Might some of the welfare changes be a little more helpful to people than Osborne made out?

Conservative Conference week is never an easy time to be a Liberal Democrat. The Conservative in its natural habitat is not a pretty sight to those of us who cherish the principles at the heart of the preamble to our constitution, of liberty, equality and community, of freeing people from poverty, ignorance or conformity. The words Tory leaders use to rally their troops give us that joyless feeling that is known in Scotland as the dry boak.

But, you know, the Tory conference is what the Cabinet table would be like if it weren’t for the Liberal Democrats in Government. I have heard stories of things we have stopped that make taking Housing Benefit off under 25s (which we also stopped) seem mild in comparison.

The language used by George Osborne this morning around people on benefits was as offensive as ever. Most people who are out of work are desperate to find a job. Most people who are too ill to work would much rather be well enough to find a job. These are people in need who need the enabling hand of the state to help them, not condemn them as if they are some sort of inconvenient drain on our resources. Shirley Williams described a strong welfare state as the cornerstone of a civilised society when she spoke at Scottish Conference. It’s not an unreasonable assertion.

Many party members will have been angry to see Norman Smith’s tweet that the Liberal Democrats had apparently signed up to daily attendance at job centres, workfare and mandatory intervention to deal with problems, but might there be a different, more compassionate reality behind George Osborne’s harsh words?

What is the point of requiring people to attend daily at job centres? Would there be any staff to deal with the extra people? Would childcare or travel expenses be paid? 20 years ago, my husband was made redundant from the only job he’d ever had. As the Nottinghamshire coal field closed around us, many thousands of men joined him on the dole queue. Even with an unblemished employment history it took 10 months to get a job – and he had access to intensive support all of that time. Every day he went into British Coal Enterprise where he was mentored through every application, every interview. He was given support when the endless flow of rejections started to hurt. He had access to paper, computers and stamps too. It was worth turning up there.

Well, sources deep within the government tell me that the whole idea is to give decent, individualised, tailored support with more face to face adviser time to those people who had been unemployed for more than 3 years. Transport costs would certainly be paid. Childcare is a little more complicated – single parents with very young children would not have to do this and there’s consultation at the moment on extra support under universal credit linked to the tax free childcare proposals.

Osborne also talked about mandatory intervention for people with significant barriers to work. Mandatory treatment for addiction doesn’t sound like it’s going to work, but it may well involve NHS referrals which can be so difficult to get. It looks like there will be meaningful help available. Teaching people let down by a poor education system to read and write surely has to be a good thing?

If it were Steve Webb who’d been announcing it, he’d have found much different language. He’d have talked about enabling people, helping them to reach their potential and the same ideas would have sounded so much better.

Please don’t think I’m sold on all or indeed any of the ideas. All I’m saying is that if we look beyond Osborne’s rhetoric, we might find some useful stuff. The proof of the pudding will be evidence, of people’s experiences of it. Is it useful and effective? It’ll be a year at least before we can evaluate it.

The idea of people having to work for their benefits is one which I’ve always had an issue with, though. I’m not sure how that could be defended by a Liberal Democrat but I’m willing to listen if they want to give it a try. Stigmatising the unemployed, taking them away from the job search, well, I just don’t see how that will work. Neither do the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who said in February 2012:

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. Subsidised (‘transitional’) job schemes that pay a wage can be more effective in raising employment levels than ‘work for benefit’ programmes. Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.

The problem is that anyone who has had to manage change knows, the way you present something influences attitudes to it. If you’re a Tory chancellor having a go at the unemployed, then your ideas hardly likely to be well received. If they had been introduced in a more respectful and dignified way, things might be different.

I leave you with a blog post from Andrew Emmerson who, coincidentally, asked the other day how we could build some relevant policy on making job centres useful to the people who need them to be.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • “Teaching people let down by a poor education system to read and write surely has to be a good thing?”

    You’re turning into the Tories without even realising it. What a baseless glib comment. Its the Conservative style to denigrate public services as truisms. There are a myriad of complex reasons why some peole are illiterate but dismissing this as due to a poor education system is lazy and ill informed. What makes you think that Job Centre employees will have any more success? A lack of parental support, instability at home and lack of attendance at school are just as much to blame as a “poor education system”.

    As to your belief that under all the nasty rhetoric the Tories might just be secretly helping and showing empathy for those who are vulnerable is ‘pie in the sky’ stuff reminiscent of the Stockholm Syndrome. Theres making the best of a bad situation but this is preposterous.

  • Melanie Harvey 30th Sep '13 - 10:03pm

    Another example of trying to show productivity when in reality there will be and is none, as regardless of what adult day care centres there are , there will still be no magic job invention at the end. Just more benefits/job advisers recruited through a scheme.. Ironic how those who could not get or keep a job will most likely be advising those who cannot either.!!! This is stupidity above stupidity !

  • Hmmmmm… If you are on the work activity, what if you are sick? Do you lose benefits? If not, do we need to manage sick leave – that has a cost, is that budgeted for. Annual leave – would we expect people on these schemes to work 52 weeks? Dependents’ leave? Is the time spent here going to make it harder to spend time on job applications?

    Daily jobcentre visits. So you’ve addressed the issues of transport and childcare, can the jobcentres cope with the load? Will there be any more than making people turn up each day? Can the support really be helpful when 2 years on the work programme hasn’t been enough? Why not put resource into the work programme then for faster results? Is this actually too easy for people who live right next to the jobcentre?

