It's said that the case against Al Capone rested not on his boot-legging, racketeering or murder; there's no direct evidence that could have been used in court to prove his obvious involvement in all of them. Everyone knew, but no one could prove. So the case targeted something far more mundane and would at that time lead to the longest sentence ever passed at that time- for tax evasion.
Now Al Capone is an illustrative tale used by bad writers when they want to highlight that the wrongs someone is caught doing pale next to the wrongs they get away with. In fact, I think I'm the first non-bad writer to use Al Capone in this way. I must be.
|Not sure why this is here|
Midway through writing this, some other things were uncovered which you should check out at A Latent Existence. Keep them in mind while I give my take on what's been happening.
The Scene of The (Alleged) Crime:
Reports surfaced three years ago of suspected shenanigans at the welfare to work company A4e. During that time the Flexible New Deal and Pathways To Work were introduced alongside all the existing New Deal schemes. Like every New Deal the previous government came up with, they were promoted on the nebulous basis of being 'more flexible' so much so that they even stuck that word in the name for the headline project. But why now? The welfare to work plans had been running for a decade and there had been no reports before, maybe there had been some dodgy paperwork here and there but never anything serious enough that it would flag up. This was different and it was new and came following a recession and politicians needing to cut costs, fast. Contracts for government employment programmes went less to local organisations and charities, instead they went towards more big companies who bid low and leveraged others out.
|A4e induction pamphlet|
The (Alleged) Victim:
We found the British taxpayer sobbing in an ally, being comforted by their Secretary(of State for Work and Pensions). What had happened to them according to the Secretary was they were attacked and having their money stolen and so the Secretary ran to their aid, killing the attacker in doing so. It was about fairness, said the Secretary. A man's life in exchange for money, which the Secretary wouldn't return to the taxpayer anyway- fairness. The only provocation was that the taxpayer approached the man, now laying motionless face down in his own giro, and asked him why he didn't get a job and stop shirking. A fight broke out and philanthropic by-stander Emma Harrison by-stepped in to calm things down, offering the man believed to be one 'Doal Scrounger' support in finding work and saving the taxpayer some money. The taxpayer was thrilled but asked no questions, their Secretary assuring them it would mean Scrounger would be out of their hair(which the Secretary was very jealous of) and even if Harrison's intervention was not all happy adventures, Scrounger deserved what ever was coming to him. But I knew Doal Scrounger, everyone did; he lived practically on every street sometimes in five or more houses. The rest of the story didn't add up next to this hoodlum's usual MO.
The (Alleged) Crook:
Harrison assigned the guy to 'a positive personal journey to re-build his confidence' or something, but he had to turn up and speak with one of her lackeys every two weeks and sit through 'training' that involved talking about everything that was wrong with him and the other attendees.
|An A4e job coach begins work on the client's case|
Down At The Station:
I wanted to know why CSI had taken the Secretary's word for it about the man's identity despite the missing leg, which was found on the Secretary's person caked in human strawberry jam. And brains. Desk Sergeant Paul Dacre, pausing from his routine of daily checking his mail looked up at me and said tests confirmed it was Scrounger. I asked what tests, he said the PCA, the WCA and a guy down the pub all said he was 'fit for work' so he was definitely Doal Scrounger. I asked why his medical records weren't looked at and got a laugh out of everyone; nothing Doal Scrounger told a doctor could be trusted and his own GP was too close to him personally. Pathologist report came back saying it wasn't the injuries that killed him though but a heart attack probably from the stress of it all of which the beating from the Secretary was just the last straw. He had high blood pressure and Angina. There was no mention of these in any of Scrounger's records, they weren't even the ailments he claimed to have and especially not a missing leg; this had been a case of mistaken identity. I stopped on the way out to ask why the body of the John Doe was now sitting at a desk, flies swarming around it. An officer told me that another WCA was ordered now that 'Scrounger' was no longer in a position to lodge an appeal against the result; it had found him fit for work of course and the Secretary had stopped by to 'volunteer' him into some unpaid work experience there. So far, he was meeting the same productivity targets as everyone else, just by sitting there and never taking lunch or cigarette breaks, but it probably still wouldn't be enough to get him a job offer at the end of it.
