Tagged: private sector

Leazes Homes chairman pens open letter to David Cameron on extending Right-to-Buy

A stark warning setting out “grave concerns” about extending the right-to-buy to housing association tenants has been issued to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Bill Midgley, chairman of Newcastle-based social housing provider Leazes Homes, accuses the politician of using “the sanctity of a person’s home” as an “election bargaining chip” after the pledge was revealed in the Conservative Party Manifesto last week.

Mr Midgley echoes fears voiced by others in the sector as he outlines how a policy that forces associations to sell off their assets would mean they have less borrowing power.

Because of this, he says, associations could not build more homes for some of the most vulnerable in society, including “older people, those with learning disabilities and those with mental health problems.

The letter reads:

“If organisations like us are unable to secure loan funding for supported housing properties then the potential damage is unthinkable. It is essential that such accommodation can be provided by the affordable housing sector.”

The Tories say the plan opens the possibility of home ownership up to thousands of people who may otherwise be locked out of the market.

The National Housing Federation estimates there are 19,620 people in the North East who would be eligible for a mortgage under the plans and that it will cost £808m to implement the policy.

But Mr Midgley fears poor people may be forced to pay higher rents in the private sector.

Signing off the letter to Mr Cameron, he said:

“I urge you to reconsider this proposal. We have a duty as a society to provide our citizens with good-quality, affordable housing, but the sanctity of a person’s home is not something to be used as a bargaining chip to secure election votes.”

Guy Opperman, the Conservative candidate for Hexham defended the policy –

“We want more people who work hard and save up to be able to enjoy the security of owning their own home.

“Right now it is too difficult for housing association tenants to buy their own home. Until now the Right to Buy has only been available to tenants in local authority properties. This means there are around 500,000 housing association tenants who have no right to buy their home.

“The Right to Buy scheme has already helped around two million families to realise their dream of owning a home. By now extending the Right to Buy to housing associations tenants, we will help more people who want to move on and up the housing ladder.

“Our proposals will increase house building, increase home ownership and reduce waiting lists. Right to Buy improves social mobility and builds mixed communities.

“It gives something back to families who worked hard, paid their rent and played by the rules and gives people a sense of pride and ownership not just in their home, but in their street and neighbourhood.”

The Conservatives have pledged to improve their help-to-buy scheme and have also committed to 200,000 new starter homes in their manifesto.

Similarly Labour says it will build 200,000 new homes by 2020 and that private sector rent would be capped should Ed Miliband be Prime Minister.

The Lib Dems have pledged 300,000 homes a year, and ten garden cities as well as a rent-to-buy ownership scheme.

UKIP plan to build one million homes on brownfield sites by 2020, and Nigel Farage wants to restrict right-to-buy and help-to-buy schemes to British nationals.

Should the Greens win power they will regulate private sector rent and build 500,000 social homes.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Apr 2015

Councils in the North East CAN make more cuts, says David Cameron

The Prime Minister has been accused of ‘living in a parallel universe’ after announcing that councils in the North East could make more cuts.

In an interview with us, Conservative leader David Cameron has said that more budget reductions would be imposed – whichever party won the next election.

He insists that councils could make further savings without damaging services, however leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes has said cuts in the North East had already been “savage and brutal”.

Coun Forbes said:

“The Prime Minister is living in a parallel universe The disproportionate cuts his Government have made to northern councils like Newcastle have gone far beyond anything that could reasonably be met through efficiencies – they have been savage and brutal.

“I’d like the Prime Minister to visit Newcastle so he can see for himself the devastating impact of his policies on the most vulnerable in our society – but we’re not his kind of people up here so I doubt he’ll come anywhere near.”

However Mr Cameron said that local councils can continue ‘to find efficiencies’.

He said:

“I think local government has done brilliantly at being more efficient.

“And I think when you look at councils’ finances they can continue to find efficiencies by continuing to work together and sharing chief executives, sharing finance teams, sharing back office costs.

“Most councils have seen a large increase in their reserves over the last four or five years, so they do have financial capacity.

