees with mental health problems, rather than seeing them as a threat or a burden.

Hope that’s helpful – much more if you’ve got other questions 🙂

23. Mike Killingworth

[7] How the f*ck can being in work be better for my health?

I presume you mean [i]paid[/i] employment. Here’s a fact for you. Any putative employer who says they’d rather pay for me the work I do for them than have me do it for nothing is a liar. A vicious, damnable liar.

And if they’ll lie to me about that, what else are they lying about?

How can being in the presence of a liar who has power over me possibly be good for my health?

[23] I can appreciate a good rant but I appreciate it even more when I can understand it.

25. Mike Killingworth

[24] And which long, obscure words do you not understand, Sli?

“And which long, obscure words do you not understand, Sli?”

All of it I would guess. Non too bright the trolls on here.

Oh I understand all the words just not necessarily in that order.

There’s clearly a problem with the current welfare system, and many people receiving sickness benefits could, in the right circumstances, work. But the welfare reforms won’t create the jobs which people with health problems could do. Instead, they are taking from the poor and giving to public sector bureaucrats and private companies which are dependent on corporate welfare.

It’s simple: David Freud thinks that you can cut the IB levels down to 1979 because that’s what the figure was then. If it means devising a test so that most ‘fail’ (see the patching up of wounded/shell-shocked soldiers in WW1) and hoping that they either get a job (win!) or get thrown off JSA for ‘not trying hard enough’ (win-win!), or they fail a lie-detector test (hat-trick win!) then I don’t think either Yvette Copper or her Tory oppo will lose much sleep.

Absolutely shocking. To approach this question in a way as if the actual eligibility of these people for the benefit is not an issue.

Tax money is earned by people who go out to work, often hard and for little reward. And some people are clearly willing to just kick them in the teeth and give money to those who are basically prepared to abuse the generosity of others.

The bankruptcy of left wing morality never fails to shock, how ever often one hears it.

Effort, hard work, honesty and support for others is wrong – lying and laziness must be pandered to.

Well sally can you explain a) why I’m a troll and b) what I’ve said above that is factually incorrect.

“2Effort, hard work, honesty and support for others is wrong – lying and laziness must be pandered to.”

So your are agianst private bankers then I take it? They are liars, and lazy, and would not know hard work and honesty if it smacked them in the face.

Painstakingly thought out argument Sally: just how many of the several thousand people in the banking industry do you know?

James:

Tax money is earned by people who go out to work, often hard and for little reward. And some people are clearly willing to just kick them in the teeth and give money to those who are basically prepared to abuse the generosity of others.

Oh dear, it’s the ‘they’re all swinging the lead’ argument that has underpinned almost every approach to welfare reform over the last 30 years. Presumably the people who worked hard and/or got injured or ill should be kicked in the teeth instead to ensure that taxpayer’s money doesn’t get spent on anyone they deem to be malingering scum, rather then given financial support until their circumstances change or improve.

1)Tax money is earned by people who go out to work
2)often hard and for little reward.
3)some people are prepared to abuse the generosity of others.

Which of the above statements is false redpesto

where did ‘they’re all swinging the lead’ come from?

some / all

35. Alisdair Cameron

Look, key to this is the testing system.
The new system is too often carried out by those (private sector firms from abroad with no knowledge of local circumstnces etc) with no, or next to no qualifications to do any kind of a medical assessment. They are also incentivised to turn down claimants.A fair system? Not if any assumption is made before evidence is examined.
Thus it becomes even more of a lottery who gets what: lead-swingers will still pull the wool over the eyes of these assessors, while those with serious, but fluctuating conditions (eg MS, schizophrenia) get no assistance.

James – you raised the idea of ”those who are basically prepared to abuse the generosity of others’ . Any system that distributes public money ought to vigilant about auditing that it goes to the right people, but there is a difference between failed applications and people trying to cheat. The latter may only be a tiny minority, but the system cannot be premised on using them as definitive of the whole – your original post made no such ‘some/all’ distinction. (See also the endless benefit fraud campaigns compared to say the silence re. tax evasion)

redpesto, although I’m sure James is perfectly capable of defending himself, it was I who wrote the the post you’re responding to.

I’m glad you agree that we should be vigilant with public funds.

Difference between failed applications and people trying to cheat: of course there is, it’s self evident, though the two are not of course mutually exclusive.

The latter may be a tiny minority – probably is but whether we’re talking cheats or failed applications that’s the crux of the problem, the post talks about re-assigning 1.8 million, i personally don’t know but I’m just maintaining that we should make an effort to get it right – for everybody’s sake.

and actually, James did use the word “some”

Fair do’s re my misreading, sli – James’ ‘some’ isn’t in relation to the people abusing the system, however.

Don,

Your four things

1 “Cutting benefit on the say so of a bureaucrat with very little right to appeal.” Following a test, applicants are allocated to the appropriate benefit regime. Making sure people receive the level of benefit allotted by our democratic government is not the same as cutting benefit in the sense of reducing the JSA. And, if you don’t have bureaucrats making decisions about benefit then who does? The applicant? their MP? their Mum?

2 “The creation of a ‘multi-billion pound market’ in welfare services,” markets are good at some things and bad at others and the design of the market matters a great deal but they are not inherently evil. Assuming that it is designed properly, the market in welfare services will provide both incentives and information. If it turns out to be easy to find jobs for people, the placement companies will make large profits. The government will see this when the companies publish their accounts and will be able to turn down the incentive rates. If it turns out to be hard to find people jobs then very little money changes hands. And what’s with the reference to “companies from all over the world”? Should British jobs for British workers only be allocated by British recruitment companies? If a Chinese owned company is really good at getting the unemployed into work then they are providing us with a valuable service do you begrudge them the profit from this valuable service because they are Chinese? If so, why?

