As the National debt has now reached an all time high of £1 trillion, many are looking to see where the Government’s “Budget Cuts Axe” will fall next. The Education and health care sectors have already endured major cuts and with stories circling about numerous “Benefit thieves” and “Benefit Bums” it’s no surprise the Welfare sector is also under attack.
Late last year, David Cameron announced a “work for your benefits” scheme as a means of getting as many people as possible off the dole. The controversial scheme requires those on Job seekers allowance to work for 30 hours a week over 6 months without pay or a guarantee of a Job. Even worse, should someone refuse to comply they would be stripped off their Job seekers allowance(JSA) which is an essential means of keeping afloat for many.
While the Prime Minister and his supporters claim the scheme gets people into the practice of working, many believe that it’s simply exploitative. Among those who share this view is Public Interest Lawyer; Jim Duffy,
“Forcing jobseekers to work for free may benefit big business but does nothing to break the cycle of unemployment and poverty. Instead it amounts to exploitation, decided at the whim of a Jobcentre Plus adviser.”
The likes of Tesco, Asda, Argos and other major brands have taken on staff via “work for benefit” programmes and it seems as though these workers also share Mr Duffy’s sentiment.
22 year old Cait Reilly who graduated from University last year with a degree In Geology spent 3 weeks working for Poundland as part of the program. She told reporters that she felt as though she was being used as “free labour, especially in the run-up to Christmas”. Nonetheless, she claims that it was necessary as without her JSA she would have “literally nothing”.
24 year old James Moorehead, who has a degree in Computer games programming, had a similar experience at Maplin where he spent 8 weeks stacking shelves and taking deliveries;
“While I understand the need to gain experience to get a job I think the whole idea of unpaid placements like this are unfair,”he said.
“We’re doing the same amount of hours and work as actual employees and temp staff are doing, and we’re doing it just as well and there is no guarantee of a job at the end of it, meaning it could potentially be all for nothing.”
A number of the brands participating in the scheme have now pulled out, with several claiming that they believed that the scheme was voluntary. These include Waterstones, Sainsbury and Poundland however others such as Tesco have yet to follow suite.
Ms Reily(mentioned above) has filled a case against the Department for Work and Pensions(DWP) who are responsible for the programme on the grounds that it violates human rights.
Article 4 of the Human right act states; “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor.”
However, the DWP have made it clear that they intend to fight the case and employment minister Chris Grayling released a defiant statement in response;
“The idea that providing work experience for unemployed young people is some kind of forced labor is utterly and completely absurd.”
While it remains to be seen, whether these programmes will continue this fiasco can be considered yet another example of the great divide between politicians and the public. This scheme essentially punishes people unable to find employment under the assumption that they “lay-abouts” waiting on state hand-outs without any concern for their personal circumstances.
For all their big words and wonderfully crafted speeches, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Politicians are incapable of relating to the struggles of the general public.