“And just like any business you don’t make efficiencies and then say, right, that’s it, I’ve finished.

“Businesses are always asking, how do I get more efficient next year than last year?

“So I think there is still more efficiency to be delivered.”

The comments came despite claims by local authorities in the North East that they have already been cut to the bone.

For example, Newcastle City Council has set out plans for £40million of cuts in 2015 to 2016, on top of £100m saved from budgets since 2012. The measures will lead to the loss of a further 260 jobs.

Coun Forbes said:

“Newcastle City Council has had to cope with budget losses of more than 40% over six years and has lost 2,200 staff since 2010 – the equivalent of the closure of Virgin Money HQ, or Fenwicks department store, or the shutdown of the entire offshore sector on the North bank of the Tyne.

“If this was the private sector there would be a national task force in place to deal with this scale of job losses but we’ve had to deal with this challenge without any assistance from Government.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015

Union Condemns Universal Credit ‘Privatisation’

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has condemned the Government’s decision to privatise part of the administration of Universal Credit.

Private firm Capita will be gifted with the responsibility for booking initial work search interviews for new Universal Credit claimants.

Capita is currently facing a second inquiry into a £1.5bn Whitehall jobs contract, which small companies claim could leave them facing financial ruin.

 The outsourcing giant is also one of three firms to be recently awarded a £5bn NHS commissioning deal, as well as delivering disability benefit assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in parts of England and Wales.

A press release on the union’s website reads:

“Their intention is that the process for booking the appointment for a claimant’s initial work search interview will be handed to the private company Capita. No DWP staff will be transferred to Capita under this proposal.

“There is no justifiable business reason for doing this. DWP claim that Capita will be able to make these appointments at weekends for claimants who make a claim online at a weekend, but in practice the appointments could just as well be done by DWP staff the following Monday, as has happened up to now.

“Capita already have been handed the same task for claims to Jobseekers Allowance and this announcement extends that arrangement to Universal Credit claims.

“PCS has protested strongly to DWP about this decision. Seeing their work privatised is a kick in the teeth for our hard working members.

“Members will also be understandably concerned that this privatisation is a foretaste of further private sector involvement in the delivery of Universal Credit.

“PCS has also made the point to the department that Capita is consistently failing to meet its key targets in relation to JSA First Contact calls that are currently out sourced to them. This failure contrasts with the DWP staff in CCS who are consistently meeting the very same targets.

“Again the failure of the private sector to out-perform the public sector has been ignored as the tired, false dogma of ‘private sector good, public sector bad’ is wheeled out once again.

“PCS will continue to argue against all privatisation of DWP work and will continue to campaign for all privatised work to be brought back in-house where it belongs.”

> Hear, hear – claimants should be harrassed by public sector, not private company , workers.

Jobcentres are, I would guess, high on the list for selling off to private companies if the Tories win the next election. Possibly if Labour win too.


Source – Welfare Weekly,  22 Feb 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/union-condemns-universal-credit-privatisation/


Atos and Capita accused of poaching paramedics to cut benefits instead of saving lives

An NHS whistleblower has claimed that the A&E crisis is being made worse because highly trained NHS paramedics across the country are being poached by Atos and Capita to do assessments for personal independence payment (PIP), instead of saving lives.

Paramedic shortage
There is a severe shortage of paramedics throughout the UK, but Hampshire – where our whistleblower works – has a particularly acute problem. South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) had over 250 vacancies for paramedics in November of this year.

Our whistleblower claimed that the situation was being made even worse because experienced paramedics are leaving to take up full time posts with Atos, who carry out PIP assessments in the region.

Paramedics in the NHS usually have to train to degree level, yet salaries range from just £21,478 to £27,901 for the most experienced paramedics. In addition, the job involves a good deal of shift work and unsocial hours.

Atos, on the other hand, offer paramedics who join them as full-time PIP assessors a salary of £32,000 plus private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection insurance and no unsocial hours.

It is hardly surprising if paramedics choose to make the move to Atos, or to Capita who offer a very similar package.