3 “Making it much harder for small, community-based voluntary sector groups which work with the most disadvantaged people to get funding to help support them to get jobs and skills.” A potentially serious problem but you don’t say why it should be so. If community based voluntary sector groups are so good at supporting people into work then their low cost base and reluctance to take profits might make them ideally placed to pick up lots of this work. And, if they are good at it then they would make huge surplusses that could be reinvested in ever more support. I can see that there might be bureaucratic obstacles (of the type that disadvantage credit unions, say) but you don’t say what they are.

4 Point taken but, although that makes it likelier that the report will be flawed, it doesn’t mean that it must be. Pointing out that the author is an investment banker is simply an ad hominem. He might be odious – not only an investment banker but also unkind to his mother and possessed of god-awful BO – but that is not out concern here. Our concern is what is wrong with his report.

@ 23 Any Mike Killingworth who tells you that he would rather pay for his weekly shopping than have Tesco deliver it to him for nothing is fibbing through his teeth.

And if he is fibbing about that then goodness knows what else he is fibbing about

How can the presence of such a fibber improve the debate?

Do you see?

Good piece, Don.

What you have now is what a GP I was talking to (about 4 years ago) said would happen. You are talking the healthcare of a person out of the hands of those who know them and into, as he called it, a machine.

I can say – and I have never seen a GP so angry in my life, he hated those “dr’s” who would undermine GPs by saying that a person was capable of work when – in the eyes of the GP – was clearly not capable of work. Yet – and this is what it all comes down to – it is a matter that the government want to ‘save’ money by spending more money. But rather than putting it into the hands of those who need it they put it into the hands of corporations who will have said that they can fine X amount of people work. Even when there isn’t work.

Successive Tory governments, this one being the worst, look upon those incapable of work as a bane on society that they just wish would go away. Irrelevant the fact that a lot, majority, of new claimants have paid their income taxes and NI contributions for a number of years – once you are on the sick you are vilified for being a lazy bastard and it is about time you pulled up your boot straps and got on with it – great Victorianism – but idiotic in the world today.

Yet you have to note who are making these claims in the press, for that is where this comes from – News International, The Daily Mail – right-wing rags of certain dubious reputation. Once the right-wing middle class gets their minds around this it is they who carp on about it until the poor are raped of the last vestiges of any dignity – which is exactly what they want.

What I would like to happen, call it a wish-list, is that a large number of those middle-class lose their jobs and have to go through the humiliation that they have dictated the lower paid, working poor and poor have to go through. I can’t see it happening – but if they have to live under such draconian laws whereby you have to leap through hoops to get a child fed, I would like to see how they cope after 3/6 months down the line. I oft wonder how many would be claiming a mental breakdown due to the stress.

41. Richard (the original)

“So your are agianst private bankers then I take it? They are liars, and lazy, and would not know hard work and honesty if it smacked them in the face.”

Actually they tend to work very long hours, otherwise they wouldn’t get paid as much as they do. This silly comment is further evidence that you are a wind-up character.

“What I would like to happen, call it a wish-list, is that a large number of those middle-class lose their jobs and have to go through the humiliation that they have dictated the lower paid”

That is actually happening to a lot of City workers in the recession.

42. Mike Killingworth

[39] The old and disreputable maneouvre of trying to assimilate labour market contracts to contractual transactions generally. Here are three reasons I can think of immediately why this is not a reasonable or honourable way to proceed:

First, imagine a society in which parents were by law required to put the interests of their first-born ahead of all subsequent children. I don’t think that any of us would want to live in such a society, or suppose that in it anyone was a “good” parent to any but their first-born. In fact – if we just change “first-born” to “shareholder” and “other children” to “employee” that’s exactly the law we do have. And while it’s true that not all employers are PLCs it’s also the case that other employers increasingly seek to ape PLC’s behaviour in season and out.

Second, the fairness of a contractual transaction is predicated upon a rough equality of power between buyer and seller. This is not true of the labour market, where buyers will go, as they always have, to whatever lengths are necessary to ensure that there are more people seeking jobs than there are jobs for them to fill.

Third, there are several words to describe employers who continue to provide “British jobs for British workers” in the deepest recession for a generation – rather than outsourcing them to the subcontinent or recruiting on a self-employed basis – the “labour only subcontractor” or lump labourer who has been a staple of the construction industry since God knows when but who is increasingly becoming the model in many other sectors. These words tend to start with an “i” – inefficient, incompetent, idiotic etc

The collapse of “actually existing socialism” in the 1980s is not, in and of itself, a refutation of Marx’s critique of the ethics of capitalist labour markets.

In the absence of such a refutation, those who suppose that labour market transactions are fair and reasonable, let alone desirable, are indeed the worst kind of liar – the kind who lies to themselves. Unless of course, they actually have sold their soul to the devil…

43. Alisdair Cameron

ATOS (the assessing firm) was severely criticised by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, yet still got the contract. Their ‘medical’ examinations are risible, and even Labour MPs (not noted for questioning central party diktat) question their suitability, yet still they have the huge contract (much like those shysters A4e still get contracts despite providing piss-poor support for people to get back into work).
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-07-19c.84388.h

@ George V (39)

Assuming that it is designed properly, the market in welfare services will provide both incentives and information

That’s one huge assumption, given that nobody has developed a functional, fair and efficient, market in welfare services. There’s been the flogging off of state monopolies to become private monoplies, racketeering and hardship galore ensuing, but no markets and this ain’t one either.
Which leads to

If community based voluntary sector groups are so good at supporting people into work then their low cost base and reluctance to take profits might make them ideally placed to pick up lots of this work

Yup, but a market, with a level playing field isn’t waht this Govt wants. It loves the PR-heavy, well-connected, crony-infested big providers, and still loves huge ‘clean’ block contracts, rather than tailored solutions for localities, and so puts up insurmountable bureaucratic and financial obstacles to the clued-up effective, smaller-scale, more responsive providers. After all there will be directorships going with the likes of A4e and ATOS in the pipeline, and isn’t it simpler (though hugely wasteful, ineffective and borderline corrupt) just to palm off the problem en bloc to a large concern?