    Training / treatment – more promising but who decides who is eligible, will it be funded, will part time be acceptable, what is sufficient, who decides when they have to move to one of the other two?

    I’m sure that if we’ve signed this off we’ve worked out answers to all the above and there’s no need to worry of course….

  • Well said Gareth.

  • Nonconormistradical 30th Sep '13 - 10:31pm

    “A lack of parental support, instability at home and lack of attendance at school are just as much to blame as a “poor education system”.”

    The reasons behind someone’s poor education achievements are less important than actually doing something about it. If someone has been unemployed for several – or many – years and they have problems with literacy and numeracy, using excuses about what might have happened to them while at school doesn’t help them to read, write and add up properly – and continues to leave them at serious disadvantage -not only in the competition for jobs but also in everyday matters of life such as looking after personal finances.

  • As someone who has real life experience of the jobcentre, I am happy to inform you that it is entirely useless. So are all the “work program” box tickers, and endless pointless made-up schemes.

    The money would be far better spent in making the jobseekers allowance adequate for job seeking. Ensure it covers the basic normal living costs and leave people free to tackle the difficult job of finding paid work in a weak job market.

  • Making the jobseekers allowance adequate might also stop all the local shops closing down!

  • @nonconformistradical

    At no point did I claim its not worth trying to help those at a disadvantage. My point was that it is the style of the nasty party to casually blame public services for society’s wider problems. It is simplistic and baseless. Problems like domestic instability and poor attendance are not just excuses they are reasons that fit in a complex picture. The party used to be compassionate and rational not just populist, ill informed and nasty. Blaming the ‘poor education system’ is an insult straight out of the Tory ‘divide and rule’ manual. Accept that if you wish but I for one will continue to fight against it.

  • @Gareth
    She’s already said that the government would pay. Whether you treat her source to be correct or not is irrelevant. I would assume her praise is conditional on the internal source being correct about the plan.
    She also touched on your next point. If you could just look beyond George’s rhetoric and evaluate it on it’s own merits, the proposition itself isn’t anti-liberal, provided that certain conditions be met.

    It would be nice to see some actually valuable work experience be provided to help them get new jobs though, picking up litter isn’t exactly going to help get you employed.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 30th Sep '13 - 11:07pm

    Has anyone actually read what I wrote? The comments from Linda and Gareth especially would seem to infer not.

    I loathe Osborne’s language, am not at all convinced by much of it but there might be a bit of useful stuff somewhere.

    I find the inference that “someone in HQ put me up to this” quite offensive. If, in the interests of balance, I try to find their take on it, is that so bad? Some might say that it was the right thing to do on a site that is supposed to reflect all points of view in the party.

    As I said, transport costs will be met. Child care situation is more complex. My worry on that is that people just can’t get ad hoc child care for a few hours every day. Child minders want a longer term commitment.

    Someone said to me today that being unemployed is a full time job. That’s very true. That’s why these changes must be useful & effective. There are some elements that might be, despite Osborne’s offensive language.

  • I think the devil is going to be in the detail of this policy. Is this going to be genuine help for those who really need it or is it just an American style welfare to work scheme? I don’t know but the detail and experience will tell us.

    It surely suits both the Tories and Labour to portray this as a skivers v stivers policy but I suspect Caron might be right. The proof of the pudding will be in the detail – for example, as Gareth Epps rightly points out “How is someone long-term unemployed in a rural area (or let us say living on the fringes of Reading, five miles from the nearest job centre) at a cost of well over £3 a day going to afford the bus fare? ” – I would hope that the state would pay for both the bus fare and the support and stationery etc. etc. I would also hope that Job Centres are properly resourced to help (at the moment, I doubt it). That would all suggest this is genuine help to those that need it. But I’m not yet convinced.

  • Liberal Neil 30th Sep '13 - 11:09pm

    I made the mistake of reading the comments before the article and was staggered to find that Caron had written a post that praised Osborne to the hilt, denigrated the unemployed as ‘skivers’ and attacked state education out of hand.

    Having now read the article I’m wondering whether most of the people commenting did so.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 30th Sep '13 - 11:12pm

    Thank you, Neil.

  • Any ‘work’ should be paid at the minimum wage, no ifs or buts. If it is illegal for me, as an employer, to ask people to work for less it should absolutely be illegal for the government to require someone to do so.

    As for help through the job centre, on another thread some time ago I detailed our experience as an employer of one of these schemes. To summarise, we were told that they would fund the first few weeks pay if we allowed them to source some applicants rather than use our usual agency. We agreed and after a couple of false starts two good applicants arrived and were inducted. We later found out that they had been paid only the equivalent of their JSA which didn’t cover the bus fare to get to us. We transferred them early to our contracts and a proper wage. Frankly I felt soiled by the experience, I did not go into business to access slave labour. That says all I need to know about Osbourne’s “help”.

  • The whole language used around this policy] is disgraceful . Not to mention the policy itself is disgraceful as well

    It is just more evidence of this governments stigmatization of the unemployed as being workshy and freckles.

    I am truly shocked and saddened that Liberal Democrats would sign up to this.

    But what really makes me angry, what really gets my goat is, over the last couple of weeks we have had Liberal Democrats rejoicing at their “Free school meals policy” for all the under 8s. Claiming that this half a billion pounds was the right way to spend all this money, how it will also support families who should be entitled to free school meals but for whatever have not claimed them through fear of stigmatization.

