In February 1997 the “Commentator of the Year” was musing in the Indy:
Latest figures for Project Work, the Government’s pilot workfare scheme, suggest colossal fraud or deliberate idleness on a scale no one predicted.
Nearly a decade and half later and you have to pinch yourself while reading back Polly Toynbee’s article “The Tories were right: workfare really works”:
Since April, 6,800 people unemployed for over two years have been through schemes in Hull and the Medway. First they have 13 weeks’ intensive Job Search with a dedicated worker chivvying and harrying them to apply for jobs as never before. (One of many embarrassing questions for the Government is, why never before? Answer: cheese-paring on staff, the unemployed never even had to sign on in person.) Next they face 13 weeks of compulsory work for “voluntary” organisations for an extra pounds 10 a week. Either the carrot (help to find a job) or the stick (the threat of compulsory work) has led to an astonishing number signing off and no longer drawing benefit – nearly half of them.
After looking at some individual case studies, Toynbee concludes that it “made a difference.” We may disagree on the minor details, but Guido is very happy that Polly backs the principles behind the scheme…