The so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) is nothing if not shamelessly immodest, so it was no surprise to see their latest magnum opus described as “A major new report ... the next stage of welfare reform in the UK”. This report, titled “Work for the Dole”, can be read HERE [.pdf] and is authored by Chris Philp, a businessman and former Tory Parliamentary candidate.
More guff from Tufton Street
Some of the rationale used by Philp, together with anecdotal evidence to give the impression that being unemployed and drawing benefits is some kind of lifestyle choice, will already be familiar to readers of ConservativeHome. In the TPA report, he asserts that making people work for their benefits has been shown to work in Canada and the USA, and so it should be done in the UK.
He also switches between citing reductions in welfare claims and welfare caseloads in his Stateside citations. That is unacceptable: let’s see consistent comparisons. Another questionable assumption is that the level of benefits is responsible for there being over 900,000 long-term unemployed. But it is the costing of Philp’s central proposition – compulsory 30 hours a week work – where it falls apart.
Philp assumes that 575,000 people will participate in this programme, of which 110,000 are currently on Incapacity Benefit (IB) and a further 80,000 on Employment Support Allowance (ESA). That puts him firmly in the Ron Hopeful category. Moreover, the scheme’s budget includes only supervisory, management and materials costs, the first two of which are highly optimistic.
Participants are expected, therefore, to stand their own travel and meal expenses. That’s a non-starter. Nor is any cost budgeted for the organisations which will provide the work placements: perhaps these are expected to materialise without any money changing hands. It is assumed that those getting jobs will then no longer qualify for Housing Benefit at the level previously claimed.
Worse, while the UK economy has generated just over 200,000 new jobs each year on average from 1997 to 2012, it is assumed that 345,000 will “come off welfare” in a year – which begs the question of where their jobs will come from, especially as there are others out there in the job market looking for work. As with so many TPA reports, the figures just don’t add up.
On top of that, the TPA is assuming that Universal Credit (UC), the flagship reform of Iain Duncan Cough, is introduced on time and throughout the UK, when right now the scheme is likely to miss its start date. It is not the only such problem with the Coalition’s welfare reform efforts, as Sue Marsh has pointed out in forthright style in a Comment Is Free piece today. So the TPA’s rickety structure is built on sand.
Still, it generates column inches from desperate tabloids, so that’s all right, then.