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Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.

Why electronic forms are unsafe

Posted: August 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog, Info on schemes | No Comments »

Why electronic forms are unsafeThis post, which sets out the numerous problems with the DWP’s extensive use of electronic forms (eforms), first appeared on the blog dwpcomms, and is reposted here with permission. 

A key feature of the DWP’s ambitious digitisation initiative is to shift all responsibility for entering data onto the claimant. Electronic forms (eforms) are the DWP’s method of choice. Take Universal Credit, which is designed to be claimed online. Under Universal-Credit claimants have no choice but to claim through eforms. However, there are several reasons why eforms are unsafe and inappropriate.

Accuracy

Eforms limit the reality that they’re trying to capture to what the eform designer was able to think of and allowed to include. And eforms are usually just questionnaires with closed questions. However, reality and people’s circumstances are usually more complex. Eforms will generate an inaccurate and misconstrued representation of reality.

Storage of Context

A related issue with eforms is, that the way the collected information is stored and presented in the system, can be different from the context in which the information was given. This context is not accessible to the person submitting information (submitter). And the submitter cannot check or correct the appropriateness of the context with which the information is stored. On the other hand, when somebody submits a free text statement (i.e. when they’re able to write or type whatever they want in response to the question), that statement would usually have to be retained as a whole and would preserve the context.
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500+ abusers of workfare conscripts named and shamed – as in the public interest

Posted: July 31st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog, Law, Name and shame | 2 Comments »

This is the second of two linked posts about the DWP’s release of the names of organisations that were using Mandatory Work Activity in 2011-12. The first post – a response from Boycott Workfare – is here. This blog is a guest post by Frank Zola, a member of Boycott Workfare who has been involved since the start in the battle to get the DWP to reveal the names of workfare exploiters through Freedom of Information requests. You can also read the post on his blog here. Frank Zola was previously sanctioned as a flexible new deal (“work for your benefit“) workfare refusenik and A4e conscript.

“READ THIS AND RAGE AGAINST THE SYSTEM!”
— Clare Hepworth OBE (@Hepworthclare) July 31, 2016

12484687_1540345392950347_9095697624421230114_o (1)1. Report on Court of Appeal ruling
2. Background resources, FOI requests, Media reporting, ICO decisions, Tribunals and Court of Appeal rulings
3. Names of the 534 shameful workfare exploiters (employers)

“In a battle with the information commissioner, the DWP has said that the government’s mandatory work programme would “collapse” if the names were made public due to the likelihood of protests against the organisations involved.”
Guardian – 9th November 2012

1. Report on Court of Appeal ruling

(Joint update with Boycott Workfare)

Battle royal

After a 4 and half year battle, on Wednesday July 27th 2016 the DWP was forced by a Court of Appeal (CofA) ruling to capitulate and release the names of more than 500 –  Mandatory Work Activity workfare exploiters.

A matter of judgement and public interest

This decision was reached by three judges on a 2 to 1 basis, citing public interestconsiderations being “firmly” viewed by the first tier tribunal (FTT) as “appreciably” outweighing the commercial interests of the workfare placement hosting employers not to be named and be subject to protests. The FTT ruling(pdf) dealt with three conjoined appeals (Zola, Naysmith and Kelly), as all requested names of workfare exploiters.

“The tribunal is firmly of the view that in these appeals the scales are weighed appreciably in favour of disclosure”

A precedent

This legal precedent should now mean anyone, anywhere in the world, is free to use the Freedom of Information Act (2000) (FOIA) to request the names of UK workfare exploiting employers. I suggest using whatdotheyknow.com to make such FOIA requests, as it ensures the FOIA process is kept open and transparent. Do not get too complacent or underestimate the importance of this “vast” list of workfare exploiters, just note that Éire disclosed a similar list of nearly 12,000 of it’s Government forced-labour conscript employers. Read the rest of this entry »


Another win: 4-year legal battle finally reveals workfare exploiters!

