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Published on February 25th, 2012 | by Annie Tippell
Image © Once again, Iain Duncan Smith is waxing idiotic over the Workfare programme. I’m not going to get on my soapbox and tell you why I think it’s doomed to fail (much). Instead, let’s scrutinise the system that perpetuates mindless consumption, reductive social stratification and, yes, forced labour. Remember back in 2010 when we were told that we could save the economy by buying more stuff? Remember when retail magnate Philip Green came under fire for tax avoidance? Remember when Tesco and various supermarket brands were targeted by UK Uncut for similar charges and a dubious ethical record? The Coalition’s promised crackdown on tax avoidance has neatly coincided with the announcement of the innovative, radical, home-of-the-future Workfare proposals, and Nick Clegg’s new, but slightly less interesting, Neet scheme.

Neet (not a wizarding exam)

I’ll start with an explanation of the Neet initiative because, frankly, it has the catchiest name. No idea why it’s not being spelt N.E.E.T., but IN THIS ECONOMY, maybe we can’t afford to punctuate everything. Neet is an acronym for Not in Education, Employment or Training, and it’s aimed squarely at all you 16-17 year olds. A narrow age category, sure, but apparently you guys are the most likely to fail at life unless you gain some form of meaningful occupation and direction in your early years. Hooray! The plan, according to Nick Clegg, is to encourage firms and charities to take on an ailing Neet youngster for a 12 month period for a slice of £125m. It’s part of the Coalition’s Yoof Contract, a £1billion fund stuffed into a sock under Nick’s bed, and is intended to target approximately 55,000 teenagers struggling to find work experience. Neet replaces term Status Zero (really), which was dropped because it sounded like something by William Gibson (not really). Technically, a Neet can be between 16-24 years of age, but the statistics are really confusing. From what I can gather, the 16 and 17 year olds are being singled out for special treatment because they are more prone to problems in the transitional stages between leaving the school system and entering the world of work. Further studies may not be an option because, typically, a Neet will have few or no qualifications. Needless to say, it is already the case that the hike in tuition fees is of enormous concern to prospective students from impoverished backgrounds. Labour has pooh-poohed the scheme, yet their party was credited with turning one in ten teens into Neets back in 2009. (Disclaimer: that’s from the Daily Mail...sorry.) Neet initiatives have had a worryingly poor record. So, Clegg has called on ‘charities and other organisations' to help the government get at least a portion of the cheerily named lost generation back on track. But, er…but what ‘other organisations’ did you have in mind, Nick? Do you mean…retail giants? Which leads us nicely onto:

Workfare

If you repeat it over and over to the theme of Stingray, it doesn’t sound so bad. Workfare, as opposed to welfare, is the name of the government’s new unpaid work experience programme. It’s been rinsed through and wrung out with discussion. We’ve had thinly disguised armchair bigotry like this, and first hand horror stories like these. In theory, Workfare has been designed to complement Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA) by placing recipients into short term unpaid placements that benefit both the employer and employee: employer gets some free help; employee gets experience, a reference, and, supposedly, a guaranteed paid job if the trial period is successful. Think of it as a long-running, practical interview. The biggest threat to that ideal is exploitation. With so much free labour available, where’s the incentive for these ‘other organisations’ to hire fully paid staff? Here’s the other problem: take a look at the organisations affiliated with this scheme, or ‘Workfare Providers’, as they like to be called. See any patterns emerging? Tesco, the Arcadia group, A4e (now under investigation after allegations of fraud) all have their fingers in the Workfare pie. Iain Duncan Smith has called the scheme’s detractors ‘job snobs’, , but snooty benefit guzzlers have nothing to do with it. (Also, a Tory reclaiming the word 'snob'. Er...right on?) Take Cait Reilly’s stand against Poundland. Some call her courageous. Some call her arrogant. Some eccentrics actually sit down and read what she has to say. She’s taking legal action against the government’s misrepresentation of the Workfare programme: “it was not training, but two weeks' unpaid work stacking shelves and cleaning floors. I came out with nothing; Poundland gained considerably.” Funnily enough, Workfare seems to have very little to do with coming off JSA. Certain charities have withdrawn their support from the scheme when it was revealed that even disabled people would be expected to comply, including (you’ll love this) people with terminal cancer, but more than six months to live. Terminal cancer! And for disabled people, the Workfare span is unlimited! Well, that’s a relief. They've been getting away with it for far too long. Make of this information what you will, but I for one am going to honour IDC’s characteristic charm and deference with a good bit of Dylan:
Idiot wind blowing every time your move your mouth Blowing down the backroads heading south Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth You're an idiot babe It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe
Image courtesy of Flickr

4

Idiot Wind

Once again, Iain Duncan Smith is waxing idiotic over the Workfare programme. I’m not going to get on my soapbox and tell you why I think it’s doomed to fail (much). Instead, let’s scrutinise the system that perpetuates mindless consumption, reductive social stratification and, yes, forced labour.

Remember back in 2010 when we were told that we could save the economy by buying more stuff? Remember when retail magnate Philip Green came under fire for tax avoidance? Remember when Tesco and various supermarket brands were targeted by UK Uncut for similar charges and a dubious ethical record?

The Coalition’s promised crackdown on tax avoidance has neatly coincided with the announcement of the innovative, radical, home-of-the-future Workfare proposals, and Nick Clegg’s new, but slightly less interesting, Neet scheme.

