Tagged: mandatory work activity

Work Book Project – calling those on Workfare / MWA

I’m writing a book about work and am looking for people who are willing to share their experiences of Workfare or Mandatory Work Activity.

The book is called *All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work*, and it
will come out from Profile Books next spring, before the election.

I’ve been visiting and interviewing people all over the country about their work – potters in Stoke on Trent, call centre workers in Hull, ballerinas at
Covent Garden – and I want to include the experience of someone who has
been on the government’s work programmes.

I’d like to find out a bit more about what the work was like: What did you do? How did you feel about it?  How did the workers around you react?  Anonymity and discretion guaranteed.

I’m a writer for the *London Review of Books* (where I also work), the
*Observer*, the *Sunday Times* and the *New Yorker*.

I can be contacted on
ukworkbook[at]gmail[dot]com.

Many thanks
Joanna Biggs

High Court challenges UK work schemes

The High Court has ruled emergency laws underpinning a government back-to-work scheme are “incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ruling stems from a case brought by Cait Reilly in 2012, who said being forced to work for free at a Poundland store breached her human rights.

The government brought in new rules in 2013 allowing unpaid work schemes to continue pending further legal appeals.

Ministers said they were “disappointed” by the ruling and would appeal.

But lawyers for Miss Reilly claimed the government owed about £130m to people who had fallen foul of the retrospective legislation and ministers should admit they made a mistake.

The 24-year old graduate challenged the legality of an unpaid work placement she undertook in 2011, part of the government’s “mandatory work activity” programme.

She said that she was told that if she did not agree to take part in the scheme, which she said involved stacking shelves, she would lose her Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The government was forced to pass emergency legislation amending the scheme last year after Court of Appeal ruled that the regulations underpinning it did not comply with existing laws giving the Department for Work and Pensions the power to introduce the programme

The legislation was designed to reinforce the rules to make it clear that claimants must do all they can to find work in order to claim benefits and to ensure the government did not have to repay money to claimants who had not complied with the conditions of their benefit claim.

But Mrs Justice Lang, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled on Friday that the retrospective legislation interfered with the “right to a fair trial” under Article Six of the Convention on Human Rights.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was “disappointed” by the ruling – which it said applied to a minority of claimants – and would launch an appeal.

We disagree with the judgment on the legislation and are disappointed,” a spokeswoman said.

“It was discussed, voted on and passed by Parliament. While this applies to only a minority of past cases and does not affect the day to day business of our Jobcentres, we think this is an important point and will appeal.”

She said the legislation remained “in force” and the government would not be compensating anyone who had been docked benefits pending the outcome of its appeal.

But Paul Heron, a solicitor for Public Interest Lawyers, said it was a “massively significant” ruling and the DWP’s decision to appeal against it would be a further blow to the “upwards of 3,000 cases sitting in the tribunal system waiting for this judgement“.

He claimed people were owed anything from four weeks benefit, about £250, to several thousand pounds and were having to mostly represent themselves at tribunals.

He told BBC News it was “about time the DWP just held their hands up, admit they made an error, and pay people the money they were entitled to at the time. That is what a responsible government would do.”

The back-to-work schemes have been condemned by critics as “slave labour” because they involve work without pay but are seen by supporters as a good way of getting the unemployed back into the world of work.

The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the regulations last year although the judges also rejected claims that the schemes were “exploitative” and amounted to “forced labour“.

Ministers said that the most recent legal judgement had upheld this view.

“We’re pleased the Court recognised that if claimants do not play by the rules and meet their conditions to do all they can to look for work and get a job, we can stop their benefits,” the spokeswoman added.

Poundland, one of several employers which took part in the scheme, withdrew from it in 2012.

Source –  BBC News,  04 July 2014

Chris Grayling Is A Lying Bastard Court Hears At Workfare Tribunal

the void

graylingSo desperate are the DWP to hush up the names of charities using workfare that they have been reduced to using a blog post titled “Chris Grayling is a lying bastard” to prove how horrible everyone is being to them because of their forced work schemes.

The post was part of the evidence provided by the DWP at yesterday’s tribunal brought to appeal the Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) decision that charities using workfare should be named.  This followed a Freedom of Information request made two years ago asking for the names of organisations who are accepting workfare placements on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.

The DWP have pleaded that if this information was made available then workfare will collapse such is the awesome power of Boycott Workfare.  Reams of evidence has been produced by the department, largely taken from the media and Boycott Workfare’s website, which they claim shows…

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The Staggering Cost Of One Man’s Delusions: £25 Billion Squandered On Bungled Welfare Reforms

the void

iain-duncan-smithThe recent report from the Major Projects Authority, which revealed that Universal Credit is such a fucking disaster they had to invent a whole new category to describe it, also laid bare the astronomical cost of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.

Just under £11 billion is budgeted to be squandered on some of the DWP’s largest projects, and that figure doesn’t include Universal Credit.  The cost of this hare-brained experiment is shrouded in mystery now it has been classed as ‘reset’, but last year the Major Projects Authority reported the that bill would reach £12.8 billion.

Even this is far from the whole story.  Community Work Placements, the latest mass workfare scheme, will cost almost a third of a billion.  The costs of other Jobcentre schemes, such as Mandatory Work Activity, are not included in the above figures.  At the very least the budgeted costs of welfare reform exceed…

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Another Shambles At The DWP: Community Work Placements Fail To Launch

the void

g4s-workfare Despite a high profile launch of the latest mass workfare scheme two weeks ago, DWP documents confirm that in fact it hasn’t started yet.

