The 4.45pm Link 65

Interesting piece from the curmudgeon on welfare reform.

We should not forget the extent to which every possible step was taken to discourage benefit claimants already under New Labour.

A friend of mine who works in what used to be called a Jobs Centre says it is heartbreaking to see the unemployed who have worked all their lives, sometimes in quite senior positions, now being put through the deliberately humiliating and onerous process of claiming benefit. They have to show they have applied every week for numerous often inappropriate jobs and continually provide evidence of their rejection.

She says that there really does exist a class of benefit scrounger who have no intention of working. They are precisely the ones who are not discouraged. They know how to fill the forms, happily send off a quota of hopeless online job applications every week, and don’t mind explaining themselves to a gormless eighteen year old clerk who has the power to send them and their family to starvation. It is the honest people humiliated at having to claim benefits who can’t cope and fall through the net.

That is the problem with making benefits harder to claim – you discourage the wrong people.

The interesting thing is that the staff do know broadly who are real and who are the scroungers – but they are not allowed to use discretion, but have to make decisions according to set procedures and criteria based on form filling and production of meaningless rejection letter paperwork.. Absolutely symptomatic of New Labour’s Britain.

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65 thoughts on “The 4.45pm Link

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  • eddie

    I’d stick to foreign affairs if I were you Craig. It’s clear that you haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about.

  • nextus

    Bullshit, eddie. Maybe you should speak to someone who works for the Welfare Rights Agency, who’ve mopped up the mess at the sharp end for years, before blindly declaring your absolute faith in your NuLabour puppet masters. The system is full of pitfalls and loopholes that only people within the claimant culture know how to avoid or exploit. Many deserving people have their claims unfairly denied, and have to wait months to win a backdated award on appeal; the stress experienced in the meantime can damage their long-term employability. Some very talented people fall through the gaps and end up on the streets.

  • Abe Rene

    Keep at it. It’s important to encourage the present government to move away from the target-driven culture that New Labour created, and a return to discretion and liberty is what many professionals need.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Just look at the shit you are creating again Murray.You got Eddie and the lot of ’em going at it.

    Murray ?” you are guilty of speaking the truth to power.

    Remember the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski::-

    “For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination.” New York Times ?” Opinion piece published on the 16th December, 2008

    So ?” damn you ?” be quiet Craig!

  • technicolour

    Well drawn picture; important view, thanks Craig. It’s true.

    One point: in the many areas where it can take years to get a real job, far too few people end up treating the whole process as a joke, despite the fact that it’s necessary to do so to survive mentally. It’s not quite fair to describe these people, who aren’t entirely crushed by the system as ‘scroungers’, I think.

    Otherwise, v interesting piece by Ken Livingston in the Morning Star.

  • Gallimaufry

    Absolutely spot on. I worked in a JobCentre as a Peronal Advisor for over two years and can confirm what you write. It was sad to have to impose a one size fits all service on everyone. There was just too wide a spectrum between illiterate, innumerate unskilled short term workers and graduates with decades of career experience for a decent service to be provided for the better qualified who were, in effect,expected to find jobs themselves. The system of sanctions for claimants who abused the system was a bureaucratic nightmare, staff training was poor and loyalty to co-religionists by management was blatant.

  • craig


    I agree, ( I really do) but you also have to avoid the opposite trap of failure to admit that some people really are terminally workshy and will play the system to get everything they can.

  • mike cobley

    As someone who was unemployed for most of the 80s and 90s, I can exclusively reveal that the benefit claiming system under Thatcher was a stress-free regime of dignity compared to the humiliating grind of idiocy which Major introduced and Blair perfected. To be frank, I care less about unemployed people gaming the system to gain some extra cash (which gets spent very quickly), than I do about the wealthy and the bloated rich who have their accountants and stockbrokers make them great wads of money which sit around not being spent. Or, if they do get spent, its usually on mickey mouse derivatives rather than real things.

  • Anonymous

    ‘play the system to get everything they can.’