Its important to remember that these proposals were designed by Lord Freud when he was working for Labour and accepted and implemented by James ‘Bumface’ Purnell. Not a good start in anybody’s book.

Furthermore, and far more importantly than the personalities involved, Freud’s proposals, in the words of the Social Security Advisory Committee, ‘lacked an evidence base’. This is about as rude as the SSAC gets and what they mean is that he simply made it up off the top of his little banker head.

His central premise was that the increase in IB claimants since the 70s must have been due to the transfer from unemployment based benefits to sickness based benefits. He had no evidence for this whatsoever but it quickly became the headline finding of a ‘welfare expert’ in many eyes, which of course he wasn’t.

There may be alternative explanations for the increase in numbers.

1) There has been a marked increase in the awareness and acceptability of mental health problems

2) There has been a huge increase in the number of women, especially older women in the workforce. The proportion of women who develop health problems may or may not have changed but the proportion of those who do and see themselves as part of the workforce clearly has and therefore the numbers seeing themselves as ‘incapable of work’ will have increased.

3) Community Care policies mean that significant numbers of people who used to be in institutions now live in the community and part of their financial support will be incapacity benefits

4) Due to the collapse in heavy industry including mining, there must be significant numbers of men who would have been reliably expected to die at an early age from industrial accidents and chronic diseases who now survive into older age. Many of them may have less advanced cases of the chronic diseases that would have killed them if eg they had carried on breathing coal dust for the rest of their working lives.

How much difference these factors would have made is unknown but that’s my point. So called policymakers have simply leaped to the conclusion that there are too many claiming who aren’t entitled without considering and evaluating these potential alternative explanations for the increased numbers of claimants. Far too many people, including many on the left who should know better, have swallowed it hook, line, sinker, battered and served up in newspaper.

I’m disturbed by how many articles on this subject that end with a glib “everybody accepts that the system needs reform”. Why does the system need ‘reform’? Try answering that without relying on the old chestnut of millions swinging the lead. We need a rational argument on what our social security system should provide not one based on stereotypes and cliches. At the moment I say the case for reform has not been made, however that’s not the same as saying it never could be.

As I said before, the ‘incapacity for work’ tag is nothing more than a construction and is therefore a product of its context. Essentially there’s always been an element of consideration as to whether it’s reasonable for society to expect a person with health problems to work or not and it’s the hurdles for that which are being raised. However that’s a bit complicated for some, far easier to just send the newspapers a load of press releases about people caught cross country running while claiming mobility allowance.

Personally I demand more. I’ve paid my taxes and my national insurance, quite a lot of them and certainly more than average. I do hope to do so again in the not too distant future. I’ve made relatively little demand on the state until the last couple of years when through no fault of my own (but the direct and deliberate actions of an arm of the state) I found myself on incapacity benefit and relying somewhat more on the NHS. As a stakeholder in this system from many angles I think I’m entitled to expect a better class of debate and justification for welfare policy changes, whether they end up affecting me personally or not.

@42 – goodness – it’s amazing that average living standards have risen at all in Mike’s world.
Yet mysteriously over decades and through cycles they have, and will continue to do so.

@41

That is actually happening to a lot of City workers in the recession.

So you are saying that they don’t have any savings and are living off 60 quid a week? Those City workers must have been living it large for quite some time.

Troll (the original) “Actually they tend to work very long hours, otherwise they wouldn’t get paid as much as they do. This silly comment is further evidence that you are a wind-up character.”

They may occupy their offices for long hours but they do frig all in the way of hard work when they are there. And if you are saying that long hours per se transpires into high wages then it is you that is a not be taken seriously.

Well said Will Rhodes.

Many of them are sitting on the beach living off their huge stacks of dosh. They pay more than £60 for their lunch never mind live off that for a week.

“but they do frig all in the way of hard work when they are there”

I ask again:
Just how many of the several thousand people in the banking industry do you know?

Typical half witted Labour Party, giving to the weakest in society, as usual.

Our entire economy is predicated on an assumption of a huge surplus of labour. Not only that, we are also a Country that has little in the way of job protection and employment rights. Given that and the fact that our EU membership means we have a relatively unlimited access to labour (especially unskilled labour), who in their right mind would employ an unskilled worker with underlying health problems?

Given that almost any employer worth his or her salt, can find someone among the two million unemployed or the 400 million plus Europeans who are entitled to come here (No, I DO understand that they not all going to come here), where is his motivation in employing a fifty two year old angina sufferer? Given his or her HR department has a desk full of CV from young, healthy, specimens from all over Europe (including the UK), why would he want to give someone a job who may not make it in once a fortnight?

Once again the Labour Party have it arse from elbow, instead of trying to force people into non-existent jobs, why not legislate to keep people in the jobs they do have?

If it is easy to sack someone at the drop of a hat, then that is exactly what happens when ‘Bob’ turns up with a diagnosis of some kind or another. Given that labour, especially at the lower end of the scale is both cheap and dispensable, the employer finds it easier to throw the guy on the scrap heap than to invest time and money on the guy in question.

