- Created: Wednesday, 16 December 2009 13:46
- Written by Mark Moncada
Labour’s draconian Welfare Reform Bill became law on 12 November 2009. The Act scraps entitlement to benefits based on need, forcing those aged 16-24 and people who have been unemployed for two years or more onto a workfare scheme. If you are not able to find employment you will be forced to work for 30 hours and take part in ‘work-related activity’ for 10 hours a week, all at the equivalent of £1.60 an hour for six months. Labour classes this as ‘intense work experience’ to ‘improve employability’. Work-related activity can include compiling CVs, doing countless job searches, attending work-focused interviews and being made to work in the worst, often temporary, jobs with bad pay and conditions. This is despite the fact that there were only 428,000 job vacancies during the three months to October 2009 whilst unemployment stood at 2.47 million by the end of September 2009. Failure to comply with the workfare regime can lead to benefit sanctions, tipping people who already have to struggle to survive on Jobseeker’s Allowance (£50.90 per week if you are under 24 or £64.30 per week if you are over) into destitution.
These workfare schemes will be piloted in Greater Manchester, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk from October 2010 and will be run by private companies. One such company is Action 4 Employment (A4E), whose owner Emma Harrison is worth £55m (Sunday Times Rich List). A4E already runs similar contracts; one, aimed at getting people back to work under the ‘Benefit Busters’ programme, is worth £700 million over five years. This has helped A4E become worth £145m, a value which Harrison expects to reach £500m by 2014.