    Tony Blair

    Goldman Sachs

    J.P. Morgan

    The House of Commons

    The House of Lords

    Arms companies

    You want more?, I got lots more.

  • kingfelix

    “Absolutely symptomatic of New Labour’s Britain.”

    Actually, it was no different under John Major, when I was one of the millions unemployed. But sure, imply that it was different, don’t let truth intrude.

  • Jon

    @Craig – I think you’ve pasted the wrong link – looks like a link to your blog editor screen?

    @Eddie – I suggest, with all respect, that with each post you appear to be increasingly attached to the New Labour project — to the extent you are unable to offer meaningful criticism.

    On topic, this would be a great time for the coalition to institute changes that reduce the target-driven culture. But I fear the right-wing of the Tory party is in control here, and they intend to make matters much worse for genuine claimants.

  • Jon

    @kingfelix – I’ve no experience of unemployment, so I can’t offer a view on it. But personal experience is a statistical test with a sample size of one, and so is a terrible indicator of trend.

    I am inclined towards Craig’s view because the form-filling and lack of discretionary powers smacks of the target and market-oriented processes instituted in the health service, which were also strongly supported by New Labour. But if you believe New Labour *were* more sympathetic to genuine claimants, then it would be interesting to hear why you have that view, or to see some statistical evidence that supports it.

  • Anonymous


    You have put on a good post.

    He is right Craig you haven’t got a clue what you are talking about. It goes much deeper then you say, much deeper. I would have to say you are very ignorant on some topics.

  • Clark

    The benefits system is dreadful and demoralising. It HAS become far more oppressive since Thatcher’s time.

    In the ’90s I was signing on, doing part time work and declaring it. Nightmare. On the whim of a manager I could be signed off, which took effect instantly, and halted my housing benefit. Several pages of form filling later would start the process of resuming those benefits, which took between four and six weeks.

    I complained about this, and was told, off the record, that I should work for cash and not declare it. But I refused to be a benefit cheat.

    Is it really worth penalising the “terminally job shy”? Probably not, unless there’s really a job they could be doing. If you have someone who wants to work, and someone who doesn’t, it’s pretty obvious that the former would be a better worker. So the question becomes, should the terminally job shy be given money to live on? I’d say “yes”.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Capitalist financial institutions are the enemy of ordinary middle and working class people. It’s they who are making wars in far-off lands and then making profits from those wars, it’s they who are throwing people out of work, it’s they who have taken over our elected institutions.

    Most of the politicians who rule – whatever party they say they are from – are in their pockets.

    The ‘foreign’ and the ‘domestic’ spheres cannot be hermetically-sealed; they are indivisible. The same bunch of criminals is driving policy in both arenas. They robbed us all and they continue to rob the world. Everything they say is a lie.

    Solidarity, and a mass uprising is the only way.

  • Clark

    What the benefits system really does is determine a baseline in the employment market. Just think what would happen if there was more work available than workers to fill the posts; employers would have to buy labour by offering higher wages.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    And excuse me, but now that the financial institutions are making massive profits (‘again’ – did they ever stop?), can they not begin to fund public services – oh, sorry, that’s called TAXATION. Well, perhaps, rather than cut 40% of public services (or is it only 25%) and tossing all those ‘useless people’ (that’s you, me and the next-door-neighbour, people) out of jobs and onto the dung-heap so that even more become of us become ‘parasites’ and ‘scroungers’, perhaps we could toss those useless bankers out of jobs and make them fill in endless forms justifying their existence. What purpose do they actually serve? Apart from fleecing billions of their hard-earned wages? THEY are the parasites. The parasites are running the body politic. Time for very strong medicine. Time to boot them all to Kingdom Come!

  • Clark

    Work is a four-letter word. Try pronouncing it as such.

    Just how much work is there that is non or counter productive? How many desk jockeys, people formulating and enforcing pointless rules, people generating the paper spam for our letter boxes, people researching how to addict people to new products, people manipulating money for the sake of manipulating money (very “profitable” this one), etc? There is probably more “work” being done now than ever before, and at the same time, due to technology, less that actually needs to be done.