The effects of the paramedic shortage can be seen on a daily basis. Just this week an injured cyclist was left lying on the pavement for more than two hours in central London whilst waiting for paramedics to arrive.

The paramedic shortage is also taking desperately needed cash from the NHS. In Hampshire 16% of paramedic cover is currently provided by much more expensive private companies while health trusts around the UK are having to advertise abroad to try to attract paramedics to the UK.

Paramedics are also vital for reducing pressure on A&E departments by providing effective treatment on the spot. In many cases this reduces the amount of time spent on patients when they arrive at A&E or removes the need for a visit altogether.

Dismissal for speaking out
The SCAS employee who contacted us about the crisis was afraid to speak out publically because staff have received an email this week warning them that telling outsiders about problems in SCAS, especially online, could lead to dismissal. The email threatened:

“Everything you say online is subject to the same disciplinary procedure that covers your conduct in the real world. There have been disciplinary hearings that have resulted in staff being dismissed for breaches to the SCAS Code of Conduct.

“Don’t let this happen to you!

“We value our staff and it is important that when staff and the organisation are feeling the pressure, that we try and provide the appropriate support through internal and external means rather than airing frustrations that may damage public confidence.

“If you have any concerns, queries or want to ask us about this please do contact us. In the meantime for more information go to:

“The SCAS Discipline & Conduct Policy & Procedure”

We contacted SCAS and asked them how many staff have left to work for Atos or Capita in the last six months. A spokesperson told us:

“South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust are unable to advise on the numbers of staff who have left the organisation to join the organisations you have named. Unless staff are leaving to join another NHS Trust, they are not obliged to inform us of the name of their new employer.”

SCAS also denied that the recent email to staff was related to concerns about paramedics leaving to join the private sector.

Cash before lives
Atos and Capita have not even begun the massive task of assessing millions of existing disability living allowance claimants for PIP as part of the Coalition’s effort to reduce benefits spending. When they do, they will need to take on hundreds more assessors. How many of these will be poached from the NHS?

The crisis in paramedic numbers is not new, it has been growing since 2010. There would have been nothing to prevent the DWP stipulating in the PIP contracts for Atos and Capita that they did not recruit paramedics. There would be nothing to stop them doing so now.

The fact that they don’t reinforces the impression that, for the DWP, saving cash is always more important than saving lives.

Source –  Benefits & Work,  20 Dec 2014

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2973-atos-and-capita-accused-of-poaching-paramedics-to-cut-benefits-instead-of-saving-lives

Easington MP’s anger over reports of rail take-over move

Easington Labour MP Grahame Morris and transport unions have reacted with fury to reports that the UK’s only Government-run rail line is to be taken over by a consortium largely owned by the French state.

Mr Morris said the decision to re-privatise the East Coast line was “right-wing Tory dogma being put ahead of the best interests of passengers”.

Edinburgh East Labour MP Sheila Gilmour and the RMT and TSSA unions were also highly critical of the expected decision.

The UK Government has been anxious to return the London to Scotland East Coast main line to the private sector ever since it was taken over from National Express by the Department for Transport in 2009.

But now it is likely that this week’s announcement of a new private franchise will see the line, from next year, being run by joint bidders Eurostar and French transport company Keolis which is 70% owned by state-run French rail company SNCF.

Opponents of the move to re-privatise the East Coast line have pointed out that the public-sector run company has made big returns to the Treasury during its tenure.

Mr Morris said:

“This public-run rail franchise has generated over a billion pounds for the Treasury. If this is what a publicly-run train operating franchise can deliver, at a time when every penny counts, we should be looking at ways to bring privately run railways back into public ownership not the other way round.

“This is right wing Tory dogma being put ahead of the best interests of the service, consideration for passengers and the public finances. The public-run East Coast main line franchise has consistently been the best performing franchise when it comes to passenger and staff satisfaction, fares and profitability. “

Ms Gilmore said:

“Passengers recognise the improvements to services that East Coast have made under public ownership over the last few years. They also appreciate that at present, all profits are retained for the benefit of British passengers and taxpayers.