    Well GUESS WHAT!!!

    It’s these draconian workfare programs and the language that is used by the government to promote them which is stigmatizing these people.
    Your Party is supporting that vilification and stigmatization.
    You are just as responsible for playing your part in all this, especially if the party continues to support this policy.

    It really makes my blood boil.

    Don;t stand there on a podium and tell me that Liberal Democrats in government are helping to deliver a fairer society, don’t continue to spout that Liberal Democrats in government are watering down the Tories Draconian policies.
    Because evidently, it is all Tosh

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Sep '13 - 11:20pm

    Caron, the problem is that you appear to be on the radical left, always moralising and criticising others, but at the same time you remain loyal to the party leadership and then come out defending George Osborne. This riles people, the caveats reduce the disappointment, but they don’t take it away.

    You can be on the radical left, you can arguably be on the radical left and still remain loyal to the party, but you cannot be on the radical left, criticise others on the left and then defend the coalition time and time again.

    There is no personal antipathy felt, but this constructive criticism should be taken on board.

  • The whole language used around this policy is disgraceful . Not to mention the policy itself is abhorrent as well

    It is just more evidence of this governments stigmatization of the unemployed as being workshy and freckles.

    I am truly shocked and saddened that Liberal Democrats would sign up to this.

    But what really makes me angry, what really gets my goat is, over the last couple of weeks we have had Liberal Democrats rejoicing at their “Free school meals policy” for all the under 8s. Claiming that this half a billion pounds was the right way to spend all this money, how it will also support families who should be entitled to free school meals but for whatever have not claimed them through fear of stigmatization.

    Well guess what.

    It’s these draconian workfare programs and the language that is used by the government to promote them which is stigmatizing these people.
    This party is supporting that vilification and stigmatization.
    This party is just as responsible for playing its part in all this, especially if the party continues to support this policy.

    It really makes my blood boil.

    Don;t stand there on a podium and tell me that Liberal Democrats in government are helping to deliver a fairer society, don’t continue to spout that Liberal Democrats in government are watering down the Tories Draconian policies.
    Because evidently, it is all rubbish

  • To clarify I know you are not supporting unpaid work Caron but wanted to put my experiences with the reality of working with Job Centre’s down.

    On the point of helping those who have been unable to find work it should be real help.

    Shadowing someone in an organisation through a period of time to understand what it takes to operate within their work environment might help. Give people real experience in real companies but always as supernumerary staff members. Allow them to learn and question and the limited real work they provide in return will make up for the time the company loses in the teaching / supervision process. And most importantly pay them, make sure there is real additional money in their pockets for taking part.

    Both sides of the coalition talk about work always paying, they need to ensure that those are not hollow words for those on these schemes.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Sep '13 - 11:28pm

    I’m actually rather more concerned about how this might well end up replacing paid jobs. It is not exactly as if this is theoretical. Look at p37 here in the Evaluation of Mandatory Work Activity. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/193330/rrep823.pdf

    ‘The majority of the hosts described getting involved in MWA to provide staff for their organisations, which in many cases relied on unpaid staff to operate. Indeed several described coming to rely on MWA to provide a steady supply of staff.’

    I am, I suppose, not totally averse to the idea that some people may need some level of tailored support and that receipt of benefits should be conditional on taking support in some degree. I might even take the point that if some people need NHS support then maybe the benefit system is a valid spur. But to what end?

    In 1962 my Dad walked out of school at 15 with one O-Level. He had his pick of seven local production lines. Those days are now gone and they are not coming back. This entire Conservative Party conference so far has felt like hankering for good old days that barely (if ever) existed. Ms Lindsay, do you deep down think this is part of a compassionate agenda?

  • Martin Caffrey 30th Sep '13 - 11:44pm

    Will people with mental health problems be included?
    Will they have to visit the jobcentre every day?
    What happens if they can’t manage every day?
    Will they have their benefits sanctioned?
    Will they be sectioned under the mental health act when they smash up the job centre after realising they have no money to eat?

  • I do not see of what benefit this extra MWA has either on
    (i) The claimant
    (ii) getting people back into employment
    (iii) benefit to society as a whole.

    on point
    (i) I have been an employer and as sad as it is to say it, if someone came to me with their CV and they had been placed in the MWA I would immediately be reluctant to employ them. They certainly would not make the top of the pile of potentials candidates. I would have severe reservations wondering why they had been sanctioned like this by the DWP
    (ii) If the streets need cleaning, grass verges need cutting, bins need emptying. Then Employ someone on at least Minimum wage to do it. Do not steal paid work from council employees by getting those on benefits to do it.
    (iii) These MWA policies and the language that is used to promote them has no positive aspects for society as a whole, all it is doing is creating further stigmatization and segregation. That is not the Great Britain we once were and it should certainly not be the Great Britain we become.

    If Liberal Democrats truly want to have an impact in Government, then put an end to this constant vilification of the poorest, and vulnerable people in society . That is the true scourge on our society in Britain today and it is dividing our country.

  • Yes, training and treatment may be useful, but wait two years before trying them? What’s the Work Programme been doing during that time? Not training and treating?

    I’ve read and understood the article Caron, but I fear you’re being very over-optimistic. There may be some better aspects to help to sugar the pill, but for it to be an actually acceptable policy George Osborne would have had to be telling such monstrous lies today that he wouldn’t last the week. Unfortunately I don’t think he needed to.

