I’m going to say something which some lefties, like our friends at Political Scrapbook and Polly Tonybee at the Guardian, might take offence at. The government’s volunteer work placement scheme is a good thing.
You see this is controversial because the governments ‘evil slave labour’ work experience program is currently facing the ire of the left wing blogosphere. The thing is people like Laurence Durnan, editor of Political Scrapbook, used to agree work experience was a good thing.
Political Scrapbook runs an unpaid internship scheme , with a preference for ‘a graduate looking for a break in politics or the media’ which fits the bill for DirectGovs’ definition of a graduate placement – which “can give you a valuable introduction to the world of work – and boost your future career prospects”
It’s not so different from the government’s programme which places young people with prospective employees for a few weeks of unpaid work experience. As you might expect from a small outfit, the internship is unpaid, but in fairness, Political Scrapbook have tried to make access to its scheme as open as possible.
There is a major difference between Political Scrapbooks Graduate Placement program and the governments however – the government’s participants get full Job Seekers Allowance.
Under the Governments volunteer scheme people get full JSA, a change made last year for full time placements, whereas, by requiring their interns work at least “24 hours across the week” and by not participating in the scheme Laurence and his team bar young people from claiming Job Seekers Allowance, as this can only be claimed for private placements of 16 hours a week or less.
On their site Scrapbook say that interns can “support themselves with other paid work” – Oh the irony.
I do wonder if they have thought this through. It is hard for young people to get work without experience and it’s harder still to get experience without work. Without a work experience programme many young people will continue to face a catch 22.
The left used to trumpet state intervention programs and this is exactly what the government’s program is; intervention to help young people get work.
35,000 young people have volunteered for the scheme since it launched and more than half of those have since found work.
Voluntary schemes should be voluntary and there must be no threat of benefits being withdrawn. People doing work experience should be experiencing work, not replacing salaried staff and any company which does that should face sanctions and boycotts.
But the left are not calling for sanctions applied if people pull out of the scheme to be scrapped, perhaps because only 200 have faced a sanction, they are deliberately and confusingly conflating the work experience scheme, which offers short term work placements with private companies, with schemes like the Mandatory Work Activity programme, which offers placements which “makes a contribution to the community” for the long term unemployed.
By trying to tarnish companies with unjustifiable accusations of ‘slave labour’ to the point that they back out under a hail of angry tweets, the left is seeking to deny tens of thousands of young people an important opportunity to make themselves attractive to employers and ultimately, make it harder for them to find work.
With a flurry of tweets and a sense of misplaced moral superiority sites like Political Scrapbook are using their own unpaid labour to try and lay low the coalitions efforts to help young people out of work.
Left wing blogs and commentators are trying to destroy the coalitions back to work programme because it’s not a Labour Party programme and, therefore, they oppose it on ideological grounds.
Polly Tonybee, writing in 1997 for the Independent proclaimed “The Tories were right: workfare really works (…and it is Labour that will cash in) In the article she muses of Job Seekers; ‘Did they find the prospect of three months’ compulsory work so terrible that they chose to starve instead?’ She applauds that ‘Labour’s (1997) manifesto will also promise workfare, compelling all the young and long-term unemployed to work or train.’
By expecting their interns to find part time work so they can subsidise the left wings anti government campaign, Scrapbook, and other left wing commentators, are making a mockery of double standards and doing those out of work a major disservice.
What price to try and give the coalition a bloody nose? It’s shameful.