DWP’s research shows ‘workfare’ doesn’t work


10:30 am - November 10th 2010

by Newswire    


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As the government prepares to announce plans to force the long-term unemployed to undertake community work for their benefits, a Department for Work and Pensions report has highlighted the failures of such schemes elsewhere in the world.

The report reviews workfare schemes in Australia, Canada and the US. While advocates for work-for-your-benefits programmes say unpaid work eases the transition into employment, the research shows the opposite.

Indeed workfare programmes have been found to reduce unemployment chances by limiting the amount of time participants spent on job search and by failing to provide the skills and training employers seek.

Workfare schemes, such as the Work Experience Programme in New York, are particularly ineffective at helping people with long-term barriers to work back into employment, the research found.

… more at New Start magazine

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People on JSA should be expected to *look* for work but not coerced into taking particular employment. Neither the ‘Left’ nor the ‘Right’ seem to comprehend the difference.

As well as being an abject failure in getting people into work Workfare also undermines pay and conditions for people already in work. If a job needs doing somebody should be paid a decent wage for doing it and have full employment rights, both for their own benefit and for everyone else.

People should be offered all the help they need to get into work: free, lifelong education, financial support and advice, grants for equipment, incentives to employers to take on the long term unemployed or people with disabilities.

Forced employment is slavery.

At first I thought this was a good idea, though I must admit I only thought so as I know a fair few long term unemployed who are just lazy scroungers that I would have loved to see picking up litter.

But I think shatterface raises an excelent point that I hadn’t considered

@1 – However the employment wont be forced, it will be in return for benefits, much the same as my work is in return for wages.

No ones saying these people cant choose to have their benefits stopped if they find the idea not too their taste

@1 – However the employment wont be forced, it will be in return for benefits, much the same as my work is in return for wages.’

They get benefits for *seeking* jobs, hence *Jobseeker* Allowance. if there’s *work* to be done that means there’s a *job*. If it’s a *job* it should be paid a *wage*, not a *benefit*.

‘No ones saying these people cant choose to have their benefits stopped if they find the idea not too their taste’

Sure, they could steal bread and sleep under bridges. One law for rich and poor alike.

*Ok*

Its so unfair though, forcing people to seek work is akin to slavery.

Shatterface is right here, if there is work that needs to be done, then actually employ someone to do it. The whole “they could choose to starve” argument is facile nonsense, they’re more likely to choose to burgle your house instead.

Which was my summary and conclusion when I commended shatterface on his excellent point in my first post.

Point I was making was its a bit emotive and totally untrue to call this slavery, and I dont think there is work to be done, it seems more of a case of finding them something to do.

It’s not the governments job to ‘find people something to do’ – it’s to help them into work – even if it costs more in the short term.

Workfare is about punishing people for being unemployed not about getting them into employment. The motivation is entirely different, and it’s why workfare is a failure.

10. Roger Mexico

Like a lot of government policies this seems to have been chosen to pander to public opinion rather than do anything practical. This one seems to have worked according to a YouGov poll published today:

http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/YG-Archives-Pol-Sun-CompulsoryWork-091110.pdf

with 74% agreeing with The government have announced plans to make the long term unemployed take part in compulsory work placements. People refusing to take part could have their jobseekers allowance stopped. and only 22% against.

Of course once it’s pointed out that this sort of punitive work actually costs more, people may change their minds.

Having said all that, the piece would be a little more honest, if New Start or yourselves had actually used the present tense a bit less. DWP hasn’t become overwhelmed by an attack of self-criticism – the report actually dates back to 2008 and most of the schemes back to the late nineties. Still if they were ineffective at times of economic wealth and job creation, they’re hardly likely to do better now.

Point I was making was its a bit emotive and totally untrue to call this slavery

Actually it depends on how narrowly or widely you personally define slavery. I myself regard the threat of starvation and losing the roof over your head to be far more effective chains of servitude than shackles of iron and bull whips could ever be.

12. So Much For Subtlety

Well that is a remarkable piece of reporting. I won’t use words like dishonest. I am sure there is a good reason why words like “may” are dropped. For instance, the full report says:

There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding
work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available
for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by
employers.