Why tell someone who was sacked on medical grounds that they are able to work seems rather stupid to me.

51. Shatterface

‘His central premise was that the increase in IB claimants since the 70s must have been due to the transfer from unemployment based benefits to sickness based benefits. He had no evidence for this whatsoever but it quickly became the headline finding of a ‘welfare expert’ in many eyes, which of course he wasn’t.’

His was the SAME ARGUMENT the Left made throughout the Thatcher era: that the government was hiding the true extent of unemployment by shifting people onto incapacity benefits.

Do we no longer believe this was the case?

Were the unemployment figures Thatcher gave us accurate, and do we owe her government an apology for exaggerating the impact of her policies on employment?

‘There may be alternative explanations for the increase in numbers.’

None of which were used in Thatcher’s defence, and all
of which will vanish again when Cameron is PM and we need to criticise him for mishandling the economy.

52. Mike Killingworth

[45] Living standards have risen in the past despite the nature of “wage slavery”. Nothing I have said goes against that.

As it happens – and this is an entirely separate claim – they have not risen in the US since the 1970s, and are almost certain to fall in the “West” in the next 20-30 years.

three short points, everyone on sickness benefit has to be assessed as too ill to work by their own GP, thats before theyre tested at one of the medical centres. the first year of any claim you get no more money.
no-one is simply left on incapacity benefit, they get tested every year or so.
ive spent alot of time waiting in rooms of unemployed & sick claimants & mostly very few of the sick looked anything but ill. a lot of the unemployed looked pretty sick too.

@51 The evidence that there was deliberate action to hide the unemployed among Incapacity benefit claimants was only ever anecdotal and personally I’m not that convinced of it. It may have gone on but it can’t explain the whole increase.

That doesn’t help Thatch very much because even if there was such skulduggery it still left well over 3 million unemployed for a long period of time, even using far stricter statistical definitions of ‘unemployed’ than are used now. So no, we don’t owe her an apology for anything.

No, the Tories used high unemployment as their chief tool against inflation and wage increases. When Labour got into power they solved ‘traditional’ unemployment very quickly and easily. Unfortunately, as they became more enamoured by big business who don’t like low unemployment because it drives wages up, they had to find some other way of increasing demand on the jobs market in a politically acceptable way.

It must have been trebles all round when someone hit on the idea of forcing all those scrounging IB claimants back to work, after all they’re all swinging the lead aren’t they everyone knows that, my neighbours they get everything never done a day’s work in their lives…

55. Shatterface

‘No, the Tories used high unemployment as their chief tool against inflation and wage increases.’

So why didn’t they also categorise those on IB as unemplyed in order to have a more powerful ‘tool’ against inflation and wage increases?

‘When Labour got into power they solved ‘traditional’ unemployment very quickly and easily. Unfortunately, as they became more enamoured by big business who don’t like low unemployment because it drives wages up, they had to find some other way of increasing demand on the jobs market in a politically acceptable way.’

So in order to drive wages down they are going to add a further 1.8 million to the unemployment figure – just before an election?

Because they are what, totally demented?

56. Councilhousetory

Incentives. If I lose my job and go down the social to sign on, am I going to go for the 60odd quid a week, or the 90?

The simple solution is a single flat payment. Then there would be no need for so many forms, doctors, contractors, bureaucrats etc etc

Shatterfaced@55

“Because they are what, totally demented?”

Nope, just in thrall to the greedy. This is why I have become disillusioned with politics in general and the Labour Party in particular.

The Labour Party have been quietly abandoning the weakest members of society to their fate for the last ten years or so, save a few cosmetic policies.

Since the early eighties, to the present day, we have heard the repeated mantra of ’Market forces/free market’ when ever we talk of ‘fairness’ and social justice.

The Labour market has never been ‘free’ or regulated by market forces at any recent time, least of all, since Nineteen seventy-Nine. The Blue/Red Tories have been introducing legislation to restrict the bargaining power of labour within the market. Specific pieces of policy designed to hamstring those with least power the ability to negotiate a decent wage for themselves. Oh, of course, NOTHING can possibly be put in the way of the middle and top earners from earning a crust. Nothing to stop Goodwin to earn as much as he can nor Boris’s ‘chicken feed’ quarter of a million. Noooo, that is all fair enough, ‘market conditions’ dear chap!

What about when ‘market conditions mean that the hospital cleaner can ask for twenty pence an hour more? Well when that happens we push up interest rates and wait till unemployment rises and pushes down the wages.

That is when the ‘free marketers’ all gives a theatrical wink to the audience as the market has been manipulated to protect the profit margins. When we talk about market forces, we talk about ‘us’, not the ‘non us’. Our livelihoods are safe and the oiks can go and fuck themselves. One of the most infuriating statements commonly associated with immigration is the ‘keeps inflation down’. Well ‘keeps inflation down’ is merely a euphemism for keeps wages down. Funny that it never worked the other way? When the downturn really started to bite, the Government RAISED the visa conditions for skilled non EU workers! Why? Surely when wages are falling, you should be lowering those restrictions in line with earnings. No, because those losing jobs would have to compete with more workers, but isn’t competition GOOD for business? Only if it is other people that are losing out.

The poorest people in society are playing with a stacked deck of cards, because whenever the cards start to look like falling in their favour, the ‘dealer has the ‘22 of Hearts’ up his sleeve and BANG, you are bust again.

So, we are now in a position were big business requires mass unemployment and a steady flow of unlimited supply of labour. Guess what? Those with the weakest skill sets and poorest health are excluded from the labour market. The Government wants them to work, but not get jobs .