“But despite calls from Labour for these arrangements to continue in the long term, today we hear that East Coast is set to be privatised just before the next general election.”

She went on:

“Ironically if the contract is awarded to Keolis – which is largely owned by the French government – ticket revenue may well be reinvested in improved services. Unfortunately these will be services between places like Paris and Lyon or Marseille and Monaco, rather than Edinburgh and London.

“A future Labour government would allow a public sector operator to bid for rail contracts, so that passengers and taxpayers always get value for money.”

A win for Eurostar/Keolis would mean disappointment for the other two bidders – FirstGroup and a joint venture between Virgin Trains and transport company Stagecoach.

Before National Express pulled out of the franchise, a previous private operator – GNER – also ceased running the East Coast line after its parent company Sea Containers got into financial difficulties.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union said re-privatising the line was “ludicrous” and a “national disgrace”.

He added:

This is pure industrial vandalism and the strong rumour that the French-state operator is in pole position to mop up this vital, strategic north/south route says it all.

“This Government is happy to have state ownership of our railways as long as it isn’t by the British state, in the interests of the British people.”

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA transport union, said:

“This has got nothing to do with improving services but everything to do with sheer political spite.

“Here we have the best-value franchise, which has returned £1 billion to the taxpayer over the past five years, being sold overseas because it is a public sector success story.

“Rather than allow that to continue, the Tories would rather see it in French hands. They don’t want the voters having the chance to keep it in the public sector by voting Labour in May.”

He went on:

“We are in the absurd position that the country that invented railways, and gave them to the world, is no longer considered by the Tories capable enough to run our own railway firms.

“They prefer French, German and Dutch state railways to run them instead. ‘Anyone but the Brits’ seems to be their vindictive attitude.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  25 Nov 2014

Former Tory Minister criticises decision to prevent in-house operator from bidding for East Coast Mainline

THE decision to prevent the current public-owned railway company from bidding to run the East Coast line has been criticised by a Conservative former Cabinet minister.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said the point of a competitive process was to allow the best company to win.

His comments came after transport minister Baroness Kramer had defended the decision to prevent Directly Operated Railways – which was set up by the Government in July 2009 to run the East Coast franchise – from bidding to continue its operations.

The franchise is due to revert to the private sector in March next year and Lady Kramer said it was a difficult industry for a public company to operate in.

She said:

“It costs something like £7-10mto put in a bid with no assurance of winning. It is certainly a high-risk industry and the margins, even for a successful and profitable company are quite fine.”

 “There are a very different set of skills when you are looking at significant new investment, when you are looking at growth. This is the point we have reached with this franchise.”

But Lord Forsyth told her:

“Surely you would recognise that the whole point of competitive tendering is to get the best value and the best deal for the taxpayer and if you are right that a state owned company wouldn’t be able to compete why is that a reason to exclude it from the process?”

Lady Kramer replied:
“You can see the complexity of a state-owned company being involved in this. Would you give it preferential financing or would it go out into the market?

“Do you want to set a company, pay its senior management very high fees with the possibility of bids of £7-10 million that it might eventually achieve a franchise?

“I have to suggest the history of companies run over the long term by the UK government has not been one of outstanding success.”

Labour peer Baroness Quin said at question time in the House of Lords:

Many of us who use the East Coast rail service regularly are dismayed that the Government has refused to allow the current publicly owned operator, which has greatly improved the service both for the benefit of passengers and UK taxpayers alike to even bid for the franchise and continue running a good service.

“Doesn’t it seem odd that the Government allows foreign state-owned enterprises to run our rail services in part and yet refuses to allow a successful home-grown enterprise to do so?”

Labour transport spokesman Lord Davies of Oldham said:

“Only a Government addicted to dogma would dispense with a company, an organisation which has run the line so successfully and put it out to bidders of which a successful one may be a state-owned company of another country’s railway.”

Source –  Northern Echo,  28 Oct 2014

Lord Freud: Universal Credit £40 Million IT Write-Off ‘Deeply Regrettable’

Speaking in the House of Lords, Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud described the write-off of a failed £40 million IT system as “deeply regrettable”.