This is reported as:

Indeed workfare programmes have been found to reduce unemployment chances by limiting the amount of time participants spent on job search and by failing to provide the skills and training employers seek.

Sorry but no. They may reduce employment chances, but the report does not say they do. That qualifier is lost. That there is little evidence found of their working does not mean there is evidence they do not.

13. So Much For Subtlety

Bad reporting of this document continues:

Effectiveness in reducing welfare caseloads
– Dramatic reductions in welfare caseloads in the US and Canada cannot
be attributed to workfare alone. Other elements of welfare reform such as
intensive job search requirements and time limits on claiming have contributed
to falling caseloads whilst economic growth has also enabled recipients to
find work.

They acknowledge there has been a dramatic reduction in work loads. The reasons for this are entirely “bad” – that is they are harassing the unemployed making them look for more work and simply cutting them off. OK. If you don’t like workfare, by all means, I assume LC is going to support time limits? They may say that these reductions are not *entirely* the result of workfare, but they imply they are partially. That seems a good reason to support them.

– Workfare has a deterrent effect which stops people claiming or encourages
them to leave welfare before the workfare phase. This makes it harder to
measure the tangible outcomes of welfare.

They have a deterrent effect – that is, people go back to work rather than have to undertake these programmes (and can anyone explain why this is a bad thing?) or more likely they force out fraudulent cases. People who claim many times cannot turn up to work more than once. Is there any sign this is not a good effect of these programmes?

It seems to me that a more honest conclusion would be that workfare works and works damned well. We know that the American package of reforms gets people off welfare and into work. We may not know which part works best, but work it does. We should therefore support such reforms here.

@13 wrong. Workfare deters people from claiming, no one knows if these people actually find real work or simply become members of the black economy or outright criminals. We should oppose such “reforms” here

The piece was a bit indulgent in terms of accuracy but the point the writer was making still holds true.

The whole workfare scheme is an attack on a socially defenceless segment of the community. These people, many of whom are unemployable due to poor education and health problems, are sitting targets for the Tory Turkey Shooters. Be under no illusion. This scheme is far from practical and entirely idealogical.

There is even a large percentage of unemployed who are well educated and can’t find work, so this places those with low skills and health at an even greater disadvantage of finding work.

It is true to say that the community cleaning work that is proposed is hardly likely to give participants new skills but more likely to humiliate them in public. Prisoners in jail don’t have to do it but unemployed people will have to do it. Seems like gross injustice to me.

Furthermore, if community groups are doing this work then surely this places at risk the jobs of those in local government cleansing departments. Councils can make them redundant and just use cheap slave labour from the pool of unemployed. Which make you wonder, why we are paying council tax if we are going to do the work ourselves?

Many of the very long term unemployed are practically unemployable anyway due to a whole host of reasons, some of which include poor literacy and numeracy. I could go on about this but I think at the end of the day the sheer numbers involved will make this impractical.

16. So Much For Subtlety

14. Schmidt – “Workfare deters people from claiming, no one knows if these people actually find real work or simply become members of the black economy or outright criminals. We should oppose such “reforms” here”

Well we can look at crime figures. They have not gone up in the US so far. They have been on a downward path for decades. So it would seem they are not turning to crime. If they deter people from claiming, how is that a bad thing? They may become part of the black economy, but as long as it is not serious crime why would we care? There is no reason here to oppose such reforms.

17. So Much For Subtlety

5. Rae Merrill – “The piece was a bit indulgent in terms of accuracy but the point the writer was making still holds true.”

Is this a special kind of “truthiness” which is true even if it is false? I don’t want to be snide, I am just curious about how you can admit it is not factually true and yet still claim it holds true.

“The whole workfare scheme is an attack on a socially defenceless segment of the community. These people, many of whom are unemployable due to poor education and health problems, are sitting targets for the Tory Turkey Shooters. Be under no illusion. This scheme is far from practical and entirely idealogical.”