“So why didn’t they also categorise those on IB as unemployed in order to have a more powerful ‘tool’ against inflation and wage increases?”

A number of potential reasons, maybe they didn’t feel they needed to ie their policy was working well enough, or maybe it was deemed politically unacceptable to force ill people into looking for work when there were 3 million unemployed, whereas when these proposals were drawn up unemployment was much lower.

I have to say I’ve only really heard the accusations of Tories hiding the unemployed as sick since Labour have been in power and, as I was working in the welfare field from 1993 I suspect I would have heard them if they were being expressed. Again, it might have happened but I don’t remember there being a fuss about it at the time and I don’t think it could explain all of the increase in numbers.

And I’m not totally discounting the possibility that some of my ‘alternative explanations’ may have been applicable to the rise of unemployment under the Tories but remember Lamont thought high unemployment was a price ‘well worth paying’ so they probably didn’t feel much need to look into it. On the other hand now, even in the middle of this recession, unemployment figures are much lower than they were under the Tories and like I say, the unemployment count excluded a lot more people back then.

Another point is that the last attempt to make the incapacity rules stricter by introducing the Personal Capability Assessment (nee All Work Test) questionnaire was in 1995 as part of the move from Invalidity Benefit to Incapacity Benefit. The main effect was not to reduce the number of IB claimants but more to change the type of claimant whose claims were successful.

“So in order to drive wages down they are going to add a further 1.8 million to the unemployment figure – just before an election?”

This remains to be seen. I found the FT articles and it suggests that it was not expected that there would be large numbers refused benefit altogether (which if they’re right may answer one of my earlier questions), it was expected that most would get ESA but at one of the lower rates and carrying out ‘work related activity’. As such they would remain off the ‘unemployment’ figures.

However, if the FT is right about the number of outright refusals then this could well be a huge miscalculation and lead to accusations of being, yes, ‘demented’ or worse.

Another big hole is that there is scant evidence that this ‘work related activity’ actually helps you get a job and what little there is comes from ‘Pathways to Work’ pilots. As everybody knows, pilots are not allowed to fail so I’m not convinced about this at all. And having been through Pathways to Work myself I’d put its usefulness in the ‘toffee canoe’ category.

“Incentives. If I lose my job and go down the social to sign on, am I going to go for the 60odd quid a week, or the 90?”

No you see you’ve not thought that through have you? The option of claiming incapacity benefits only arises if you are ill in some way and you don’t get the higher rates for some months. That’s been the case with previous regimes as well. There’s also these annoying doctors who get in the way what with medical examinations and the like.

The policy reason why incapacity benefits have higher rates after a certain length of time is that its accepted that some people do become ill and entitled to benefit long term whereas unemployment based benefits were always intended to be for short periods of entitlement as the healthy should be able to find another job. Of course, people being people and life being complicated it doesn’t always work like that in practise but social policy tends to be a very theoretical discipline.

60. Councilhousetory

59

i have thought it through. If someone isn’t working they are entitled to a fixed sum. This is a flat rate and doesn’t distinguish between the unemployed, sick an retired. It’s so simple it will never be implemented.

You could go one step further an fix the income tax allowance at the same level. This would effectively bring into being Chris Dillow’s citizen income. But the I haven’t thought it through have I.

Best of luck paying pensioners the same as the unemployed…

62. Councilhousetory

It will probably take another generation, but unless demographics reverse, it is completely inevitable. I’m 31 and know it will be different by the time I get to retirement.

63. Shatterface

‘I have to say I’ve only really heard the accusations of Tories hiding the unemployed as sick since Labour have been in power’

So how old are you, because I remember this accusation being held against the Tories from the early 80’s onwards?

Frankly, most of the objections to having people previously on IB rejoin the labour market (that they aren’t capable of it, that employers won’t take them on, that they will drive down wages because they represent a larger reservoir of unemployed labour, etc) sound suspiciously like the objections made about women looking for work.

If you have a better way of lifting people out of poverty than getting them into work, lets hear it.

I remember when Ken Clarke brought in fines for middle class folks that reflected the amount they got paid. People earning £500 a week suddenly found themselves getting a £350 fine for a minor offence. Which of course was much fairer seeing as people on benefit getting a £100 fine when they only received £110 a was standard play.

Of course the Daily Mail spun 180 as usual , and having criticised the fines people on benefit got as too lenient, even when it represented the majority of someone’s weekly money, they were outraged their readers where now been given a taste of the same proportions.

Within a couple of weeks the law was changed and the middle classes went back to paying fines that were a much smaller proportion of their salary than the people on benefit.

“So how old are you, because I remember this accusation being held against the Tories from the early 80’s onwards?”

That’s a bit before my time but like I say I was working in the welfare field from the early 90s and following the politics as well as being familiar with the machinary. In fact it seemed to us that government pressure was going the other way ie get people off Invalidity Benefit on to Unemployment benefit to save money.

“Frankly, most of the objections to having people previously on IB rejoin the labour market (that they aren’t capable of it, that employers won’t take them on, that they will drive down wages because they represent a larger reservoir of unemployed labour, etc) sound suspiciously like the objections made about women looking for work.”

No-one’s objecting to people with disabilities entering the jobs market. But it needs to be on their own terms with appropriate support. People should NOT be forced into a skewed jobs market just to keep wages down.

“If you have a better way of lifting people out of poverty than getting them into work, lets hear it.”

That’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is that people are being taken off higher incapacity based payments and dumped onto Jobseekers Allowance. If that’s your idea of ‘lifting people out of poverty’ then say so.

