Support jobseekers, don’t sanction them

Were you as incensed as I was at reading the latest Government move against some of the most vulnerable people in our society?

The scheme is called “Way to Work” and according to this report, jobseekers will have only four weeks (reduced from three months) to find work in their preferred sector. After that period they will be forced to widen their job search to other sectors.  If they turn down employment or don’t make “reasonable efforts” to find work then they will be sanctioned and lose some of their Universal Credit.

I do understand the context. There are 1.22 million job vacancies, many of these in essential services such as care work or delivering, and it is important for all of us to get those filled. But forcing people to take on jobs that they find difficult or unpleasant does not produce a happy and productive work force. And reducing benefits for people who are already on the breadline is dangerous, as it can push people into criminality or homelessness.

Wendy Chamberlain MP is our Work and Pensions Spokesperson, and she said:

Rather than supporting people to find secure long-term employment, the Government is now attempting to force people into accepting any job going.

This callous move could see skilled workers forced to accept insecure short term employment, for fear of having the rug pulled out from under them, and create a cycle of unemployment.

What is worse, these harsh sanctions could be applied within weeks of applying for Universal Credit – before people’s first payment even arrives.

We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis, with energy bills soaring and reliance on food banks rising. If the Government can write off billions in Covid fraud, they can afford to genuinely support those looking for work instead of sanctioning them.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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24 Comments

  • Barry Lofty 27th Jan '22 - 2:29pm

    We should not be surprised at this new initiative regarding the “Way to Work” scheme, it completely sums up this awful right wing government, Wendy Chamberlain MP got it absolutely right.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Jan '22 - 5:23pm

    Any “sanction” of benefits is unacceptable. Benefits are barely enough to live on as it is, so anyone who has their benefit cut is being denied the basic necessities of life.
    No-one should be forced to take a job they feel to be completely wrong for them.
    This shows the need for UBI – a basic income received by everyone – which would mean no-one could be threatened in this way again

  • The idea of people taking jobs in the care sector because they have been effectively forced to do so, rather than wanting to, throws up another dreadful aspect to this ghastly idea.
    People who need carers need, well, people who care. Not resentful workers who hate the job.

  • @Cassie

    Totally agree with what you said this seems absurd to potentially force people to work in the care sector if this was a vocation that they had no interest in working in.

    The thought that I could send a vulnerable family member to be looked after in the care sector and he was being looked after by someone who didn’t want to be there and whose heart was not in the job, fills me with horror.

    Nothing surprises me about this Government. The massive Bill that has been run up due to covid is going to need to paying for, this attack on the unemployed is the start, next it is going to be the disabled, followed by cuts to services that many vulnerable people rely upon.
    Tories are going to want their pound of flesh and they will never accept tax rises on the rich to recover the costs, so whether it is Boris looking to hold on to his job, or another Minister looking to step into his shoes, watch this space for more attacks on the poor and the return of Phrases like “alarm clock Britain”

  • Brad Barrows 27th Jan '22 - 6:30pm

    Interesting article and comments. Taxpayers often do not think it fair that they should be required to pay higher taxes so that some people can chose to decline job offers and chose instead to live at their expense through the tax they pay. Universal Basic Income is the obvious solution

  • Whilst I get peoples general concerns, perhaps an alternative viewpoint might add further to the discussion.

    What has become clear, the various schemes to encourage skilled foreign workers to come and work in the UK have spectacularly failed.

    So perhaps one of the motivations is to get more jobseekers to consider being HGV drivers. Which raises the question that this is potentially more about Tory sponsors not wanting to pay market rates and invest in people and the working environment…

    Personally, I have no problem with an HGV driver earning more than a middle manager waving an MBA…

  • Chris Moore 27th Jan '22 - 9:12pm

    Having a robust and fair safety net requires not being punctilious or punitive with those dependent on benefits.

    There will always be a minority who take advantage of any government scheme – whether benefits for living or Covid business reliefs. This is part and parcel of a civilised society.

    We should be trying to maximise the position of the poorest off. Only then can they be more free.

    Most Tories have no empathy for or understanding of the worst off in society. And no electoral interest in learning.

  • Jenny barnes 28th Jan '22 - 7:24am

    47£bn on fraud, 37£bn on sercos failed test & trace, 0.5£M for liz truss to fly to Australia…I think the tories just enjoy being mean to poor people. Bullies burning £20 notes in front of beggars.

  • According to the latest ONS figures, the highest number of vacancies (by a significant margin) is in health and social care work, followed by hospitality. So the effect is likely to be to force reluctant claimants into these sectors. For care work, this is doubly bad – because it will put downward pressure on pay in a sector that is already undervalued, and also because not everyone has the temperament and empathy necessary to be a good care worker.

    Poor quality care causes real suffering to vulnerable people. Good care workers make a huge and positive difference to people’s lives and they need to be far better rewarded in terms of pay, working conditions and career opportunities.

  • Jenny Barnes 28th Jan '22 - 8:55am

    And it’s not as if the £20 notes are actually theirs! They belong to the taxpayers. So they’re mocking the relatively well off as well as poor prople.

  • Steve Trevethan 28th Jan '22 - 9:18am

    Might this be another, particularly harmful, manifestation of « The Deficit Myth »?
    Might it be that H M G does not or will not understand taxation?

  • Nonconformistradical 28th Jan '22 - 9:51am

    Do I get the impression that the government expects people to take any old job irrespective of whether or not they are qualified to do that job?

    Little point in pressuring people to go for jobs in sectors suffering shortages such as social care, HGV driving if they haven’t got the necessary qualifications.