Posted: July 31st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Law, Name and shame | 7 Comments »

This is the first of two linked posts about the DWP being forced to reveal the names of hundreds of workfare exploiters from 2012, after losing a four year legal battle. Frank Zola has pursued this information since 2012. Mr Zola is a member of Boycott Workfare, and you can read the second post – his detailed account of the Court of Appeal ruling and its background – here: 500+ abusers of workfare conscripts named and shamed. He was previously sanctioned as a flexible new deal (“work for your benefit“) workfare refusenik and A4e conscript.

Another win: 4-year legal battle finally reveals workfare exploiters! 1In January 2012, three Freedom of Information requests were made for the names of organisations that were benefitting from unpaid labour through workfare schemes. This month the Department for Work and Pensions finally released information about one of these schemes – Mandatory Work Activity – after they’d resisted and delayed, appealing from court to court, for four and a half years. The public now officially have a right to know which organisations use workfare. You can read the full list of 534 businesses and charities who were involved in MWA here.

Workfare secrecy

Workfare – forced, unpaid labour in return for social security – relies on businesses and charities being willing to take on benefit claimants as unpaid workers. Up until this week, the DWP has protected the identity of these organisations.

The information the DWP has just released is about the business and charities that were using MWA placements in 2011-12. But the ruling means that the DWP should now disclose further information about which organisations are benefitting from workfare today, in response to further requests. Any of us can use a Freedom of Information request to find out what organisations are using workfare in our area, or across the UK. Read the rest of this entry »


Crucial advice for working claimants: claiming compensation

Posted: July 1st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: In-work conditionality, Info on schemes, Law | No Comments »
Crucial advice for working claimants: claiming compensation

In-Work Conditionality trial notification letter

Are you a claimant who has been harassed under ‘in-work conditionality’? If you have been earning equal to or above the ‘administrative threshold’ of £338.43 a month for a single claimant and £541.02 a month for a couple, then you should NOT have been subjected to work-related requirements from February 2015. And you are entitled to claim compensation. This briefing from Housing Systems contains information on how to do this, including template letters.

So you should claim compensation if you:

  • Are earning equal or above the administrative threshold
  • Have been sanctioned
  • Ended a Universal Credit claim while still entitled
  • Suffered costs and stress as a result of mistaken work-related requirements
  • Are not on the in-work conditionality ‘randomised control trial’ pilot scheme (see below).

While the government’s expanded conditionality aims eventually to punish those earning less than 35x the national minimum wage per week, this has not been fully implemented. Many DWP staff have jumped the gun in their zeal to get more sanctioning in. These amendments to the Universal Credit regulations state that sanctions for those earning over the administrative threshold should not be applied from February 2015 onwards, as outlined in point 3 of these DWP  regulations. Read the rest of this entry »


Just over a week until the Welfare Action Gathering! Here’s the programme.

Posted: June 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 1 Comment »

WAG July 2016 flyer BW_2016

On 9th July, at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester, groups and individuals from across the UK are getting together to discuss welfare, its challenges, and how we can most effectively fight to make it more just and equitable. There is still room for anyone who would like to join us.

There will be refreshments and food provided and we can also help out with transport for anyone who needs it. Contact info@boycottworkfare.org to register your interest or for more information.

The Mechanic’s Institute is a 0.4 mile walk from Manchester Piccadilly train station. The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. A creche will be available throughout the day.

And here’s the programme of workshops and discussions:

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Welfare Action Gathering – Saturday 9 July, Manchester

Posted: June 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | No Comments »

WAG July 2016 flyer BW_2016Saturday 9th July, The Mechanics’ Institute, 103 Princess St, Manchester M1 6DD 11am – 4.30pm

Boycott Workfare will be holding its 3rd Welfare Action Gathering on Saturday 9 July, supported by Unite Community Manchester. We’re inviting groups and individuals from across the country to join us.

We will be coming together in Manchester to share ideas, tactics and concerns about current and future attacks on welfare. It will be a day of learning from each other and an opportunity to plan how to work together to continue to defend these fundamental rights.