OK the real question is why the hell should any employer want to employ anyone who does not want to work. I’m disabled and I’m desperate to get back to work, I’ve written 643 CV to employers, I’ve had four replies out of all those applications.

I use a wheelchair once I’ve been up for an hour as I’ve a spinal cord injury to lower back and neck. I’ve an implanted Morphine pump to stop myself having fits due to pain. I broke almost ever bone in my dam body for one reason or another, falling over mostly trying to learn to walk again.

I’ve serious problems now with my liver and kidneys, I’ve got serious heart problems after the accident. I fell at work 100ft, spending eighteen months in hospital, I’ve had 3/4 of an inch of my spine removed, I’ve got plates and screws in my legs , and I caught MRSA on three different occasions the last nearly killed me.

SO the one thing you have all missed is that with all these problems who the fuck wants to employ me.

Thats the real question when I was a Foreman for a large building firm, we never ever use the job center, because we knew they send us the dregs, the people who had been on the dole for a long long time, and who wants these people, they did not want a job and we wanted people who wanted to work.

If you have a person who wants to kill himself or has a serious problem with cutting themselves who the fuck wants to employ them.

With me it’s the smell, I’ve a serious bowel and bladder dysfunction and I piss myself and shit myself, yes perhaps I can have a job in Asda.

Out of the jobs I’ve had interviews for people have said look we simple cannot use you.

So why is it governments are not offering me a job..

Great Sally: lose the argument so change the subject.

Ah well, in that case can I ask you – since you think fines should tied to wages – would you be happy for high earners to get considerably more in UB.

Mike at 42

I wasn’t suggesting that my trio of logical statements held water, simply pointing out that yours did not either.

Obviously no employer (in their role as an employer) would want to pay for labour if he could have it for free. However, the employer is also a human being (or group of the same) who realises that if he doesn’t pay his staff and nobody else pays theirs then there will be nobody with the means to buy the products and services that his company produces. In an ideal world, he thinks it would be nice if all other companies paid their staff handsomely and he could get away with not paying them at all but, unless he owns slaves, he can’t. So he pays the least he can get away with. Of course, the human being who happens to be an employer may also be a friend of some members of the workforce and may wish to see them do well. Not necessarily, but he might.

I’m quite sure that I don’t need to run through the mechanisms of a free labour market. And I do not contend that labour market practices are not, sometimes, both coercive and unfair. Bad employers often do terrible things to their staff and even good ones do from time to time. On the other hand, just occasionally, workers do bad things to their employers (although often at an even greater cost to themselves – British Leyland being a case in point) or use their employer’s monopoly status against it (tube strikes).

Lots of generally benign relationships feature elements of coersion. And lots of very benign relationships can feature occasional lapses into behaviour that is far from benign – the collapse of a loving marriage for example can often be both vicious and acrimonious. The point is not that all such relationship must therefore be considered abusive because they can contain abuses but that those elements which give rise to abuse should be minimised.

Its about nitty gritty rather than broad condemnation of all employers. Yes, it would be lovely to see more organisations set up as workers’ co-ops with very flat heirarchies but I struggle to think of many organisations that have shown an ability to do this within a complex and capital intensive industry. Can you think of a co-operative that has built a railway? or an off-shore oil platform? I appreciate that the Co-operative bank has been pretty successful but its model has not inspired many imitators. And, given the option to remain mutual or receive £1,500 most building society members took the cash.

That being the case, the employer/employee relationship will be with us for some time. And we won’t get rid of it until someone shows us the detailed workings of a better model which is capable of delivering the stuff we want. Not that this means that the current labour market cannot be improved.

Currently, one of the elements that gives rise to abuse is the appearance of a resolution to the employer’s conundrum I articulated above, the employer wants to have his goods produced by unpaid slaves but sell them to well remunerated customers. If we lived in a single market for goods and labour, this would be impossible. But we don’t – the market for goods and services is an order of magnitude freer than the market for labour. So the employer can indeed make his products in the low wage economies of the far east and then sell them in the high wage markets of the West.

However, this puts pressure on the high wage employers who remain in the West who now ask their staff to compete on productivity with workers in the far east. Workers whose standard of living nobody in the West would accept. We may consider this unacceptable but then again, if the standard of living of employees in the west is bolstered by the low prices of the goods and services they buy from the low wage economies of Asia, then you have to ask whether the charge of abusiveness should reside only with the employers.

How about this for an idea? If we are so keen to get the unemployed and the ill back to work, what about the following?

A moratorium on redundancies.
Stronger employment rights for all, including access to tribunal after 3 months.
Legislation to force employers to take on long-term unemployed/incapacity when filling any job.
The equability commission to take up cases where people are being denied jobs based on illness and disability.

There you go, some simple uncontroversial steps, which we can all support. Eh?

jimbo. I do not want to work on scaffolding put up by someone who does not want to do the job. Falls from heights are one of the largest causes of deaths and injuries in the construction industry.

Robert. The problem with incapacity benefit is that it includes people like yourself who has many problems but is trying to obtain work, to those who make no effort to get better and do not want to work plus governments who want to reduce the numbers of those who are claiming unemployment benefit..

Charlie @ 70

Isn’t that the problem though? We all want people to work when we are paying taxes, but we don’t want long term unemployed/disabled people working next to us and earning wages! Strange that.

72. Mike Killingworth

[68] George, many thanks. I agree with much of what you say.

It’s perhaps noteworthy that “free” labour markets – in the sense of the supplier of labour having the same theoretical access to the law of contract as the consumer of it – arose in western Europe only in the wake of the labour shortage caused by the Black Death.