    The point of it all is not to increase productivity. It is to keep people busy, so that they’re exhausted when they get home and fit only to “consume”, and in no fit state to build genuine society for themselves or to take an interest and become active in important matters like politics.

    The System requires that the majority are kept either overworked, or utterly disenfranchised and demoralised.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    My view is that the intelligence services, the arms-security industry and financial institutions now form a single plexus, a cancer, if you like, which is engaged in all manner of practices on a massive scale, both domestically and internationally. In this sense, the spectre of ‘fascism-by-the-back-door’ becomes very real.

    I think that semi-overt and covert foreign policy objectives are being pursued as much or more through people at high levels in financial and other related institutions as via the old channels of state intelligence services. Indeed, it is my view that the players between these sectors have become virtually interchangeable. Is it Blunt or Blount? It makes no difference.

    I sense also, on another, but related, track, that through such dynamics, a de facto control of civil societies and the channeling and disbursement of massive amounts of ‘charitable’ monies via foundations is being exercised – not just here in the UK, not just in the USA, but globally. Billions on the wars, billions on control. Paper elections that change nothing. Is this not fascism?

  • Anonymous

    “if there was more work available than workers to fill the posts; employers would have to buy labour by offering higher wages.”

    That is exactly what happened after the black death, here in the UK.

    Good point Clark.

  • Clark


    sorry, I’ve been ranting. You’re very right about the need for the unemployed to maintain a lighthearted attitude towards the benefit requirements in order to preserve their sanity.

    Does anyone remember that scandal when unemployed women were admonished by a Jobcenter for not applying for jobs as prostitutes?

  • JimmyGiro

    If you really want a solution to the ‘work-shy’, then stop saving jobs for women and minorities, and offer them to the long term unemployed first.

    The social problem that you will face is: what is worse, unemployed men, or unemployed women?

    ZanuLabour chose unemployed men.

  • Anonymous

    Clark said it.

    It’s social engineering. Schools are also full of this dispiriting bollox… about everywhere else, I’m sure.

    Banker-funded think-tanks invent this rubbish to disable any possible opposition and condition us into a state of complete helplessness, which is how most people feel.

    We’ll change nothing till we change this:

  • Anonymous

    How long before the condem government say, anyone unemployed for more then six months will no longer be entitled to access the NHS.

    I know that the condems are talking about doing away with all benefits. They are talking about employing 5,000 dedicated coordinators around the UK. They would be in charge of volunteers to run church halls, allocating food aid to people, disabled, unemployed, etc. The food would be donated by good hearted people, supermarkets (out of date food cans),etc.

  • ingo

    Clark and Suhayl are spot on, my feeling says just about the same,its about 2/3 Orwell, but in a more insidious, underhand way.

    I never been to the Dole office until 2007, the whole queing was alien, those characters who knew their way round came in and did their thing with ease, I was a virgin and as such played with, they knew it and some of them enjoyed it.

    The first words I heard from my advisor were’ you’ve got 5 minutes’.

    Lucky me, I managed to get an interview with a firm of environmental consultants( didn’t get the job)and had another prosepective one in the pipeline to show for that day. She was not interested. I ask when I woudl receive benefit support and she answered that due to my wife earning just over the threshold, that I would not be eleigible.

    Two weeks later I did not sign her papers and ask for themanager starightaway, only to hear the same, reasoned so he said, explanation for not getting support, though I would get my national insurance paid as long as I signed on.

    So I told him that it costs me more in bus fares to come into the City and sign on, then the NI was worth, and that it would be much cheaper for me to pay it myself…

    He stood up and left me sitting there, by nbow ready to pull him over the table. Calm got the upper hand, these offices are stacked with security officers, and I just left, never to return.


    But should, for one reason or other, the national benefit computer fail, as well as the back up in Runcorn, lopcated just behind the bus station in a massive building with loads of cameras everywhere, all hell would break out in days, all over the country.

    Those who will not get paid would be up in arms, no need to formate or organise.

    feel better now, thanks for the link into your signing up procedure.

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