The Void on the DWP’s Suggestion for the Return of the Workhouse

Over at Pride’s Purge, there’s a piece of satire about Serco and G4s getting the contract to run a Victorian Britain Experience, so foreigners can see what it was like here in the 19th century, complete with cholera, typhus and rickets, and the workhouse. The article’s entitled ‘Serco Wins Bid to Run UK as Victorian Theme Park’, and is at http://tompride.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/serco-wins-bid-to-run-uk-as-victorian-theme-park/. People have been making the same joke since Margaret Thatcher. There’s exactly the same joke about Maggie setting up the Victorian Britain Experience in the Private Eye/ Spitting Image spoof of her autobiography, Thatcha! The Real Maggie Memoirs.

Mr Pride has said that his article is satire, but only just. I have to say it may not be satire for very much longer. The Void has a well-researched and very disturbing article about a report commissioned for the DWP about the expansion of residential training centres offering workfare training for the disabled. The report recommends that it should also include the long term unemployed. The article’s at http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/report-calls-for-expansion-of-residential-workfare-for-unemployed-and-disabled-people/

The article begins

An independent report, commissioned by the DWP, has called for greater use of Residential Training for disabled people and an extension of the scheme to include long term unemployed non-disabled people.

The report also accepts that this kind of training, which can involve periods of workfare away from home, should be opened up to the market. This process may begin with a open tender exercise next year.

Residential Training is a little known scheme available for disabled people who are long term unemployed and in the words of Jobcentre Disability Employment Advisors, are the ‘hardest to help’.

This is chilling. Mr Void states that at the moment there are only nine such centres and the accommodation they offer is actually quite comfortable. If the scheme expands and goes out to market tender, then conditions will deteriorate and the usual workfare parasites will demand their share of the scheme. He also links to the ‘less eligibility’ sensibility that informed the Victorian workhouse. Under less eligibility, conditions were made as hard as possible to dissuade people from entering except as a very last resort, and so becoming a drain on the state.

If this report is taken seriously, then it really would mean the reintroduction of something like the Victorian workhouse. Although the workhouses are mostly associated with the Victorian era, they were actually only closed with the arrival of the welfare state in 1948.

It thus appears that the government really is considering returning this country to the 19th and early 20th centuries by dismantling the NHS, and replacing it with ‘indoor relief’: in other words, the workhouse.

There’s a good chapter on the workhouse in E.C. Midwinter’s Victorian Social Reform, published by Longman. It’s a short book for ‘A’ level and undergraduate university students. It does have a collection of contemporary sources at the back, and these include the descriptions of the horrific level of starvation to which the residents of one workhouse were reduced. This should be essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in this policy, if only to correct the view that they were somehow picturesque institutions gained from seeing Oliver! once too many.

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3 Responses to “The Void on the DWP’s Suggestion for the Return of the Workhouse”

  1. stewilko Says:

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog.

  2. Joanna Says:

    It has been said, that TB and rickets are on the increase, which is very worrying!

    • beastrabban Says:

      The Germans call rickets ‘the English disease’ because they were so rife in this country in the 19th century.

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