So it is an attack on the socially defenseless? Frankly I would that thought that the Bullingdon Club was a lot more socially defenceless than the unemployed. They have fewer powerful lobbies speaking in their favour. But even if it is so, it is not an attack. It is a refusal to be as generous as we used to be. We don’t owe the unemployed anything. These sort of schemes work. We know this from the US. That is hardly ideological. As for poor education, why should we reward people for refusing to take advantage of the opportunities we give them to get a free education? Why shouldn’t they be punished (even though that is not what anyone is doing)?

“It is true to say that the community cleaning work that is proposed is hardly likely to give participants new skills but more likely to humiliate them in public. Prisoners in jail don’t have to do it but unemployed people will have to do it. Seems like gross injustice to me.”

How precisely is working humiliating? Let’s wait until they actually do it shall we? Then we can see if they are humiliated. Frankly I can think of many worse things to do to the unemployed than humiliate them.

“Many of the very long term unemployed are practically unemployable anyway due to a whole host of reasons, some of which include poor literacy and numeracy. I could go on about this but I think at the end of the day the sheer numbers involved will make this impractical.”

Funny. My office used to be cleaned by an African woman who was neither literate nor, I suspect, noticably numerate. At least not in English. I liked her a lot and she was very good at her job. What makes anyone born in these isles less employable than her?

@16 wrong again. Crime figures don’t go up because the police will warp space and time to downgrade or avoid adding to statistics and more importantly because the internet provides the greatest opportunity ever known to man to commit nearly undetectable crime. Only the very stupid commit blue collar crime these days.

America – lots of lovely ghettos where the poor have opted out of society and into violent crime, looking forward to those in Britain which already has the highest use of coke in Europe, lowest drug prices ever and easy access to firearms from Europe.

Workfare also cost the jobs of 20000 low paid workers in New York alone, some of whom were redoployed doing the same jobs for nothing and don’t say that couldn’t happen in Britain, have you seen the number of people whose jobs are short term and casual to stop them gaining employment rights.

If you can’t see why the black economy is a bad thing then there’s no hope for you. It undercuts wages, the workers make no contribution to taxes and they are at physical risk from exploitative and dangerous working conditions.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT

  2. Richard Simcox

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT >> #PCS #nocuts @FalseEcon

  3. PCS union

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT >> #PCS #nocuts @FalseEcon

  4. luther

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  5. TeresaMary

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  6. nordin pumbaya

    RT @pcs_union: RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT >> #PCS #nocuts @FalseEcon

  7. cowan88

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT

  8. safefromwolves

    DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT via @libcon

  9. Peter D Cox

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT | Well, there's a surprise, not.

  10. Welsh Ramblings

    RT @pcs_union: RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT >> #PCS #nocuts @FalseEcon

  11. Stuart Sorensen

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT

  12. earwicga

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT

  13. Andy S

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT

  14. False Economy

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT (via @pcs_union)

  15. Nick H.

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT

  16. Kieron Flanagan

    RT @FalseEcon: RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT (via @pcs_union)

  17. Workfare: the practice is as bad as the principle « Alex's Archives

    […] Liberal Conspiracy, via New Start magazine, has drawn attention to a piece of research by academics at Sheffield Hallam University, which is nestling in the Department of Work and Pensions own archives. In A comparative review of workfare programmes in the United States, Canada and Australia, originally published in 2008,  Richard Crisp and Del Roy Fletcher provide a brief overview of the effectiveness of workfare schemes in reducing welfare caseloads and improving employment outcomes. An extremely high level summary of their conclusions would be that there isn’t a lot of evidence either way, but what evidence there is points to the answer “not really very effective”. […]

  18. Marika Rose

    DWP reports shows that making unemployed people do unpaid work doesn't, er, work: http://t.co/FQH6L9O via @libcon

  19. Pamela Heywood

    DWP’s own research shows ‘workfare’ doesn’t work http://twurl.nl/h3n8xl

  20. Wendy Maddox

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT

  21. Wendy Maddox

    RT @libcon: DWP's research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT

  22. Staffordshire UNISON

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT

  23. NUWM

    RT @libcon: DWP's own research shows 'workfare' doesn't work http://bit.ly/bZyNlT





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