Witnesses And Alibis:
I had the gall to rifle through the dead man's pockets: medications with nasty rather than nice side-effects but also an address of a landlady. Before going though I caught up to the Secretary and wanted to know exactly how this all came to blows. He was evasive and kept saying that what ever he did, he had the support of the British taxpayer. But he kept them in the dark just as much as me, how could they support something they knew next to nothing about? Politics. The landlady responded to the description I gave and burst into tears, she must have been close to the John Doe. Not so, she would lose out on his Housing Benefit until she filled the vacancy again, she was happy to let me look around his place and go through his stuff seeing as she would have to throw it out anyway. She also gave me a real name: Benny. Benny Fitzclaimant had been a hard-working man until an industrial accident took his right leg. He re-trained and went into an IT customer phone support role. Not what he would have liked but he stuck at it, though it was stressful and when the cardiologist diagnosed Angina he was finished. Had to take it easy from now on but he was just six years from retirement. Once he was over that finish line he'd be fine. But conditionality requirements for out-of-work disability benefits had only ever gotten tighter. He didn't manage to claim for Incapacity Benefit until after new claims were closed when Employment Support Allowance was introduced to replace it, using of course the Work Capability Assessment or WCA to assess eligibility. Of course, Fitzclaimant was declared 'fit for work' and made to jump through all the loop-holes. Apparently the assessor had misheard his name; someone talking to him at the reception addressed him, he thought, as 'fit claimant'. "Are you Fitzclaimant?", "Yes" he replied and the deal was sealed for Benny.
|His ability to change from a fish to an ape also contributed to him being found 'fit for work'|
|Harrison was pictured among Mail journalists yesterday|
The Coalition Makes Their Play:
Something stuck out: Harrison was being pursued for alleged wrongs by people in her company which if true were illegal and Harrison herself was targeted for what were personal failings like greed. These were small-fry: the worst she had done were the things the Coalition wanted her to do. If she was targeted for them though she would be finished for good, but the Coalition would take damage. So they were left alone. As long as it's legal and the Coalition expressly approved it, there's no going there no matter the extent of the harm to those targeted by them. But the incident had spiraled because A4e were the best-known face of the Work Programme. Reports were also coming out of Jobcentres advertising vacancies which paid only Jobseekers Allowance and expenses; purely work experience placements on schemes. The Work Programme placements were mandatory, they were always mandatory and were sold to the taxpayer by the Secretary as always being mandatory. Ministers also made a lot of noise about the work experience programme also being mandatory, but they said one thing to some folk and something else to others. In the end they technically were voluntary for the first week but with so much conditionality attached it was a mockery of the word. The Coalition had a plan to make the controversy work for them and they're doing it right now. It really hit the fan though after it was discovered a Jobcentre had a Tesco advertisement for a work experience placement, but which they claim mistakenly said the position was 'permanent'.
The Coalition began putting out statements conflating the Work Programme and work experience scheme, they also began defining who their enemies were. Not campaigners, not the charities, not us who have been working on these matters for months: they said it was some rag-tag Leftists protesting: the Right To Work group who I'd never heard of before. The accusations became ludicrous very quickly. Naturally these people who were only moderately informed about the matter had the disinformation stuck to them and they carelessly allowed themselves to be portrayed as confusing the Work Programme and work experience schemes. The Coalition started springing the traps: their critics were making things up and confusing the Work Programme and the work experience. The goal clearly was to get the British taxpayer back on their side as the Welfare Reform bill was at a critical moment and the Health and Social Care Bill was also in danger. With Harrison being neutralised by a complacent media and the long-time effective critics being ignored, the controversy is being molded into something which the government can point to after their reforms are through and say "look, look how unreasonable, radical and extreme our critics were".
The harm caused to clients of the Work Programme through legitimate, lawful and officially sanctioned activity is huge next to that of the harm that would be caused to the taxpayer by the alleged fraud by former employees. The taxpayer doesn't want to know and the Coalition doesn't want the taxpayer to know enough to change their mind. The taxpayer was curious about plans for the NHS, so the media was forced to feed that demand and this has led to massive public opposition of it. This is something which ministers do not want to be repeated for welfare reform, something which the taxpayer has never really been curious about and is happy to be misinformed or have their prejudices reinforced indefinitely. But when faced with the actual consequences, my experience is that the public find their conscience. I believe the vitriol directed at Emma Harrison is for all the wrong reasons; it started by incredible coincidence just as she began wading into the Welfare Reform debate.
Criticism against both the Work Programme and government-run work experience schemes have been building for a while. What makes them stand out from other areas of welfare policy is their potential to affect the lives of working people: some kinds of work placement might substitute real jobs and lower wages. The government wanted the Welfare Reform bill to give them political capital which they were hemorrhaging with the Health and Social Care Bill. The thing is certain sections of the media finally started taking an investigative interest and reporting facts swimming for a long time in the public domain as News. There is no stopping the bill now but the popularity of it could be shot to pieces in a single week if its contents and implications were reported properly. The government has moved to blank the long-term opposition to these from the public memory and make out that the weekend warriors we keep hearing about were the opposition all along and were spreading misinformation. That could actually work if people don't realise what prompted the reaction to Emma Harrison and that the government were conflating the Work Programme with other schemes first.
They did the same thing with Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit. The public were led to believe that DLA was an out of work benefit and then ministers justified reforms on the basis that the benefit was widely misunderstood; presenting themselves as the solution to the problem they had actually caused. They will wipe out opposition here on the basis that the said opposition they have characterised has fudged the issue of work placements.