The unpaid Community Work Placements are one element of ‘Help To Work’.  This is the latest draconian scheme concocted by Iain Duncan Smith as part of his increasingly desperate attempt to prove that unemployment is caused by unemployed people.  The £300 million initiative involves claimants sent on six month’s full time workfare for ‘community organisations’ under the threat of benefits being stopped.

The scheme is mired in chaos with sources at the beginning of the month saying that no-one who works in Jobcentres has “been told anything about it”.  This is confirmed by a DWP newsletter which says that “the first claimants will be referred onto Community Work Placements from the end of May 2014”.  It is even unclear whether daily signing, or mandatory interventions –…

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Over 200 Charities Reject Workfare and Sign Statement Saying Keep Volunteering Voluntary

the void

Over 200 charities and voluntary organisations have now signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement in response to the Government’s launch of mass workfare.

As pointed out by Boycott Workfare, this vastly outnumbers the 70 organisations that the DWP claim have backed the new Community Work Placements, which involve 780 hours forced work under the threat of meagre benefits being stopped.

Many more charities have confirmed they will not be involved in the scheme on twitter, including household names such as British Red Cross, Scope and Friends of the Earth.  This is a disaster for the DWP as they attempt to find tens of thousands of workfare placements in the voluntary sector.

It could also spell trouble for Mandatory Work Activity (MWA), the shorter workfare scheme which to punish claimants when Jobcentre busy-bodies decide they aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  The Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement does not just…

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Join the physical or online blockade of the Salvation Army!

the void

jesus-workfare-salvation From Boycott Workfare

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty will be holding another of their regular and extremely successful blockades of the Salvation Army on Saturday morning from 11am onwards.

Join in with an online blockade of the Salvation Army’s social media and let them know what you think of their prolific and unashamed use of forced unpaid labour.

Make your feelings known and you may even get to join the prestigious ‘Banned by the Salvation Army over workfare related comments’ facebook group.

Although the Salvation Army are steering clear of the government’s latest workfare programme, the 6 month long Community Work Placements, they are still major users of workfare, taking part in Mandatory Work Activity and the Work Programme. The Salvation Army have expressed their support for workfare for sick and disabled people using the disturbing phrase “emancipation through employment”. Their enthusiastic support of workfare has won them praise from…

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Local government UK councils benefit from half a million hours of unpaid labour

Scores of UK councils have benefited from more than half a million hours of unpaid labour through government back-to-work schemes, a series of freedom of information requests has found.

The FOI requests filed by the group Boycott Workfare, which campaigns against workfare schemes, found 62% of the 271 councils that responded had used unpaid workers on government schemes during the past two years.

Boycott Workfare, which says unpaid schemes such as work experience and mandatory work activity (MWA) exploit tens of thousands of unemployed people, found Newport council had used 112 people, mainly in its street cleaning and rubbish collection department for about four weeks at a time.

Scarborough council has used 120 people through the MWA scheme since 2011. Seventy one people completed the placements, all in the parks department.

Bexley borough council in London has taken more than 100 unpaid placements, including 71 through the mayor of London’s unpaid work scheme, which is funded by the European social fund. One person was offered full-time employment (!)  and 15 an apprenticeship.

The council said most of these placements were in library services, where 35 paid jobs were lost after services were merged with neighbouring Bromley in 2012.

Of the reported 1,929 placements, only one in 14 led to jobs according to Boycott Workfare, though this figure did not include apprenticeship placements.

Northumberland county council said it had put 44 people into unpaid work in its council services during the past two years.

“These work placements are intended to be positive experiences, not punitive and must be of community value and not replace anyone’s job,” the council said.

Boycott Workfare said half of council placements were part of the voluntary work experience scheme. But nearly 300 placements were on MWA, where the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can compel people to work without pay for a month or have their benefit cut for up to three years.

A further 300 people were sent to work for councils through the Work Programme, with placements lasting up to 26 weeks.

Since February 2012 the DWP has resisted a series of rulings from the information commissioner that it should make public the locations of people sent on government employment schemes, saying the data was commercially sensitive and a public outcry could damage the schemes’ operation. A high court hearing on the matter is expected to take place in the spring.

“data was commercially sensitive and a public outcry could damage the schemes’ operation.” But aren’t we always being told that if we’ve done nothing wrong we have nothing to fear ?  What are they scared of ?

Boycott Workfare said it was “disturbing to find so many councils putting local people at risk of destitution by using schemes that threaten people with up to three years’ benefit stoppages.

“Workfare doesn’t help people find work and councils aren’t offering people jobs at the end of their placement. Instead local authorities are clearly using workfare in an attempt to plug the gaps left by government cuts to public services.”

The group said a six-month employment scheme due to start this year would extend this trend of unpaid work in councils and charities.

“Unless it is stopped, it will mean both more devastating welfare sanctions and fewer paid jobs for everyone,” it said.

The DWP said: “Most of these placements are undertaken voluntarily and work experience is successful in helping people off benefits and into work.

“Mandatory placements give jobseekers in need of more help the vital workplace skills and experience – especially if they’ve never worked before – to find work.”

“Claimants are expected to complete placements which are of benefit to the community, including helping charities. It is only right that people claiming jobseeker’s allowance take part in programmes to improve their skills.”

> Fine – then if it’s work at least pay them the minimum wage. Even New Labour’s New Deal fiasco used to pay you 15 quid a week extra.

Forcing people to work for nothing under threat of sanctions for not complying = slavery.

And talking of Labour, New or present, I dont hear any protests coming from that direction. Of course, it seems most likely that they, should they win the next election, will just continue along the same course as the present government – in the same way that the Tories are using measures brought in by New Labour, like sanctions, to such devastating effect.

Different arseholes, same old shit.

Source – Guardian, 03 Jan 2014