He also insisted that the decision to “reorganiseUniversal Credit, which led to the government’s flagship welfare reform being ‘reset’, was taken by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP.

 Lord Freud told peers:

“We all know that, when you have a £2.5 billion programme with a high IT content, there are elements that you write that you do not need.

“In the private sector that can be a third of a programme. Clearly, any write-off is always deeply regrettable, but one has to put those things into a context.

“We remain within our budget of £2.5 billion — not £12 billion — and we are looking at an overall net benefit of £35 billion from this programme. The NAO (National Audit Office) has said that it is taking a regular interest in the programme; we will continue and will see more reports on it from the NAO.

“However, as regards the way in which we are doing it, it is somewhat misleading to think of this as a twin-track system, because we have a single plan for universal credit.

“We are finding what works through the rollout we have; it may be small, but you do not need huge numbers to find out what works. It is important that we do this testing.

“At the heart of the programme is what we call the “test and learn” process, in which we take what is happening and assess and measure it against other things, aiming to find out how it works. That informs what we call the end-state build, which is thoroughly under way and is in agile.

“The first Warrington programme was trying to be agile, which I think is the best way; this end-state solution — the fully digital one, the interactive digital one — is being done on an agile basis.

Lord Freud also commented on Universal Credit being classed as ‘reset’ by the Major Projects Authority:

“What does reset mean? What happened, as noble Lords will remember, is that Ministers, the Secretary of State in particular, took a decision that the programme was not going properly and took a view to stop it and reorganise it — reset it.

“It is not a new category; it is a description of a process. If one is in charge of a programme, rather than blundering on with it regardless, I would hope noble Lords would agree that it is the job of the Ministers in charge to take that kind of decision, work out how to rebase it — reset it — and make sure it is done safely and securely, which is what we are aiming to do. That is everything that we are doing.”

> Yeah, all deeply regretable… but hey, its only public money, and you’ve got to spend big in order to be able to cut benefits, which we cant afford.

What’s that ?  Stop wasting money on mad unworkable schemes and we wouldn’t need to cut benefits ?

Ho ho ho, you obviously just don’t understand how politics works… next you’ll be suggesting that IDS and myself should take personal responsibility for  failures.

Source –  Welfare News Service, 25 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/lord-freud-universal-credit-40-million-write-deeply-regrettable/

Union fears increased risk to public safety from rapists and paedophiles

> Modern Britain… everything’s for sale. Profit uber alles.

Fears have been raised that high risk sex offenders could pose serious danger to public safety as planned changes to the Probation Service go ahead.

Unions fear that privatising parts of the service this year could see inexperienced staff dealing with sex offenders – while one anonymous officer working for the Durham Tees Valley Probation Service fears victims could be at risk.

However a Probation Service spokesperson said that all staff dealing with sex offenders, including rapists and paedophiles, would be “fully qualified”.

Speaking to the BBC, an anonymous probation officer raised serious concerns that staff would only receive two days training to deal with sex offenders.

They said: “We are dealing with rapists, child rapists, paedophiles, people who have abused children. The staff are qualified but not with dealing with sex offenders.

“Because we are not equipped to deal with those people there is a fear we may not pick up on things… Our biggest worry is those people could reoffend and cause further harm to others.”

After May 31, the Durham Tees Valley Probation Service will no longer exist as a result of government reforms.

A smaller, national service will be created alongside 21 regional community rehabilitation companies – which will be sold to the private sector in October.

The local branch, based in central Middlesbrough, currently has a specialist Public Protection Team to deal with sex offenders.

However, according to Tanya Bassett, national official for the probation union Napo, these changes could see “generic” probation officers take on those cases.

Durham Tees Valley were one of the last trusts to have a specialist team, but it has now been forced to hand out these cases to generic officers,” said Ms Bassett.

It is not about how it impacts on the staff, and their case loads, but the fear of not seeing the risks from behavioural changes that those who are experienced in working with those offenders would.

