Suggestions, they want!

Given that this blog is called “Writings and Rantings”,
it’s time Imageto get a good rant in before someone complains to Trades Descriptions. And it’s not long before something suitably rant-provoking turns up, furnished by those lovely folks at the Department for Works and Pensions.

Many writers work in precarious trades, in addition to the most precarious trade of writing. They may receive top-up benefits like working tax credits or housing benefit to supplement their work income. Workers in all sectors of employment are in a similar position as they face uncertainty and lower pay, a situation aggravated by outsourcing and privatised contracts. The government has been boasting that unemployment has gone down, but its figures have been distorted by a) people on workfare not counted as unemployed b) people on DWP sanctions who have no income at all and c) people who have taken up self-employment, part-time and short-term jobs.

And it’s this last group who will be most affected by the forthcoming attack on top-ups. Previously, these benefits were based solely on income, with no need to visit the job centre and jump through hoops. But with the institution of Universal Credit (aka Universal Stitch-Up), the government intends to impose ‘in-work conditionality’ by 2015.

And here’s Lord ‘Fraud’ Freud launching a ‘call for ideas’:

“The fact that those in work will come under the ambit of the JobCentre Plus for the first time as a result of universal credit gives the government radical new opportunities.”

Profiteering, time-wasting, life-sapping
Having learned their lessons from New Labour in the spin of framing retrogressive steps as ‘radical’, the ConDems aren’t content with their attempts to grind down unemployed and disabled people. They now want to extend workfare and ‘conditionality’ – a euphemism for profiteering, time-wasting, potentially life-sapping harassment – to working claimants when Universal Credit kicks in.

There are already warning trickles of the flood of lies that will burst forth from the Shite Mail and others, dedicated to consigning those previously known as the ‘working poor’ to the ranks of alleged scrounger-dom. However, the government is also well aware that the standard divisive rhetoric about benefits robbing The Taxpayer will be more difficult to direct against people who are actually working and paying taxes. The architects of austerity are so boldly going where no poverty profiteer has gone before.

At the sharp end
Therefore, the DWP and workfare thinktank Policy Exchange are asking for suggestions on how to widen the range of their nets to self-employed, part-time and low-paid workers. In a document with the catchy title of “Extending labour market interventions to in-work claimants – call for ideas”, the DWP requests feedback from “employers, behavioural economists, social psychologists, think tanks, welfare to work providers, academics, charities, application designers and those at the sharp end of delivering existing services”. Of course, this call-out doesn’t include those at ‘the sharp end’ of DWP schemes.

The document goes on to ask: “What ideas could we trial to best support people in work, in receipt of Universal Credit… to take positive steps to achieve financial independence, both in the Tax Credit system and when Universal Credit is introduced?”

 This seems to acknowledge that UC, particularly for working claimants, will be a longer time coming. But will the government look at steps to impose conditionality within the current working tax credit system? This doesn’t appear plausible, given that the current job descriptions of HMRC employees do not include enforcing job-search conditions. But this does need watching. If UC continues to founder, then IDS, Lord Fraud and co may indeed turn to messing with tax credits. There have already been sweeps on monitoring the 30-hour rule.

Deeply dodgy
The DWP document goes on to push the discredited Universal Jobmatch website: “Automatic job matching means the system works 24/7 to find jobs that fit with people’s skills set or supplement their existing employment so their CV is working for them even whilst they sleep…” So, when working claimants aren’t working, they should be divulging their private data on this deeply dodgy website.

And it adds: “Universal Jobmatch also provides information on individuals’ job search activity, including their CV and application history.” Universal Jobmatch is not compulsory now, however, And even if signing up is made compulsory in the future, claimants will still be able to refuse the DWP access to their account, and refuse cookies that will enable snoopers to follow their activity. Anti-tracking sofware will foil snoopers too. Meanwhile, those who are already getting pressure to sign up for Universal Jobmatch can find more information here and here.

The DWP call for ideas will run until 25 March 2013. It asks that people submit ideas to: Though the Policy Exchange call for ideas has officially closed, it invited comments ‘on a personal basis’ for Matthew Oakley at

So Mr Oakley may continue to be open to more informal comments at this email address.

Suggestions, they want? We’ll give them suggestions. Let ’em have it!

Songs for 14 Feb

14 February. It’s a bit late in the day, but WTF…

Before breaking out the old Gang of Four again (love’ll get you like a case of anthrax, remember…?) I tried to find some songs about polyamory before going to work this morning.

Not a lot of those songs around, though. I found myself harking back to that old Crosby standard, “Triad”, which is even older than the “Love Like Anthrax”.

I’m most familiar with the Jefferson Airplane version of “Triad”. It had been one of my least favourite songs on the Crown of Creation album (I preferred the title tune with those lyrics nicked from John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids), but it’s grown on me over the years.

Some sensible sentiments from Dave Rovics:

And here’s “New River Train”, a very jolly song from Raffi: