The ‘workfare bill’ and sanctions targets

Con-Dems have no solutions to unemployment

Dan Crowter, Coventry Socialist Party

On budget day, the latest unemployment figures were published and showed yet another increase in the number of people out of work.

Rather than offering any solution, the three main parties continue to attack the unemployed.

For example, the Con-Dems’ ‘workfare bill’ went through the House of Commons easily, as all but 44 Labour MPs obeyed the leadership and abstained.

The bill was rushed through in response to the High Court’s ruling that the way workfare was implemented is illegal.

This meant that the government owed compensation to around 150,000 jobseekers who had taken part in the scheme, which forced them to work for free for private companies or risk losing their unemployment benefits.


Unlike most laws the bill will be applied retrospectively so the government can ignore the ruling and refuse to repay any benefits that were sanctioned.

Labour is facing a growing backlash from inside and outside its ranks as a result of their disgraceful decision to abstain, with many members calling for shadow Work and Pensions minister Liam Byrne to resign. It has once again been shown that New Labour doesn’t represent working class people.

Hundreds of people have said online that they won’t vote Labour again, and some Labour activists have resigned or threatened to resign – they should get involved in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) instead.

It has also recently been revealed that jobcentres have been setting targets and “league tables” for how many benefit claimants they’ve sanctioned, despite repeated statements from the government and the Department for Work and Pensions that there were no targets in place.

Emails sent by a local manager referred to a “league table”, which the Guardian reports “could only have been drawn up through information provided by senior managers in the DWP”.

The email also threatened disciplinary action against staff deemed to be “not delivering”. This sort of pressure on staff, and the attitude within the DWP of suspicion towards claimants, is unacceptable.

The trade unions must campaign for real jobs – not workfare – and for benefits that are enough to live on without bullying for claimants or staff.

The Socialist Party calls for a mass programme of job creation – house building, infrastructure development and investment in public services – as the only way to solve unemployment.