  • Daniel Henry 30th Sep '13 - 11:56pm

    Having spent a few years on and off with the jobcentre, I’m always left sceptical at their ability to “help”.

    I understand where you’re coming from – giving up on people ever finding work isn’t a liberal attitude, but I just really doubt these measures will help. Especially with the Tories’ track record on these schemes to “help” people! I could well be corrected, but from the details it just sounds like more harrassment and more ways the claimant can slip up and get themselves sanctioned.

    Who knows, perhaps the Tories will shock and surprise us all with a scheme that is genuinely supportive of people. Anything’s possible. Even though they did announce it alongside yet another horrible workfare scheme.

    At least you didn’t try to defend workfare. 🙂

  • Philip Rolle 1st Oct '13 - 12:06am

    If there is work for people to do, they should be paid to do it. If, by contrast, there isn’t work available, then what are people going to be asked to do?

    I also question how this will affect the level of service received in important roles such as caring for the elderly. If care providers substitute the long term unemployed for trained staff, then one can believe that will not benefit the recipient of the services.

    And daily attendance at Job Centres is just a nonsense – unless of course it is devised as an excuse to sanction people…

  • Martin Caffrey 1st Oct '13 - 12:13am

    A good friend of mine would like to do a classic car restoration course at college, Coventry I think? He is just past fifty, and was a painter & decorator. He had an operation on his leg, cancer related, a while ago which means he no longer feels safe working at height. He estimates all the necessary courses needed to pursue this line of work would cost approx £3000.00.

    Why can’t the government give interest-free loans to do this?

    He is currently on job seekers allowance.

  • Simon bamonte 1st Oct '13 - 1:34am

    With the way this government is treating the vulnerable: the sick/disabled, the poor and now the unemployed, I am seriously starting to think we are being ruled by sociaopaths with no empathy or understanding for how things are for the weakest few million people in this rich Western nation.

    There are more unemployed people than there are available jobs. This is simple maths and statistics. Yet the Tories, with the alleged backing of the LibDem leadership, now want to punish those who cannot find a job due to the failure of the market to provide employment for all. Isn’t that just perfect?The Tory and now Lib Dem’s version of modern capitalism requires mass unemployment to run most efficiently, yet the obedient press allows the Tories (and LibDems?) to then paint modern capitalism’s required unemployed (ie., surplus to requirements) as the feckless, scrounging ones. It’s absolutely astonishing. And sickening to anyone with a moral compass.

    Of course, these days, with views like mine (which were common in the SDP/Alliance/LibDems in the 1980s/90s/pre-Clegg 00s), I’m more likely to be called a “commie” or be told I’m an “extremist” for thinking that people freezing to death during winter in one of the world’s richest nations is a disgrace.

    I used to be proud to be a Lib Dem. After just three and a half short years, I am now proud to NOT be a LibDem. Say what you will about Ed Miliband (and there is plenty I disagree with him and his party about), but at least he’s giving us hope by promising to help with energy bills, build more homes and promising to scrap the bedroom tax and ATOS. The Lib Dems have no hope to offer: just more uncritical loyalism and justification for anti-social Tory policy.

  • Simon bamonte 1st Oct '13 - 1:41am

    @Martin Caffrey:
    Why can’t the government give interest-free loans to do this?

    Because this government (much like every one since 1979) is far more interested in giving large subsidies to the big six energy companies, the banking sector which crashed our economy, the middle-class who can afford a mortgage but not a deposit and “find employment for people” contracts to alleged fraudsters like A4E. After all, it was the disabled with extra bedrooms who caused the financial mess we’re in, don’t you know? Bailouts for big business and sanctions for those the market has failed to provide jobs for seems to be the coalition’s Modus Operandi.

  • Helen Dudden 1st Oct '13 - 4:11am

    On Saturday I was at a meeting of Churches, and I saw a video of children queuing for a food center. Don was there your MP for Bath. Someone told me how the Church was doing the work of social workers, I was only told so I can’t state that as truth.

    They stated it was like being in a war. You have joined the Conservatives, think what you have achieved.

    I was truly ashamed of what I saw and left the meeting.

  • I am a 47 year old postal worker who has never claimed benefits in his life, in fact for the last 28 years i have performed the same job. At the last election, after voting Labour all my life i decided to vote for your party. Not because i agreed with all of your policies but because i thought voting for the lib dems was the best way of keeping the conservative party in check if there was a hung parliament which looked like could be the case.

    Ive never wanted a lot out of life, just enough money to pay the rent on our council house with enough left over to take my family on holiday once a year with maybe a day out a month. All ive wanted from a government is for them to give my children a good education, a good health service if i fall ill and a safety net if for whatever reason i lose my job.

    Wll 3 and a half years into this government being in power, what have i got. I see my 9 year olds education being ruined by your continual tinkering with his education. I see the NHS where my wife works being plunged into crisis as despite what you claim, doctors and nurses being totally overworked as more and more positions remain unfilled. I see my eldest two (one 26 and one24) having to share a room in our house with niether of them having any chance of leaving home because there is no social housing and their wages are so low even with the help to buy scheme they’ll never be able to afford to buy a home.