However I do think we should be very careful about using the word “free” in respect of labour market transactions. It’s only true of them in a very narrow, technical sense, and. as I have been trying to show, Marx’s journalistic category of “wage slavery” is surely at least as revealing.

My basic position is that there is still a lot of validity in Marx’s descriptive analysis of the moral consequences of capitalist markets on society and the quality of individual lives. His prescription, the creation of solidaristic political institutions has clearly been shown to be either mistaken or (as I would say) incomplete.

The “left” from Spartacus to the General Strike and beyond has shown a capacity for seizing power under certain circumstances but an utter inability to exercise it. This is at the heart of Marx’s failure – having understood that politics is determinant in the last instance, he failed to do more than sketch a mechanism for replacing the oppression of one small group (plutocrats) with another (Party functionaries).

At the very least, as you imply, we need a political culture that regards demutualisation as the moral equivalent of mugging. We need to repalce the hegemony of ownership with the hegemony of trusteeship. We need to replace the pursuit of pleasure (“the stuff we want” as you call it) with the pursuit of happiness (the maximisation of time well spent on activities that are ends in themselves, irrepsective of whether or not those provide marketable goods or services).

If we are to recover from the trahison des clercs of “left” thinkers of the second hafl of the 20th century – and I make no apology for returning to that hobby-horse, because there can be no political progress until its implications are accepted and worked through – progressive politics will need to address two key fundamentals:

– the exercise of power is inherently abusive. Rationalisations of its exercise, such as the theory of representative democracy, can only be mitigations at best. Words such as “free” and “liberal” must be closely examined on each appearance, as they can both undermine and uphold abusive power, according to context;

– cultural values (such as the pleasure/happiness dichotomy I mentioned earlier) will need to be explicitly examined with a view to their reconstruction. For example, let us consider a family whose youngest member has recently reached adulthood. We consider such a family to be emotionally more healthy, the more it operates as a collective, with all having an equal voice, and the less anyone in it (such as the oldest male) operates autocratically. Yet we seem reluctant to take this paradigm and apply it to wider contexts: here the “commodity fetishism” Marx noticed precludes sane, adult relationship. (Hopefully this goes some way toward addressing the very fair point you make in your last paragraph.)

73. Shatterface

‘OK the real question is why the hell should any employer want to employ anyone who does not want to work. I’m disabled and I’m desperate to get back to work, I’ve written 643 CV to employers, I’ve had four replies out of all those applications.’

I don’t see anyone arguing that employers should take on people who do not want to work. The question is whether people who do not want to work should be entitled to benefits.

There is a difference in being unable to work (whether someone is physically or mentally incapable, or if there is simply no work available) and deciding that you would prefer other people to work on your behalf.

74. Shatterface

‘Isn’t that the problem though? We all want people to work when we are paying taxes, but we don’t want long term unemployed/disabled people working next to us and earning wages! Strange that.’

You have a point in that newspapers who see all disabled people as spongers will be the first to cry ‘political correctness gone mad’ where employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments.

75. Matt Munro

“His central premise was that the increase in IB claimants since the 70s must have been due to the transfer from unemployment based benefits to sickness based benefits. He had no evidence for this whatsoever but it quickly became the headline finding of a ‘welfare expert’ in many eyes, which of course he wasn’t.’

The population in general is getting healthier and living longer , far fewer people are injured at work or disabled through industrial diseases than 20 years ago, so why would the proportion of the working aged population deemed unfit to work (meaning any work, i.e can’t even sit in a call centre or flip a burger) be *increasing* unless a proportion are in fact not really that sick. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist, a statistician, or even a welfare expert to see that.

Matt Monro @75

I think you miss the central point regarding incapacity benefits. In some areas of the Country where there is a huge surplus of labour, then having a disability becomes a barrier to employment. Sure everyone sees Stephen Hawkins and applauds him for working, but that is hardly the same as expecting everyone suffering from motor neuron disease to take up bar work, isn’t it. When the entire laws of physics are discovered, no-one will expect Hawkins to take up joinery.

No one is employed to ‘flip a burger’ in this Country. That is a pretty silly idea. People may be employed to work in drive through restaurants, but they have to do lots of different tasks, for which their disability may prevent them from doing. They have to follow health and safety legislation for example, nobody want incontinent people serving food, not even McDonald’s and no employer wants someone who has ‘good days and bad days’ either.

Well here I sit being disabled, having gone through Labours training programs one of which was how to tie a tie. How to sit smart in your wheelchair, how to look an interviewer in his or her eyes. Difficult when most people giving you an interview keep looking at the floor as they tell your sorry your just not suitable.

Labour stated that a lot of disabled people have hidden talents, yes we do because we have to live in a world made for the fit, but this talent is not about working but living.

I have just done a course on how to live without taking pain killers, and this women said to me, pain is only in your head, I said to her did you have any children, then said when they were born did you have pain, she said yes it was bad, was it in your head and she said of course not.

Then she thought about it and said I see what you mean, of course pain signals come from the brain but if you have a bad back the pain is in your back.

I then did a course on how to move a wheelchair in such a manner you look professional, then I did a course on how to wear a suit.

I then did qualifications in health and safety, disability and welfare, but the one thing in ten years I’ve not had was a job, out of all the people who gave me courses not one of them was disabled, when I asked they informed me because instructors have a hard job moving round from one teaching post to another it was not suitable for the disabled.

I’ve done father Christmas , I’ve done the tin can rattling for charities, I picked up litter in a car park, and I’ve done the basket handing out each was six weeks each paid the min wage.