Neet (not a wizarding exam)

I’ll start with an explanation of the Neet initiative because, frankly, it has the catchiest name. No idea why it’s not being spelt N.E.E.T., but IN THIS ECONOMY, maybe we can’t afford to punctuate everything. Neet is an acronym for Not in Education, Employment or Training, and it’s aimed squarely at all you 16-17 year olds. A narrow age category, sure, but apparently you guys are the most likely to fail at life unless you gain some form of meaningful occupation and direction in your early years. Hooray!

The plan, according to Nick Clegg, is to encourage firms and charities to take on an ailing Neet youngster for a 12 month period for a slice of £125m. It’s part of the Coalition’s Yoof Contract, a £1billion fund stuffed into a sock under Nick’s bed, and is intended to target approximately 55,000 teenagers struggling to find work experience.

Neet replaces term Status Zero (really), which was dropped because it sounded like something by William Gibson (not really). Technically, a Neet can be between 16-24 years of age, but the statistics are really confusing. From what I can gather, the 16 and 17 year olds are being singled out for special treatment because they are more prone to problems in the transitional stages between leaving the school system and entering the world of work. Further studies may not be an option because, typically, a Neet will have few or no qualifications.

Needless to say, it is already the case that the hike in tuition fees is of enormous concern to prospective students from impoverished backgrounds. Labour has pooh-poohed the scheme, yet their party was credited with turning one in ten teens into Neets back in 2009. (Disclaimer: that’s from the Daily Mail…sorry.)

Neet initiatives have had a worryingly poor record. So, Clegg has called on ‘charities and other organisations’ to help the government get at least a portion of the cheerily named lost generation back on track.

But, er…but what ‘other organisations’ did you have in mind, Nick? Do you mean…retail giants? Which leads us nicely onto:

Workfare

If you repeat it over and over to the theme of Stingray, it doesn’t sound so bad. Workfare, as opposed to welfare, is the name of the government’s new unpaid work experience programme. It’s been rinsed through and wrung out with discussion. We’ve had thinly disguised armchair bigotry like this, and first hand horror stories like these.

In theory, Workfare has been designed to complement Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA) by placing recipients into short term unpaid placements that benefit both the employer and employee: employer gets some free help; employee gets experience, a reference, and, supposedly, a guaranteed paid job if the trial period is successful. Think of it as a long-running, practical interview.

The biggest threat to that ideal is exploitation. With so much free labour available, where’s the incentive for these ‘other organisations’ to hire fully paid staff? Here’s the other problem: take a look at the organisations affiliated with this scheme, or ‘Workfare Providers’, as they like to be called.

See any patterns emerging? Tesco, the Arcadia group, A4e (now under investigation after allegations of fraud) all have their fingers in the Workfare pie. Iain Duncan Smith has called the scheme’s detractors ‘job snobs’, , but snooty benefit guzzlers have nothing to do with it. (Also, a Tory reclaiming the word ‘snob’. Er…right on?)

Take Cait Reilly’s stand against Poundland. Some call her courageous. Some call her arrogant. Some eccentrics actually sit down and read what she has to say. She’s taking legal action against the government’s misrepresentation of the Workfare programme: “it was not training, but two weeks’ unpaid work stacking shelves and cleaning floors. I came out with nothing; Poundland gained considerably.”

Funnily enough, Workfare seems to have very little to do with coming off JSA. Certain charities have withdrawn their support from the scheme when it was revealed that even disabled people would be expected to comply, including (you’ll love this) people with terminal cancer, but more than six months to live. Terminal cancer! And for disabled people, the Workfare span is unlimited! Well, that’s a relief. They’ve been getting away with it for far too long.

Make of this information what you will, but I for one am going to honour IDC’s characteristic charm and deference with a good bit of Dylan:

Idiot wind blowing every time your move your mouth
Blowing down the backroads heading south
Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

Image courtesy of Flickr

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  • Glenn Coleman-Cooke

    Hello Miss Tippell

    Firstly, thanks for the link to my post (although i didnt think i particuarly tried to disguise my "armchair bigotry" 😉

    Firstly, thanks for the link to my post (although i didn’t think I particularly tried to disguise my "armchair bigotry" 😉

    As someone who is rather annoyed by the picture Miss Reilly paints of graduates claiming job seekers allowance as ungrateful and full of self pitying entitlement ( I think most would be, if not happy, then at least willing, to build their CV's), and who believes that if your going to claim benefits you should at least have the decency to be ashamed of it, i wonder if you have heard the rather excellent "get over it", by the eagles.

    (Please see below, bloody character limits)

  • Glenn Coleman-Cooke

    I turn on the tube and what do I see
    A whole lotta people cryin' "Don't blame me"
    They point their crooked little fingers at everybody else
    Spend all their time feelin' sorry for themselves
    Victim of this, victim of that
    Your momma's too thin; your daddy's too fat

    Get over it
    Get over it
    All this whinin' and cryin' and pitchin' a fit
    Get over it, get over it

    It's like going to confession every time I hear you speak
    You're makin' the most of your losin' streak
    Some call it sick, but I call it weak

    You drag it around like a ball and chain
    You wallow in the guilt; you wallow in the pain
    You wave it like a flag, you wear it like a crown
    Got your mind in the gutter, bringin' everybody down
    Complain about the present and blame it on the past
    I'd like to find your inner child and kick its little

  • And a double hi to you too Glenn!

    Prefer Dylan to the Eagles, I have to admit. I quote Cait Reilly because, as I’ve already explained, she’s raising a point about consistency – how the scheme is depicted isn’t match up to the implementation.

    Also (not to go all grammar Nazi) you’re = you are; your = belonging to you.

    Nice try, though.

  • *matching (apologies)

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