Posted: December 28th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes, Name and shame | 10 Comments »
Boycott Workfare’s research revealed half a million hours of unpaid work in councils
New research by Boycott Workfare, covered in The Mirror and The Guardian, reveals that UK councils have used over half a million hours of unpaid work through the government’s workfare schemes, which compel people to work without pay on threat of benefit sanctions. Click here to see if your council is involved!
In a Freedom of Information request to all councils in the UK, 38% of the 271 councils who responded and held the information had taken a workfare placement at some point in the last two years. These placements include schemes with direct benefit losses, benefit losses if you drop out after starting, or referral to a scheme with direct benefit losses if you refuse to take part. Also, with all these schemes, Boycott Workfare has heard of people being told it is compulsory by their job centre advisor, even if officially you can choose to take part.
In total 1,929 placements were reported to have taken place across the 106 councils involved since June 2011, with 15 councils reporting use of the schemes but not saying how many placements they had taken. This is over 500,000 hours of unpaid work. Half of these reported placements were on the Work Experience scheme, but nearly 300 placements were on Mandatory Work Activity where people can receive a benefit sanction for up to 3 years for refusing to take part in the 4 week placements. Almost 300 people were also sent to work at councils through the Work Programme (or Northern Ireland’s equivalent Steps to Work) where placements were lasting up to 26 weeks.
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Posted: December 15th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes | 6 Comments »
In August 2012 it was ruled in the high court that the letters given to claimants mandating them onto workfare schemes of up to 780 unpaid hours did not communicate to people what was required of them on these schemes. This meant all the benefit sanctions that had been awarded through a range of different workfare schemes were unlawful and had to be repaid. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) went about appealing this ruling, but in February 2013 the decision was upheld.
After this the DWP rushed through the retrospective Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act, making the unlawful withdrawal of benefits from an estimated 179,000 people now apparently legal – although obviously this Act did not change the fact that people were not fully aware of what was required of them at the time. This Act was supported by the Labour Party and deprived people who would have suffered significant hardship of a total of £130 million that was unlawfully stolen by the government.
It now turns out that the cruelty of this Act did not stop there. Since the first court case decision in August 2012 they had stopped sanctioning for cases that would be affected by the courts decision, and had started to stockpile these decisions. The introduction of the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act allowed them to start sanctioning all these stockpiled sanctions. At the time they rushed through the act 63,000 sanctions had been stockpiled, and by the time they started to sanction people in July 2013 this could have reached over 100,000 sanctions.
Over the last 3-6 months people have been notified of these sanctions with letters such as the one shown. As can be seen there can be a year long gap between the alleged event and you being notified of the sanction making it almost impossible to appeal as it is unlikely you have knowledge of what you did on that day* (and neither do the work programme providers!).
Not only were all 3 main political parties involved in depriving the poorest people of £130 million that was rightfully theirs, but are now chasing another 100,000 claimants for money through these historic sanctions with little hope of claimants forming a strong case of appeal*. All benefit sanctions are wrong, but this retrospective law shows how happy the government are to even sanction illegally – as they’ll just change the law later and sanction people a year down the line.
There is currently a petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions and Boycott Workfare are hosting a Welfare Action gathering on Sat 15th Feb to bring together people involved in, or wanting to set up, groups that are locally trying to stop and overturn sanctions, as well as organising against other welfare cuts. Follow this link for more information on the gathering – it will take place in central London and a programme will be up soon. Get in touch at email@example.com if you would like to come and also if you need help with travel.
*Appealing on the grounds that you have no record of events a year later could possibly work, but we have not heard of it. Let us know how it went if you have tried it. However if you have other grounds of appeal because you still have evidence or recollection, then use that instead. It can be worthwhile appealing as 53% of reconsideration requests and appeals against JSA sanctions are successful.
Posted: November 20th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Guest blog | No Comments »
No Benefit Sanctions No Workfare
Stuart Crosthwaite is a member of the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group. He wrote this article in response to Boycott Workfare’s call for sanction stories. If you would like to contribute some writing on sanctions or workfare, we’d love to hear from you, please get in contact with us: firstname.lastname@example.org
If your aim is to reach targets for numbers of people sanctioned then you’ll pick on the easiest targets. Understanding the language of Job Centre Plus is hard enough if you speak good English but if you don’t, you’re in trouble. Evidence from South Yorkshire shows that refugees claiming JSA are being disproportionately sanctioned by JCP.
“Most of them get sanctioned at some point” a refugee support worker told me. From interviews with refugees I estimate that at least 50% of refugees on JSA are sanctioned. For women, particularly older women, the figure is higher still.
Why and how are refugees particularly vulnerable to being sanctioned by JCP?
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Posted: November 6th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
After months of delay, the DWP have finally released data on benefit sanctions for JSA and ESA claimants. The data confirms what claimants and anti-poverty campaigners have been saying all along; that sanctions are being used on a massive scale to bully and intimidate claimants and leave hundreds of thousands of people without subsistence benefits for a minimum of four weeks, with the maximum sanction lasting for three years.