“We are very concerned about these changes. We have taken strike action twice in the last six months – considering we have only taken industrial action five times in our 104 year history, you can see how strongly our members feel.”

A Probation Service spokesperson said: “Protecting the public remains our priority. All sex offenders will be managed by the National Probation Service by fully qualified probation officers. It is totally wrong to suggest otherwise.

“Introducing lie detector tests for high-risk sex offenders, with satellite tagging to track their movements, will give us one of the world’s toughest approaches to managing this group in the community.

“Together this will be vital in preventing sex offenders from leaving more victims in their wake.”

> Sounds like a job for some company with experience like, er, G4S ?

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 25 May 2014

South Shields MP seeks High Street debate in Parliament

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck is hoping to spark a debate in Parliament on the state of UK high streets – after admitting the decline of the town’s main shopping thoroughfare “breaks my heart”.

 The MP has become alarmed at the number of retail outlets closing in King Street over recent months.

The decision by  Marks and Spencer to exit the town after 80 years was a particular body blow.

However, other retailers have left or are about to leave, including Mothercare, Thorntons, Internacionale and Greggs restaurant.

Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “I’m looking in the very near future either to get a debate in Parliament, or if not, write to communities secretary Eric Pickles, about what the Government intends to do to support our high streets.

“It’s really sad that we have got shops leaving King Street. People automatically say ‘oh, it’s the council’s fault’, but the council does not set business rates and they don’t own those buildings.

“It’s the Government that sets business rates and Labour’s got plans to cut and freeze business rates, and for an energy price freeze to help small business.

“I don’t understand why the Government won’t implement those things because it would actually see a revival of our high streets. I was in King Street recently and it was really sad to see. I used to go there when I was a kid. Each time I see  that another shop is closing, it breaks my heart. I think the Government needs to do something about this. They can’t just sit on their laurels.

“Of course, it’s not something which is particular to South Shields, it is happening across the country. I’m going to try and get a debate in Parliament.

“If I can’t get that I will at least write to Eric Pickles and I will give the Gazette a copy of his response, so people can see that I’m at least trying to do something.”

Town Hall bosses have no control on either the setting of rents in the street or on rate levels, which are set by central Government and merely collected locally by the council.

A council spokesman told the Gazette recently that business rates are a “major bone of contention” – but explained that they are set by Government, not the council.

South Tyneside gets to keep 50 per cent of the business rates it collects in the borough, with the other 50 per cent going into a central Government pot.

Out of that, a proportion is redistributed to the council to recognise the local authority’s financial needs.

The last revaluation of properties for rating purposes was carried out in 2008, the next being proposed for 2017.

The council itself pays business rates for its offices, schools, day centres and all other buildings it occupies, in exactly the same way as other private sector occupiers.

Source – Shields Gazette  30 April 2014

Workfare Starts Today – Slave Labour Britain Is Here

The coalition government’s ‘Help To Work’ scheme comes into effect from today, Monday 28 April 2014.

Under the new scheme unemployed people who have been out of work for longer than two years, and who have completed the Work Programme, will be expected to undertake tough new requirements in order to continue receiving benefit.

 Claimants may be required to take part in unpaid community work placements, such as clearing up litter and graffiti in their local neighbourhood, enrol in local gardening projects or restoring war memorials.

Community work experience placements will be for 30 hours per week and could last up to six months. If participants have failed to find a job by the time the six months are up they could find themselves being recycled back onto the programme, in what could become a never-ending cycle of work for your benefits.

> How are you expected to find a job while serving a 30 hour sentence each week, when you couldn’t when you had more time to look for work ?

The long-term unemployed will also be expected to visit their local JobCentre every day to ‘sign on’ and will receive up to fours hours intensive job search coaching for each week they are on the ‘Help To Work’ Scheme.

> I don’t think Jobcentres would be able to cope with the numbers just signing on each day – forget 4 hours ‘intensive job search coaching’ ! Which in any case would actually amount to 4 hours trying to sanction you.

Failure to comply with the strict new regime could result in jobseeker’s losing their benefit for four weeks at a time or longer for repeat offenders.