    As for me, for the first time ever i worry about my future. I know what will happen when royal mail is privatised, there will be mass job losses and i will see my terms and conditions worsened. Before your lot came to power , at least i knew there was a safety net if i lost my job. Now it worries me more than ever, firstly because i know as soon as i lose my job, i will be classed as a scrounger and secondly because i know , at my age, after spending the so long in the same job the chances of me getting another job are remote to say the least. Even if i do, its not going to be on the same pay rate as i am now

    Never, have the unemployed and the poor been so victimised as they are now, and it scares the hell out of me, knowing that in the very near future i could well be one of them. I honestly think that polticians live in some sort of bubble, they are not aware of what people in the real world are going through. Sadly i have to say that it applies to some of you that post not only on this site but other political sites as well. To put it bluntly, you havent got a clue, you may have good intentions but good intentions mean nothing if your not prepared to change things. Despite all the talk on here, what really changes- nothing , you turn up at your conference each year, give the people responsible for the demonising the unemployed a standing ovation and then come back on here and moan about whats happenning.

    I’ll give myself a year before i end up out of a job, already ive looked to see where the local food banks are but is scares the hell out of me, having people look down their noses at me because i havent got a job.

    Is this anyway a civilised society should carry on ?. Seeing the poor, disabled and unemployed classed as scum because they cant get a job when theres more people unemployed than there are jobs.

    Your party may claim to care about the vunerable , the facts say otherwise. the only good thing is , once these changes come in i cant see what else this coalition can do to attack the poor.

    It is to my eternal shame that i voted for your party, i really thought you would keep this lot in check, instead i have seen the most right wing government ive ever seen. And what makes it worse is the likes of Mr Clegg and Alexander seem to be revelling in it . As for the rank and file members, well i have to say that despite many words posted on here , your leaders are allowed to carry on with their right wing agenda, so you have to be guilty by associtian.

    Im sorry for the rant, but i really dont think some of you understand whats going on in the real world. Working people, unemployed people and the disabled are living in fear because of what your party has supported since being in power and that is no way to run a country in the 21st century.

  • Philip Rolle
    Just caught sight of your comment – on the availability or otherwise of work. Surely we can all find work – there is never any shortage – it may be knocking down buildings others have put up. The serious point is, whether anyone will pay someone to do it. The more deflation we build into the economy, and / or the more economic power we put in fewer hands, the less likely an individual is to find work that someone (an individual or body) will pay for? So the answer to your question is not fixed, and it depends how the economy is structured. I thought we existed as a party to democratise our economic processes, not to allow those with megabucks to do it for us?

  • Simon McGrath 1st Oct '13 - 8:29am

    @Gareth “And nothing on tackling tax avoidance, or reforming the financial services sector that got us all in this mess.

    Well apart from all the things the Coalition has already done to reduce tax avoidance and implement the Report of the Banking Commission.

  • “What is the point of requiring people to attend daily at job centres?”

    Totally agree and understand what you say in this paragraph Caron. This mirrors my thoughts, particularly after dividing 200,000 (the numbers impacted) by £300m. Also what incentives will be offered, other than avoiding the stick.

    Whilst I disliked the language of the announcement, I welcome the extra attention being given to this group; although I’m unsure of how effective this intervention will be on reducing numbers and await the details of the scheme.

  • Mick Taylor 1st Oct '13 - 9:22am

    I sometimes think that my Lib Dem colleagues don’t live in the real world. Do you refuse to accept the fact that for a minority of claimants their way of life IS a chosen lifestyle. Come with me to council estates in North Halifax and meet families who have not worked for 3 generations and who don’t actually understand what to work means. No, I didn’t believe it either, until a dear sadly departed friend of mine – on the left of the party – showed me the facts during our canvassing against the BNP.

    Or come with me canvassing in Leeds Central – as I did as candidate in 2010 – and meet the huge number of employed working class voters who are vehement about those people who are long term unemployed that they have to support. They are happy to support those who cannot work due to ill health or incapacity, but want others to have to do something for their benefits.

    Of course Osbourn’s language is offensive – what do you expect from a Tory – but it does no-one any favours to pretend that there’s not a problem, albeit not as widespread as some would have you believe.

    I would hope that our ministers are doing what they can to make the actual workfare programme civilised. Please remember that many other countries insist their benefit recipients do something for the money, including Sweden.

  • Helen Dudden 1st Oct '13 - 9:29am

    Your Minister do, they agree with the Tories. You should have been there on the “food banks,” wake up and smell the coffee.

  • Andrew Emmerson 1st Oct '13 - 9:31am

    Yesterday I drafted a piece about how Osborne utilized the Pavlovian response of the right to the idea of welfare to gain votes.

    It seems that many of those who’ve commented here have that same Pavlovian response to the name “Osborne”

    What Caron has done is managed to look beyond the rhetoric and at the actual plans – looked to ways the might work and why they might not. It takes a bigger and more intelligent person to do that than salivate at the sight of Osborne and bark like a dog with rabies.

    I may not exactly agree that providing the Job Centre every day (in the current state that it is in) can provide a tailored and invidiualised help routine for those most in need – but with a touch of liberalism and Lib Dem policy like i’m trying to do – there’s no reason at all it couldn’t.

  • I suppose the sanction of having nothing to live on for 3 years is also part of the “help” the ConDems are giving people.

  • This is just another method of trying to make life as unpleasant as possible for those on the dole. The presumption behind all these things is that the jobseeker is the problem, not the job market.

