The unkindest cut of all

The Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) was always a strange, mismatched creature.

It was conceived on a black day as part of the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Every one eligible for ESA is described as having a condition which means that they cannot be required to work.

The Support Group immediately became the safe group where you were assured of ongoing support.

The WRAG was for everyone else. The WRAG was neither fish nor fowl. In the design stage it was described as being for people who could undertake some sort of work related activity. Gentle massages and visits to libraries were suggested.

However, very quickly, the WRAG metamorphosed in to a group for people who despite not being required to work were supposed to be on their way back to work. The government has never explained this. But then the government have never looked realistically at what it takes to be able to get a job in a competitive, capitalist labour market. (See Dead Parrot).

Pointless, cruel coercion began. People were required to attend back to work programmes and sanctions were introduced to make them comply. A time limit of a year was imposed suggesting that if you aren’t in work after a year you are not trying hard enough. A means test at that point was set at the absurdly low figure of partner’s income of £7500 a year.

So this cut of £30 to ESA WRAG is the latest in a series of penal measures designed to incentivise or terrify people in the WRAG back to work.

No one in government is looking at the facts. The track record of people in the WRAG getting jobs is negligible. This is because they have already been assessed as having a condition which means they cannot be required to work.

The Dead Parrot Campaign looks at practical real world criteria for deciding which people can actually get work in the competitive labour market. We set the bar at 20% reduced productivity. Above this people realistically won’t get work.

If this cruel practice of hounding and pressurising people in the WRAG to get work continues – then it is only fair to set the bar between the WRAG and the Support Group at a level where people can realistically get work.

Given the negligible number of people getting work in the WRAG – the bar is certainly far too high at the moment. For most people being in the WRAG is a living nightmare. You are being pressurised to do something that you cannot do. Taking away another £30 is another plain, pointless cruelty.

The most unkindest cut of all
Marcus Antonius:
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar lov’d him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all;
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms,
Quite vanquish’d him: then burst his mighty heart. . . .

Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 2, 181–186

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