Nick Clegg talking some sense

Not five words I thought I’d ever write adjacent to each other, but here’s Nick Clegg talking some sense about yesterday’s massacre in Paris (starts around 28:30). I say sense, but he’s actually only stating the obvious for those who may be a little hard of thinking.


Too poor to eat

I came across this audio clip today from a radio call-in on James O’Brien’s LBC show. The topic for discussion I believe was a report published today about food bank usage. The caller talks about how he is struggling to feed himself following being made redundant. It’s impossible not to be moved by his plight, and seems a world away from the stories we have been reading recently about families being able to save up enough of their social security payments to be able to afford a Christmas splurge. It’s striking though that what he wants is not charity but a chance to work and be able to provide for himself.

Much as today’s food bank report has been welcomed, as this article points out, although the report mentions things like a living wage, it’s recommendations involve a lot more charity from supermarkets and other to provide surplus food and expand food bank provision. Charity is never going to solve all the problems though. People need jobs, jobs that pay enough to live a decent life. For those that are unable to work, they also need to have enough money to get by without having to be worried about being sanctioned every few months. Expanding food banks smacks of being a sticking plaster solution. I think most people on the breadline like the LBC caller just want the simple dignity that working and earning a decent living brings. It would be relatively straightforward to make that happen.

Nigel Farage meets his match

Nigel Farage was interviewed by James O’Brien on LBC today, and definitely came off second best. In the end, the interview was called to a halt by Farage’s press secretary after O’Brien questioned Farage about his expenses. It was a good interview in a lot of ways although it didn’t really cover UKIP policy on either the EU or domestic issues which is a shame.

Farage looked uncomfortable on numerous occassions, particularly when questioned about UKIP’s awful poster which tells us 27 million potential immigrants are after our jobs, on Farage’s habit of equating Romanians with criminality and on misleading statements about the language skills of the capital’s primary school children. I quite like O’Brien as an interviewer. He does a bit of research and asks good follow-up questions, something that can’t be said of most TV political interviews. He is also responsible for the best attempt at holding Iain Duncan Smith to account that I’ve heard from a mainstream source. Watch/listen to both interviews below:

Do 50% of work experience participants find work as a direct result of that experience?

Yesterday Iain Duncan Smith was interviewed on LBC radio by my new hero James O’Brien. The interview is quite novel in that O’Brien actually interrogates IDS like a proper journalist should, (you will never see this on the Andrew Marr show for example) and calls him out on some of his claims. One claim that wasn’t questioned though is one I’ve seen IDS make repeatedly – namely that 50% of those who have participated in one particular work experience scheme (the one that is notionally voluntary), found work as a direct result of that experience.

IDS doesn’t do nuance very well. His grasp of facts and figures is questionable to say the least. So what does the data actually tell us about the success of this work experience?

The 50% IDS mentions, I think refers to the findings of this DWP “ad hoc analysis” (I discussed my issues with these “analyses” here). Published in November 2011, and based on 1,300 early participants (there have been 100,000 participants to date), it found that 51% of participants had come off benefits after 13 weeks. Is this the same as saying 50% found work as a direct result of the work experience?

For starters, as the excellent Fullfact points out, from this figure alone we don’t know how many would have found work anyway, or even how many actually found work at all – many may have just stopped claiming benefits. DWP’s analysis was followed by a more formal analysis carried out by NIESR on behalf of DWP. It found that 21 weeks after starting work experience, 46% of participants had come off benefits. At the same time though, 40% of claimants who did not do work experience also came off benefits. So NIESR found a small, but positive impact of work experience on the numbers of people coming of benefits.

This is a world away from IDS’ claim that 50% of people found work as a direct result of the programme. In reality, because not everyone coming off benefits will have found work, the true figure is likely to be less than 5%. Hilariously, the DWP press release accompanying the NIESR study was titled “New research reveals the true benefits of work experience”. It looks like IDS doesn’t read his own department’s press releases!

Now, you might well say, regardless of IDS’ nonsense, the research shows that the work experience programme does return positive results. You’d be right, but only versus the counter-factual of doing nothing. That is a false choice though. Against an actual job creation scheme, the results of work experience would no doubt look a lot less favourable.