The Financial Times takes a more intelligent stance in a piece by Chris Tighe. It highlights the way in which smaller, especially voluntary, organisations have been squeezed out of the Work Programme.
Then there are Social Impact Bonds. We reported on these some time ago, because A4e's Mark Lovell is very keen on them; and someone who is promoting these was on the Today programme a few days ago. The Cabinet Office describes them thus: "A major trial of an innovative new way to fund intensive help for families blighted by anti-social behaviour, crime, addiction and poor education was announced by Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society today. Social Impact Bonds lets people invest in social projects to address these issues and be paid a return if the projects are successful. Up to £40million could be raised by four Social Impact Bond pilots launched in Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster, Birmingham and Leicestershire."
The Express, of course, shows its customary thoughtfulness with the headline "War on the Scroungers". It's actually commenting on a report by a think-tank, the IPPR, which has been out for some. And it's not quite what the Express portrays it as. The report says that those who have been unemployed for a year should have to take minimum-wage jobs; but these would be created by the government. And that's an admission that the jobs are not there unless the government creates them. The same IPPR report gets a very different treatment in the Telegraph, which focusses on the prediction that "around 100,000 people over 50 who lost their jobs at the start of Britain's economic crisis are now at risk of being forced to retire earlier than they planned. That will leave them living in retirement with a lower pension than they had hoped for."
It's left to the Guardian to strike a cynical note, with Alex Clark's piece inspired by Emma Harrison's publicity drive on family champions: "Be careful how you preach the benefits of the work ethic". It's a thoughtful critique of Harrison and her admirers, and, as always, the comments posted under the article are well worth reading.
The same can't be said for a piece in the Sheffield Telegraph, which is always sycophantic towards Harrison and A4e. Its article, "It’s not because they don’t want a job - it’s that they haven’t got a clue what to do next", is pure PR, and repeats the stuff she has said in her radio interviews.
I expect this bandwagon to roll on for a while yet.