    Government trying – if you can call it trying – to solve the wrong problem?

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jan '22 - 9:54am

    I am so glad that Mary Reid has published this article, and still more that Wendy Chamberlain MP has spoken out against this harsh and counter-productive policy. We Lib Dems want job guarantees and skills training for the unemployed, and for them to have the right to refuse work they find not right for them. The Fairer Society Working Group will surely need to emphasise again these principles in its forthcoming consultation document for Spring Conference. Universal Basic Income though admirable will not be a solution for able-bodied people of working age who want to find work.

  • Jenny Barnes 28th Jan '22 - 11:09am

    The problem they are trying to solve is their unpopularity post partygate. Red meat for the culture warriors.

  • Why do I get the feeling that this is just another “eye-catching” initiative designed to pull people’s attention away from the Downing Street fiasco? Am I really that cynical? YES! is the unequivocal answer.

    I used to work in DWP many years ago and would concur with many comments on here that people should not be pressured into applying for jobs that they do not WANT to do. Little thought seems to have been given to how employers might feel; I am sure that they would be far happier knowing that their employees are in jobs that they want to do, rather than a job that they are doing merely because they want to avoid Government sanctions.

  • This change in the sanctions regime is unlikely to end up with many people actually being employed in the sectors with shortages. Just because unemployed people are forced to apply for these jobs does not mean they will be employed. Most employers want people with relevant experience and if a person doesn’t have it, they are not selected for interview.

    Job seekers now will have to waste some of their time applying for jobs they have no change of getting. As it takes some time to complete an application form this might mean that they apply for fewer jobs that they have the qualifications and experience required.

    What we need to know is how many people apply for these jobs and if the employer would employ someone with no relevant experience. The government should be encouraging employers to employ people without the relevant experience and provide the support employers need to do so.

  • Barry Lofty 28th Jan '22 - 4:51pm

    I read an article today by Paul Waugh of the “I” newspaper in which he states that the government knows that penalising people on benefits does not actually work and the present initiative is only a sop to Johnson’s backbenchers in an attempt to keep them on board, what a way to run country?

  • Jason Connor 28th Jan '22 - 8:09pm

    But would employers be forced to accept people for jobs if they are unsuitable like care workers so this scheme might not work, just like elements of the welfare to work programme were changed.
    Many people who have been out of work for a long period need help upskilling and careers advice, the latter was cut back under coalition and is a piecemeal service at best so adult training and careers need more targeted support and funding. Perhaps this party can look at restoring the Careers Service. Workers in fulfilled careers are happier and more productive.

  • @ Jason Connor. “Workers in fulfilled careers are happier and more productive”. Says it all, really.

  • David Evershed 29th Jan '22 - 1:59am

    Economies are changing, particularly with digitisation.

    Some people need encouragement to move from dying sectors to growing sectors.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 29th Jan '22 - 8:59am

    Katharine, I’m not quite sure what you mean about Universal Basic Income not being “a solution for able bodied people of working age who want to find work”?
    Universal Basic Income does not prevent people from finding work (but perhaps that isn’t what you meant). UBI is meant to be “basic” income. Most people want more than a “basic” income, so most people will still want to find a job. What UBI would do, would be to empower people. The fact that UBI would be paid to all citizens, whether they needed it or not, would mean that no-one would need to “apply” for benefits when they became unemployed, or prove that they met certain conditions set by the government. If there was a principle that UBI was paid to every citizen, without exception, regardless of whether they “needed” or “deserved” it, there could be no question of anyone having their income “sanctioned”.
    Most unemployed people would still want to find a job as soon as possible, but they could not be forced to apply for a job that they knew would be the wrong job for them.
    Of course people should also be given support to help them find work, if needed. With UBI, job centre advisors would not be involved in the benefits system, and could give genuine careers guidance

  • Jason Connor 29th Jan '22 - 10:17am

    Job Centre staff are not trained Careers Advisers so do not give genuine impartial advice. Their role is to get job seekers into any job to fill targets even if it is not suitable for that individual. That’s why I said we need a properly funded careers service like it used to be with an emphasis on guidance and advice not a target driven exercise.

  • Nonconformistradical 30th Jan '22 - 9:22am

    Isn’t there a significant difference between (a) changing careers because one’s previous job sector is dying out and (b) needing employment to tide one over while seeking a longer term role?

    In (a) a properly resourced careers service is essential to help people make career changes. Such people still need to eat and keep a roof over their heads (perhaps also families if they have children and/or elderly relatives living with them) while acquiring the knowledge and skills for a longer term change.

    In (b) how reasonable is it to accept people staying on benefits for months if work is available locally which they could do straight away? Work needing to be done. It might help people acquire ‘soft skills’ – working with others, sticking to someone else’s timetable, interacting with customers etc. Might be stacking shelves in a supermarket. But if there are such vacancies locally isn’t there a risk of people losing their ‘soft skills’ tif they won’t take such jobs?

    I’m not trying to ignore disability, caring responsibilities etc. – our society needs to be able to cope with such needs.

    Is one of our problems still the idea that you only get one chance in life and if your first try doesn’t work out in the long term that’s your problem and not that of the state or anyone else?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 31st Jan '22 - 5:25pm

    The scheme by this government appears yet to be, amidst insecurity worse than in years, another hideous blow to those in need of help.

    The worst trhing about so many of the policies of the government led by Tories is they are out of touch with any who struggle.

    This means they almost at best do not get it, at worst , relish it, when they pander to this level of meanness.

    The vaccancies do not match thye jobless. It is like a dating agency going into the business of arranged marriage!

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