"Workfare is not the answer"

22 October 2008

'Writing Off Workfare: For a Green New Deal, not the Flexible New Deal' is the Green Party's response to the government's 'public consultation' on welfare reform (which ends October 22). The Green Party proposes a non-means-tested Citizen's Income that would free people to help disabled and elderly relatives, and to take odd jobs or voluntary work, which many unemployed people need to do without being punished for breaking JSA rules.

It also makes a detailed critique of the government’s proposals based on recent academic research – much of which the government has ignored – and the actual experiences of people on benefits.

The Welfare Reform Green Paper, 'No One Written Off: Reforming Welfare to Reward Responsibility' seems unduly influenced by large companies that see the privatisation of job centre services as big business. The consultation asks 29 questions, none of which are addressed to the impact of growing global recession and diminishing global resources upon employment.

The Green Paper puts forward many new obligations for claimants – including working for nothing more than benefits – but hardly any incentives or new money for the unemployed. Instead it offers new business opportunities for private ‘providers’ of back-to-work services, some of whom will be big multinationals. It strips benefit claimants of what little bargaining power they have, both against these ‘providers’ and against employers offering unreasonable conditions.
The 'Green New Deal' adopted by the Green Party at its Autumn Conference advocates a 'green jobs' programme. These would be real jobs at real wages, many created by local authorities, highlighting work which will help to avert climate change and extensive training in construction and engineering skills. The government has since seized upon the energy saving ideas of the Green New Deal but not its redistributive aspects – a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, and a rise in benefits for the poor.
The Green Party opposes work-for-benefit schemes and the privatisation of back-to-work services, which would hand money to shareholders rather than help the unemployed. The government’s proposals would impose workfare with payment of £1.70 per hour on anyone who couldn’t find a job within two years. Many lone parents and people with health problems are in this position through no fault of theirs. The Green Party shows how they – and other future victims of the recession – would suffer under the government’s proposals for workfare and for tougher benefit rules.

Anne Gray, co-author of the consultation response, said: "Workfare is collective punishment of the unemployed. What they need is real jobs and real training. Our plans would focus on giving unwaged people the money and the jobs they need, not on spending a fortune to enable big companies to make money out of policing the unemployed."

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