    Few people will entertain a candidate who’s been out of work for years, never mind any other issues they might have. You can give “face to face” time with an advisor 16 hours a day for 365 days of the year – and it won’t make the slightest difference – beacuse its talking to the wrong person. The only ways to solve the problem of long term unemployment – those who no-one wants to give a job to (because there are always people with better CVs) are

    a) incentives to employers to preferentially take them on
    b) the state deciding to give them a job rather than pay them dole
    c) some cultural change in the prejudices of employers who magically start deciding to pass over people with no unemployment/ gaps in their CV for someone who has. This won’t happen.

    Leaning all the more on someone who CAN’T get a job to get a job isn’t going to work. You have to go talk to the employers.

  • I’m amazed how many commenters here are taking the Tory spin on this policy at face value. Do you not think the Tories have identified an interest – just like Labour when they are in power – in making the policy seem more populist than it is?

  • I know I am biased, but can I contribute this to the story: Bedford Borough Jobns Hub is doing well at the moment and was created by a Liberal Democrat run (elected Mayoral) authority:
    http://www.bedford.gov.uk/jobs_and_careers/jobs_hub.aspx Also the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thejobshub

    Perhaps a Liberal Democrat response to Osborne would be ‘give us the money (no really) and let us run our own job schemes’?

    Or try this article from Dave Hodgson: The new Morrisons store has created 295 jobs in total, with a hugely impressive 165 (56%) of the new employees having previously been unemployed.

  • (By ‘give us the money’ I mean a localism agenda in job creation.)

  • We should be grateful for the innate decency which is behind Caron’s article but Osborne best expresses the nastiness of the Tories most eloquently and has been the cheerleader for it over the years so we just don’t buy it.
    Gareth Epps is spot on. Do the Tories really believe that millions of unemployed people don’t want a job? Daily Mail readers do, so it must be true .I am with Simon bamonte except that there are still people like Gareth in the Lib Dems so I am still a member in order that I can help rid the Party of it’s leadership with my vote.

  • paul barker 1st Oct '13 - 11:59am

    The first thing is to find out if any of this is actually new. Daily attendance at Job Centres has been around for decades so that idea is only new if its being extended to more claimants. Compulsory referral to medical or educational help isnt new either.
    Announcing as New things that already happen is standard Political Practise on all sides & The Media usually play along.
    Does anyone with the relevant expertise actually know how much of this is actually New ?

  • David Allen 1st Oct '13 - 1:04pm

    Yes, the Tories are spinning this to make it look nastier than it really is. Whereas the Lib Dems are spinning it to make it look nicer than it really is. Why trust either?

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Oct '13 - 1:21pm

    This is a bit like forcing people who are homeless to come and spend hours looking in estate agents windows, showing them how to look up estate agents websites etc, with the idea that it just might be the case that a house they can afford will somehow turn up – even though all the houses on offer are several times what they can afford.

    Sorry, I know plenty of people who are skilled, desperate to find jobs, making loads of applications but STILL finding it impossible to get one. Forcing people to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and
    on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and
    on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and
    on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and
    on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and
    on looking and applying in the hope that one day a job will come that way just causes humiliation and embarrassment
    and then depression. I have written it in the above way because that us REALLY what it feels like when you make so
    many applications, and hardly any get as far as an interview, let alone an offer.

    In many cases, it’s because potential employers faced with hundreds of applications can afford just to throw out
    any that aren’t quite right – applicant too old, applicant too young, applicant worked at a higher level job previously so must be something wrong if they’re applying lower down, applicant worked at a lower level previously so can’t have the experience, applicant has been out of work for a year or more now, so must be something wrong with them, applicant is underqualified, applicant is overqualified, applicant has some sort of “personality defect” like being a bit introverted or having a brain which sometimes means a bit of scepticism, or seems to be a bit of a lefty so is bound to be trouble etc etc.

    Most of all, with the sort of unskilled jobs where all you want is hard labour, why take someone from the bottom end of the intelligence and ability scale from the UK, when there are clever and able people from other countries here who will do the job because a low-wage dirty job here still pays a lot better than what they could get back home?

  • Laughable how the unemployed are now being blamed for the failure of the £5 billion Work Programme. There has never been a time when benefit recipients got something for nothing, there have always been conditions associated with claiming job seekers allowance. Currently the Work Programme, where claimants are expected to turn up 5 days a week or face sanction. Other issues which are conveniently ignored are the fact that the long term unemployed are discriminated by employers.

  • @Martin Caffrey 1st Oct ’13 – 12:13am
    You touch on a subject that has occurred to me, from my dealings with with people through Businesslink. There isn’t really anywhere for people, who don’t have substantive savings, to turn to and get funding for the sort of training and startup support you allude to with your good friend. The JobCentre’s are wholly concerned with getting your good friend back into work and most probably other painting and decorating jobs, which either don’t involve retraining or someone else is prepared to pay for such retraining. Naturally as soon as you friend embarks on courses – beyond evening classes, the JobCentre will regard him as being no longer unemployed and so stop his Job Seekers Allowance, which for logical reasons doesn’t include a retraining or skills updating element.