Some of the key stats from the DWP’s data shows that:
- Since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012, there has been an average of 69,000 JSA sanctions a month – a 75% increase on the previous year.
- Between October 2012 and June 2013 0.58 million JSA sanctions were applied.
- Between December 2012 – June 2013 11,000 ESA sanctions were applied. 71% of these were for “failure to participate in work related activity”. ESA claimants having been declared unfit for work by ATOS were subsequently sanctioned by the DWP for failing to do workfare.
- Between December 2012 – June 2013 45,000 ESA sanction decisions were made with 11,000 of these being applied. For JSA between October 2012 – June 2013, 1.35 million sanction decisions were made of which 0.58 million were applied. This shows the high rate of successful challenges that claimants have made to a sanction decision.
With the post-Work Programme ‘support’ and Osborne’s mass workfare plans, it is likely that these numbers will continue to soar as a result of these increasing obstacles to subsistence benefits. The DWP also has plans for one million low paid workers to be subject to the brutal sanctions regime.
Boycott Workfare have called on the Public and Commercial Services union, the union for job centre staff, to ballot their members on a boycott of workfare and sanctions.
Boycott Workfare have called for a UK-wide Week of Action Against Sanctions and Workfare from 2nd to 8th December.
Liz Wyatt from Boycott Workfare said: “These statistics are sickening to see, but they are no surprise. We are contacted regularly by people who tell us horrific stories of being unable to afford to buy food as a result of having their benefits sanctioned. They also describe the significant mental toll that sanctions and the threat of sanctions cause them. Sanctions must stop. They are causing hunger, homelessness, and intense suffering in our communities.
“Yet the government is intent on extending benefit sanctions to low-paid workers as well, bringing one million more people under the savage sanctions regime. Sanctions are being used by the government to bully people from claiming what is rightfully theirs. People around the country will be taking action against sanctions and workfare in December as part of Boycott Workfare’s week of action and we invite people to join us.”
Posted: October 30th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »
In January this year, 110,000 people had their benefits stopped – ‘sanctioned’ – in a social security system that now leaves people with nothing for up to three years.
The government has not revealed how many thousands of people have been sanctioned since then, but it looks clear that more than a million people will have faced sanctions - and the hunger, pressure on families and stress they cause - by the end of the year.
Workfare, which forces people to work without pay and pushes those in work out of their jobs, is still the government’s ‘flagship’ solution for the unemployed. Osborne’s latest workfare proposal is more than twice the length of a maximum community service sentence.
But people’s action is pushing back their plans:
- Wetherspoons, Argos, Shoezone, The Red Cross, and Superdrug have all dropped out since the start of the year. Homebase has scaled back significantly and Homes for Haringey has started paying people.
- Despite a court ruling, the government is still refusing to publish the list of organisations exploiting people on workfare. It argued “disclosure [of names] would have been likely to have led to the collapse of the MWA [Mandatory Work Activity] scheme”!
- The government’s plan to send people leaving the Work Programme from June this year on an automatic six month workfare placement could not be rolled out.
- The government has had to double the amount of money it pays to workfare contractors like Seetec to find Mandatory Work Activity placements because they say it’s got so difficult since organisations started pulling out.
This is your actions making a real difference.
The chances are you probably know someone who has faced the hardship and stress of sanctions – which means you’ll know that these devastating decisions are handed out for the pettiest of reasons.
It’s time to take action, and to push back against sanctions as we have against workfare. Whether you’re on your own or in a group, take part in the week of action
And let us know what you plan so we can help spread the word!
Join our facebook event for the week of action here
Posted: October 7th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action | 2 Comments »
Our new stickers! Email us for some
Put the date in the diary! Central London venue will be confirmed soon!
Workfare has gotten a battering from the collective action of people across the UK – Seetec managers have been complaining that they are struggling to find placements to force people onto, whilst the government is depending on the Salvation Army to ‘hold the line’ as other organisations withdraw from the schemes. However, the government is determined to force through welfare cuts with a record number of sanctions for this year and the arrival of parts of Universal Credit (which is essentially one big workfare scheme). Accessing benefits is likely to get even harder than it already is as the government finds more ways to deny people of what is rightfully theirs.
But people have been organising together; as well as keeping up the inspiring workfare campaigning of the last two years, people have been setting up local support and solidarity groups in their areas. In these groups people help each other with claiming their benefits, provide information about their rights, give each other moral support in the face of the continual bullying of Job Centre Plus and take action together, including occupations of Job Centres and housing offices.
Several new groups have been set up in recent months, in Birmingham, Bristol and Lambeth. We’ve been contacted by people from other areas keen to start something there. We thought this would be a good time to organise a UK gathering for local welfare support and action groups, and those interested in starting one up, so that we can come together and learn from each others experiences.
Plans are in their early stages so if you want to get involved in making this happen or would like to facilitate a workshop, then send us an email. The rough plan is to have a series of workshops and skillshares throughout the day addressing various issues – workfare, sanctions, Universal Credit and more – and what we have been doing locally to challenge these and support each other, as well as discussing and planning what else we can do. Please help spread the word to groups and people you think would be interested in coming along and keep your eyes peeled on our blog for updates. Let’s build and strengthen our local networks to combat the Universal Credit, workfare and sanctions at every JCP and ‘welfare to work’ provider.