The one thing I and the job center have failed to do is find me a real job, oh I’ve sat in an office for six weeks doing nothing, this company took on disabled as a social conscientious, but the job was fake.

So give me a real job and I’ll do it, but already the new company that has taken over has complained the government is not helping employers taking on the handicapped I had to write to them to explain handicapped in the UK is not a word to be used.

God help us all

Matt @75:

The population in general is getting healthier and living longer , far fewer people are injured at work or disabled through industrial diseases than 20 years ago, so why would the proportion of the working aged population deemed unfit to work (meaning any work, i.e can’t even sit in a call centre or flip a burger) be *increasing* unless a proportion are in fact not really that sick.

At least one of the reasons is that we have a considerably more objective definition of ‘that sick’ these days, and because we have extended it to include the lower classes. Middle- and upper-class people with mental difficulties have always been in the category of ‘people we look after’; poor people with similar difficulties were in the category of ‘people we lock up’.

In the modern era we know that 1 in 4 adults will suffer a diagnosed mental illness at least once. Bear in mind how the puritan association of mental disorder with possession still infects our society, and its effect on the numbers: a lot of people will not admit to such disorders because society teaches them that it is weakness not illness.

In the modern era we also know that the workforce are as deserving of medical recognition as the entrepreneurial class are. I suspect, and I’m guessing Ms. Penny would have more complete information, that even with the rationalisations made in the last 15 years the Incapacity Benefit infrastructure still fails to adequately recognise mental illness as a valid reason for being out of work. But it is better than it was in 1979, and better than it was in 1995. And a side-effect of that is that the number of people claiming incapacity will go up, because we started using a slightly more rational definition of ‘incapacity’.

I have no figures: but the cynic in me suspects that the numbers in this report reflect a redefinition of mental disorders as “not being that sick”.

Post scriptum; another aspect is that modern working practices are, it seems fairly clear now, causing more mental disorders than any time in the past. And most specifically, causing more of them among people who are cared about; i.e. the entrepreneurial classes. Speaking as one who has experience of call-centres; there’s a good reason the average burn-out period is 18 months continuous employment in one.

TUC states Accidents on building sites are going up as cut backs in health and safety hit home.

My disablity is simple a lesion of the spinal cord which has left me dead from the waist down, sadly it has left me feeling pain, pain for no reason. sadly the spinal cord is now affecting my neck and arms.

Disablity is not just mental health.

80. Shatterface

‘In the modern era we know that 1 in 4 adults will suffer a diagnosed mental illness at least once. Bear in mind how the puritan association of mental disorder with possession still infects our society, and its effect on the numbers: a lot of people will not admit to such disorders because society teaches them that it is weakness not illness.’

I’ve suffered from mental illness most of my adult life but that has always been exacerbated by unemployment: unstructured days, feelings of helplessness and lack of social contact (as well as grinding poverty) aren’t going to help you fight depression, any more than telling someone with back problems to go home and sleep it off.

Unemployment is one of the major CAUSES of mental illness.

So tell me which of the great employers are going to be willing to employ all those two million disabled people that labour say can and should work, mind you these two million are all getting IB, or would it be possible that once I get benefits which is nearer to the means tested benefits I would be left to rot again on a benefits Labour believes is closer to what they can afford.

Labour are pushing people on IB because this is the higher benefits, I’ve not met anyone on a means tested benefits which are being asked to attend interviews yet.

but where are the employers because I cannot find them…

82. Mike Killingworth

[81] There’s a lot of abuse in the workplace too, Shatterface. If you’ve never experienced it you’ve been darn lucky…

83. Matt Munro

“Benefit infrastructure still fails to adequately recognise mental illness as a valid reason for being out of work.”

I’ve had clinical depression on and off for going on 25 years, and the most time I’ve missed from work because of it is 6 weeks and that was due to a stressfull event which knocks many “normal” people sideways psychologically.
I could tick the box saying “do you consider yourself disabled” ? at work but I choose not to. I could probably get medical retirement, I could definately get incapacity benefit. Even if I completely crashed and couldn’t do my current job , I could still do *something* productive. Most people on incapacity befeit are diagnosed with “non-specific anxiety” or moderate depression neither of which, in my view, are sufficiently and permanently inacapacitating enough to excluade them from any and all work.

I agree with you that, especially in the past “poor people are crazy, rich people are eccentric”

To the people who think they would get incapacity benefits, you will not, anyone now going sick has top go through the new PCA and the new back to work medical, you would now get one of two forms of ESA.

Only people already getting IB will keep it until they can go through the new checks. so far most people are being told they can work.

NO one now gets IB who sign on the sick….

Most people lack real understanding of what it is like to fight for your life under the weight of bureaucy of the welfare system. Add to this that most people are too resentful and too distrusting to really want to help people. Also I would like to ask all those people who have been in a job for a long time that they really do not like. Why have you not found another job? Surely it should not be a problem becuase there are plenty of jobs to be had!!!!

This country is getting so like germany pre-ww2 its scary…

Targetting the poor, the sick, the disabled….

It saddens me to read the opinions of many members of the public that believe what the politicians and bankers are telling them, when the evidence is clear to see, but people refuse to look, investigate or think.

Thankfully some do, but whilst the majority dont, the government will capitalise on it.

Perhaps one day, those who think people on IB are scroungers etc, and the reforms are fair, will be in a position where they need support and help themselves, by that time it will be to late, and they will only have themselves to blame for not thinking when they had the opportunity.

87. David Yuill

Lord Freud or whatever his name is,has never done any meaningfull work in his life,he’s nothing but a hooray henry prick,i would personally love to kick him as hard as i could in the balls,and see if he can get sickness benefit…ha ha.


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