    Personally, I would like to see a level of small loans/grants available from government for such entrepreneurs, that work along similar lines to Student Loans. Obviously a candidate to oversee these would be Businesslink, since they could provide the business oversight, support and mentoring, but that service/organisation has been massively cut back in recent years…

  • Tony Greaves 1st Oct '13 - 3:45pm

    Most job applications do not get an acknowledgement let alone an interview. Because the system is bust. Unemployed claimants are made to send in hundreds of job applications because no-one can think of a better way of punishing them for being unemployed. Employers cannot cope with the volume of applications they get so they just zap them. It is dispiriting for everyone involved. Making people turn up every single day to send off even more applications (imagine 30 people in a job centre all applying for the same three jobs!) is the product of minds that do not live in the real world.

    The proposals appear to be wrong in principle and stupid in practice.

    I do think that if I were not privileged to be a member of the Lords and of a Council – whcih give me things to do which I can persuade myself are useful – this mikght be the issue on which I

    As for families with three generations and no-one ever worked, it’s an urban myth. The last serious search for such families found about five in the whole country. There are certainly areas where many of even most people do not work, and too many families include individuals who have never worked, but the three generations stuff is a myth.

    I have listened to Duncan Smith today spelling out what this stuff means. It is all madness, and very nasty madness. I am deeply ashamed that the Liberal Democrats in government have not put a stop to it. As for believing what is said by some of the clever but all too often clueless lot who hang around ministers, I despair.

    Tony Greaves

  • @Tony Greaves

    Thank goodness we do have people such as yourself in the Lords and being the voice of reason.

    I do so hope that you can persuade others in your party just how nasty this policy is and the damaging effect that it will have on the individuals and on society as a whole

  • Tony Greaves 1st Oct '13 - 3:54pm

    I do think that if I were not privileged to be a member of the Lords and of a Council – whcih give me things to do which I can persuade myself are useful – this mikght be the issue on which I

    Sorry the above got garbled. What I meant to say (fairly obviously really) is that this is the issue on which I might be tempted to give up political activity. But I will struggle on. I do however find it harder and harder to argue with people who have reached the end of their tolerance levels.


  • Simon Bamonte 1st Oct '13 - 5:10pm

    A brilliant and eloquent post from @Vincent highlighting the despair this government has brought to so many people around the country. I truly feel the leadership of the LibDems have abandoned the poor, unemployed, disabled and vulnerable, knowing that these people will probably not vote LibDem in the next election, so sees no reason to help or make life any easier for them. The LibDem’s leadership and many many members (including plenty who post here) seem so removed from the lives of those on lower incomes that they may as well be living in a different country from people like me who are struggling to put food on the table. A recent article on here advocated letting energy prices go where they will while sneering at Miliband for at least attempting to talk about the cost of living crisis. Meanwhile, there are people who actually die during the winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes. Yet the bosses and shareholders of these cartel-like companies are happy to pay themselves unseen riches. These are the actions of a party which has not only lost its moral compass, but have become free-market fundamentalists, preferring to follow their dogma even if it means millions of people already in poverty face becoming poorer. They blindly see the market as the answer to everything, much like Labour used to see the state as the answer for everything. All the while the answer is somewhere in-between. And this free-market fundamentalism continues when it comes to unemployment. As I said above, there are more people wanting work than available jobs. So what do these people do? Blame the unemployed, of course, rather than the market failure of companies to provide a means of subsistence for all. I know there are still many good, decent people left in this party, but the fact is they seem to have no power when it comes to influencing the leadership to act in a humane and decent way.

    It is my firm belief that the people who run this party are completely divorced from real life. They are comfortable, well-off, and have had plenty of privileges in life and simply don’t get that most people in this country are not as lucky as them. The leadership of this party is happy to throw disabled people out of their homes if they have a spare bedroom and even happier to give subsidies to well-off people to buy their own home. It is blatant and on show for all to see. This party is now, by and large, one for economically comfortable people who have a dogmatic attachment to the free market, but don’t like traditional Tory racism/homophobia/sexism, etc. The unemployed, disabled, and poor? They can go whistle or vote Labour, because those who run this party obviously care not one jot for them.

  • You do all realise these are just pilot schemes, don’t you?

  • John Clough 1st Oct '13 - 5:27pm

    Please don’t give up the struggle Tony, as an increasingly rare Lib Dem rooted in a down to earth northern community you are a shining example of common sense and compassion in politics today. Keep speaking out and bringing the concerns of ordinary voters into the Westminster village where their voices are heard so infrequently.

  • Caron’s article raises the classic Kantian ethical distinction between whether it is the act or the intent that is bad. As such, it is interesting to consider the practical nature of the policy once the (truly appaling) Tory rhetoric has been removed and you look at the bare mechanics of the policy.

    In many ways I could imagine the bare policy coming from Labour, with a spin saying it was a caring government investing in people and trying to get them back to work. From the Tories it is a policy that is about cracking down on the work shy. Both spins could work and both would apply to their base and potential voters. As such, to say the obvious, language is incredibly important in these issues.

    (Side note: I found the Tory spin utterly disgusting. It demonises people who are a victim of circumstance and not of their own making. As Tony Greaves rightly said, the number cases of people treating welfare as a lifestyle choice verges on tiny and, in line with Linda Jack, I hope that no one from anyside of the party will put up with or support the language the Tories are using).

    As far as the policy is concerned, I am far from convinced it is a good idea at all. Having spent a year unemployed I doubt anything they mentioned would have helped me – it was a lack of jobs rather than skill and experience that was my problem. I don’t deny it could help some people, and Caron’s example is an interesting, real example that in some cases and circumstance it may work. Perhaps there are elements of it that could work as party of a broader liberal effort?