Posted: September 26th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes | Tags: Community Action Programme | 17 Comments »
Some large charities continue to profit from workfare. Others – like Oxfam – give it a wide berth.
Rumours are abounding in the press that the Conservative Party conference will be used to launch a workfare scheme (or pilot of one) for people unfortunate enough to still be unemployed after two years on the Work Programme. We thought we should reproduce this article, first published by us on 12 December 2012, to point out it has already been piloted. And found to fail (apart from at increasing sanctions).
More news of workfare schemes that fail to help people into jobs came out last week, as the first examination of the “Very Long-Term Unemployed Trailblazer” is released. The headline is that being sent on the Community Action Programme (CAP) – a 6 month workfare placement – has no effect on employment levels with 15-18% of people finding work – the same amount as people who simply got standard job centre plus support.
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Posted: September 25th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
After an article published here on Friday reporting how people had been coerced into applying to volunteer at Brisfest through the Work Programme, it turns out Brisfest had no knowledge of this. We have removed the blog following assurances from Brisfest that they were not aware that this was taking place and that they will take steps to prevent it happening in future. It is because the government are refusing to reveal the names of organisations using workfare we have to rely on people naming and shaming the organisations involved.
Boycott Workfare were told that Prospects (and at least one other local work program provider) were getting claimants to apply for the volunteering and training at Brisfest, in some instances under coercion. It now appears this was done without the Work Programme providers ever making contact with the organisers of Brisfest. Brisfest were not aware of what was going on until the article posted here as the Work Programme providers were getting people to apply through the normal procedures that all volunteers do. This shows how workfare has corrupted true volunteering, where organisers do not even know that all the volunteers are actually volunteering.
Brisfest, have said this could have come about by them advertising the volunteering posts in the Job Centre, something they will not be doing next year. By taking this action, they are trying to make sure their placements and training remain truly voluntary. They were shocked to find out what was happening in some Work Programme providers, as they pride themselves on being a community festival brought together by volunteers. We are pleased that the Brisfest organisers do not support the use of workfare and that they are keen to ensure they only use genuine volunteers and they are currently looking into signing the Boycott Workfare pledge at their next group meeting.
Posted: September 19th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes, Welfare to work industry | 3 Comments »
This August will see the start of yet another role out of a scheme of unpaid labour aimed at the poorest. “Traineeships” are the grand plan of Skills Minister Matthew Hancock to provide free workers to companies for up to 5 months at a time to help us “secure an apprenticeship” afterwards ( which themselves have a minimum wage of only £2.65 an hour!). Although starting with 16-19 year olds it will eventually involve people up to the age of 24.
The government state they want traineeships to “simplify the system” for companies and “bring together, or cease, other similar programmes”. Although they do not say which schemes the traineeships will replace, it is most similar to the current work experience scheme. However, traineeships will not just be restricted to those on JSA, but also school kids when the compulsory age of education moves up to 18.
Like with the work experience scheme the placements can be with companies. However, whereas the Work Experience scheme placements were 2-8 weeks, with traineeships the length will more than double to 6-22 weeks (5 months). This will make it easier for companies to exploit us as they won’t have to train new people as often.
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Posted: August 23rd, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
‘How to Avoid Workfare’ leafleting in Bristol
We’re excited to hear about a number of new welfare support and action groups that have been set up recently across the UK. There has also been a public meeting in Stroud on the benefit cuts and what we can do.
These groups provide a space for claimants to support each other with benefit problems they are facing and take action together to try to resolve that issue, as well as organising actions against welfare cuts in general.
London Coalition Against Poverty and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty both have a great deal of experience in running these sorts of groups. Take a look at their websites for resources, especially this inspiring booklet from LCAP which has tonnes of useful information on starting a group.
The last workfare week of action saw thousands of ‘how to avoid workfare’ leaflets being handed out at job centres across the UK. Through informing people of their rights and forming support groups so that we can make sure these rights are upheld and extended, we can effectively challenge the government’s various workfare schemes and their welfare cuts.
We are currently organising a UK gathering for welfare action groups and individuals looking to start a group to come together and share ideas and experiences. Save the date 18th January 2014. Get in touch with us if you’d like to be involved in making this happen email@example.com and if you or your group would be interested in running a skillshare on the day. Keep your eyes peeled on this blog for further information.
Why not get involved in one of the groups listed below? Or drop us an email if you would like to set up a group in your area and would like to discuss how we can support you, advertise your group and link you up with others in your area.
New welfare support and action groups:
Birmingham Claimants Union
Brent Housing Action
Bristol Claimants Union meet 12.30pm every Friday at Easton Community Centre
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth
Established welfare support and action groups:
Brighton Benefits Campaign
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty
Hackney Welfare Action
Islington Poverty Action Group
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group
Leicestershire Solidarity Group
Leeds Unemployment Action
Liverpool Claimant Network