According to the government, jobseeker’s with learning difficulties will also receive educational support to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.

Sick and disabled benefit claimants in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will not be required to take part in the scheme.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“A key part of our long-term economic plan is to move to full employment, making sure that everyone who can work is in work.

“We are seeing record levels of employment in Britain, as more and more people find a job, but we need to look at those who are persistently stuck on benefits.

“This scheme will provide more help than ever before, getting people into work and on the road to a more secure future.”

Secretary of State of Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said:

“Everyone with the ability to work should be given the support and opportunity to do so.

“The previous system wrote too many people off, which was a huge waste of potential for those individuals as well as for their families and the country as a whole. We are now seeing record numbers of people in jobs and the largest fall in long-term unemployment since 1998.

“But there’s always more to do, which is why we are introducing this new scheme to provide additional support to the very small minority of claimants who have been unemployed for a number of years.

“In this way we will ensure that they too can benefit from the improving jobs market and the growing economy.”

The move has come under heavy criticism from both Labour and the unions. Unite’s assistant general secretary Steve Turner describing the new scheme as a form of “forced unpaid labour”.  He  told the Independent newspaper:

“This scheme is nothing more than forced unpaid labour and there is no evidence that these workfare programmes get people into paid work in the long-term.

“We are against this scheme wherever ministers want to implement it – in the private sector, local government and in the voluntary sector.

“The Government sees cash-starved charities as ‘a soft target’ for such an obscene scheme, so we are asking charity bosses to say ‘no’ to taking part in this programme. This is a warping of the true spirit of volunteering and will force the public to look differently at charities with which they were once proud to be associated.

“It is outrageous that the Government is trying to stigmatise job seekers by making them work for nothing, otherwise they will have their benefits docked.”

Labour’s Stephen Timms added:

“Under David Cameron’s government nearly one in ten people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance lack basic literacy skills and many more are unable to do simple maths or send an email. Yet this Government allows jobseekers to spend up to three years claiming benefits before they get literacy and numeracy training.

> Yes, we’re a pretty ignorant lot, us unemployed – obviously we wouldn’t be on the dole if we weren’t thick.

What proof is there actually for these kind of claims ? 

“A Labour government will introduce a Basic Skills Test to assess all new claimants for Jobseeker’s Allowance within six weeks of claiming benefits.

“Those who don’t have the skills they need for a job will have to take up training alongside their job search or lose their benefits.

> Here we go – Labour so eager to prove that their stick is as least as big as the ConDems.

Labour’s Basic Skills Test and our Compulsory Jobs Guarantee will give the unemployed a better chance of finding a job and will help us to earn our way out of the cost-of-living crisis.”

> Yes, but unless there are actually more proper jobs to apply for, you can have all the mickey mouse qualifications in the world – you’re still limited by the number of vacancies.

Whilst the number of available job vacancies have increased significantly in recent months many area’s of the country are still witnessing a severe shortage of jobs, with the North-East of England and parts of Scotland fairing the worst.

> See, the problem is that it’s all very well saying the number of available job vacancies have increased significantly in recent months , but no-one breaks down the numbers.

How many of these jobs are actually full-time ? how many part-time ? How many are zero hour jobs ? How many are dodgy ‘self-employed’ leaflet distribution jobs ?

As someone who needs a full time wage, I know all too well that the number of these is all too small a percentage locally.

This is in stark contrast to area’s in the South-East of England where the number of available jobs are greater than the numbers of people looking for work.

However, figures due to be released on Tuesday are expected to show that competition for jobs has fallen to a new low of 1.42 jobseeker’s for every advertised job vacancy. This will no doubt come as good news for the coaliton government.

> If anyone actually believed it…

However, those figures are also expected to show that the average advertised salary has dropped by £1,800 over the last twelve months, providing more fuel to Labour’s  ‘cost of living crisis’ argument.

Sourc e – Welfare News Service  28 April 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/long-term-unemployed-expected-to-work-for-their-benefits-in-launch-of-new-government-scheme/