    As part of developing a liberal policy, I think the point Tony Greaves makes about having tolerence towards the unemployed must be central when addressing this issue. Like Tory language this should be an issue on which the party unites. Being without work is the most depressing, anxious, fearful and humilating time I have ever known – we must come from a positon of sympathy and respect for those trying to get back into employment as they represent the vast majority of the unemployemed and it is they we should be developing policy to help. Wasting time on a small number of headline grabbing, aggravating cases waste focus and effort necessary for addressing the real problem.

  • Andrew Colman 1st Oct '13 - 6:55pm

    Agree with the principle that claimants should be asked to do some work for their benefits if (a) they have been claiming for a suitable length of time (months at least and (b) they are paid at least the minimum wage and are not financially disadvantaged by work.

    However, this idea that claimants should sign in every day is absurd. I estimate this will cost £1 per sign on x
    2 500 000 unemployed x 4 days x 52 weeks = £520 million. in bureaucracy. So much for a party that claims to be good at managing the economy!

  • Martin Caffrey 1st Oct '13 - 7:20pm


    Just spoke to my friend to get the facts…..

    1. He is doing a computer course with a company called Intraining. He’s on the ‘home shopping’ module at present?
    2. Prior to this he was on a bricklaying course but the funding ran out? Don’t know what company would employ a 50 year old with a ‘withered’ leg? (his words, not mine).
    3. They helped him get his CSCS card (for building site work), but again can’t see hom working on site! He’s a health & safety risk!

    And he’s been sanctioned once already. And he has to pay a percentage of his council tax. And he shouldn’t be on JSA as he’s not fully recovered from surgery but Atos, well I imagine everyone knows about them!

  • Tony Greaves 1st Oct '13 - 8:38pm

    The voting point is important.

    The sad fact is that people without jobs and on benefits , together with most others who form what people label the “underclass”, have largely given up voting. Thi s is why politicians can ignore their reactions to how they are treated.

    As a for instance, there was a serious attempt in the Lords (proposed by crossbencher Richard Best) to block the bedroom tax and achieve a similar notional reduction in the “welfare” bill by reducing the single person discount on council tax from 25% to 20%. This would of course only have affected single person households where the single person was assessed as having enough money to pay the tax. (ie it would not have affected poor SPH’s).

    This move failed because the Labour Party refused to support it. The Labour front bench in the Lords wanted to support it. But they were instructed to vote it down by Hilary Benn and Co in the Commons. The reason (unstated, obviously) was fairly clearly that better off single people vote; poor people on benefits do not.


  • Melanie Harvey 2nd Oct '13 - 1:46am

    And so the slave trade is reborn

  • Richard Dean 2nd Oct '13 - 2:20am

    Is there any evidence that poor people on benefits don’t vote?

  • Martin Caffrey 2nd Oct '13 - 3:50am

    @Richard Dean

    Further to my posts above, my friend who I mention has stated he isn’t going to vote in 2015 because “they’re all in it for themselves” re: politicians. I’d class him as poor, in fact I really don’t know how he can afford to eat after paying out for gas, electric, water, tv licence, phone bill, petrol or bus/train fares. All out of £71.00 per week??? In fact I’d say he’s actually malnourished! AND suffering from depression thanks to IDS and his demonisation of the unemployed.

  • Mick Taylor – What you describe IS the product of successive thatcherite thinking, both under Thatcher herself, but of course, since. Interestingly, the recent research shows that there are not all that many “families who have been unemployed for 3 generations”, but where that type of thing (a lot of longish term unemployed in particular households in particular areas) happens, it is usually because of local destruction of an industrial base. If we are trying to do something “civilised” about it, then we should be enforcing those with power to do that, ie big business Government etc, not hitting the poor sods who have been affected over the years. Of course help should be available, and people should be asked to get involved. I think you have to realise also, the pervasive effects of mental health type issues in these families – when asked to point to those who are “skivers” many point to people with these issues. No, the answers aren’t easy, but we all live in society together, and as liberals we should be working towards greater understanding that we are NOT all the same, we are not all immediately capable of working 35 hours per week in a high pressure job. That doesn’t mean people are skiving or “making a lifestyle choice”. I can assure you, Mick, I have also spoken to some whose first impression attitudes I don’t like at all, but I do think you have to dig deeper than your post suggests!

  • James Sandbach 4th Oct '13 - 9:42am

    The debate in the liberal community used to be between those who thought full employment was achievable through Keynesian means and those who thought it was unachievable so the state should instead pay a “citizens income” and encourage voluntarism and alternatives to work. Today however it seems that some liberals would set back down the road towards slavery…

  • Norman Fraser 6th Oct '13 - 7:34pm

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Martin Bennett
    It is likely to be the case that Labour will do less well than current polls and electoral calculus indicate and that Conservatives will do better, with Reform ...
  • David Allen
    We should support the ICC prosecutor, who rightly seeks to charge both Hamas and Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity. https://www.theguardian.c...
  • Geoff Reid
    We all speak as fools in guessing General Ellection results. That being said I can’t help thinking ththat one of the best outcomes might be a Labour small to...
  • Neil Hickman
    I’m not convinced about this supposed non-aggression pact with Labour. One of the few successes for the Tories this month was in a by election in a seat near ...
  • James Fowler
    Holding the balance of power after the forthcoming election would appear so improbable as to be absurd. However, if we do secure ca. 30+ MPs it's possible that ...