Previous gatherings have seen the sharing of a huge wealth of knowledge and acted as catalysts for further successes in our fightback. At a time of continuing attempts to undermine basic rights to welfare and dignity, it is vital that those opposing these injustices come together in solidarity, to support our related struggles and exchange our expertise. Read the rest of this entry »


Court of Appeal says the government breached claimants’ rights, but the retrospective legislation stands

Posted: April 30th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

retroSanctions2At the Court of Appeal on Friday the government lost part of its grubby legal battle to stop claimants getting back benefit payments that were unlawfully taken from them.

The government was appealing a High Court judgement, which said that the emergency retrospective legislation the government rushed through in 2013 was ‘draconian’ and incompatible with the right to a fair trial. The Court of Appeal rejected the government’s appeal against the High Court judgement. It says the legislation is okay according to English law, but that it shouldn’t have applied to all sanctions, because this meant that claimants who were waiting for the results of appeals against sanctions found their cases automatically decided in favour of the DWP. The legislation meant that people were automatically sanctioned even when the DWP’s own appeals process would have overturned the sanction.

That emergency legislation – the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013  – rewrote history. It made it so that workfare regulations made in 2011 were lawful and had always been lawful, even though the court of appeal had said that they weren’t. Those regulations made it possible to sanction people for not taking part. So the retrospective legislation meant that all the sanctions the government had imposed under the 2011 regulations, in one block, were valid, along with the regulations – even the sanctions that would have been unlawful under the old regulations anyway. This meant, in turn, that ongoing appeals against sanctions, most of which would have succeeded before the Act was passed, were bound to fail. (Challenges to sanctions have about a 70% success rate at the moment.) Public Interest Lawyers explain more about this background here. Read the rest of this entry »


Mental Health Resistance Network write back to Richard Watts #DoNoHarm

Posted: February 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog, Psychological coercion | 6 Comments »

Mental Health Resistance Network write back to Richard Watts #DoNoHarmIn this second guest post – a follow-up to What’s What Councillor Watts? An open letter from Mental Health Resistance Network to Councillor Watts – Mental Health Resistance Network respond to Richard Watts’ comment on their open letter. Councillor Watts’ comment is reproduced below, after MHRN’s post. For more on the protest on 4th March and our reasons for opposing the ‘Working Better’ scheme, see the Facebook eventthis co-written article on the DPAC website and this letter from a GP about work cures and the duty to #DoNoHarm.

Dear Cllr. Watts

As service users and survivors of the psychiatric system, we are accustomed to people in suits ignoring our real concerns, talking down to us and believing that they are acting in our best interest even when we are telling them differently. Sadly, your comment does little to persuade us that you are going to offer us a different trajectory.

It seems you are determined to ignore the problematic issues that your pilot scheme has created, and that you are somehow incapable of comprehending how horrendous it would be for someone to find a DWP funded Employment Coach from the Maximus ‘family’ in the surgery where they seek treatment for a condition that has been exacerbated by a perverse decision in the ESA or PIP sham assessment processes, or a benefits sanction which has removed their very means of survival and independence. Unfortunately such events are now everyday occurrences in your borough, and the areas to which your pilot is intended to spread. It seems we all have to somehow get used to these injustices because all the safeguards appear to have failed. Rather than providing effective opposition to these outrages, you and your pilot seem set on adding to the misery.

We told you that we would meet with you when you are ready to have an adult discussion with us. You are clearly nowhere near ready to do that. I suspect that rather than genuinely reaching out to us, your comment is merely public posturing in the hope that some people will be persuaded by your whitewash.
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What’s What Councillor Watts? An open letter from Mental Health Resistance Network to Richard Watts

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Guest blog, Psychological coercion | 4 Comments »

What's What Councillor Watts? An open letter from Mental Health Resistance Network to Richard Watts

Employment coaches have been placed in six GPs’ surgeries in Islington. ‘Jobs on prescription’ is part of toxic and dangerous government plans to merge health and employment services – putting the Jobcentre in the NHS. Boycott Workfare, Mental Health Resistance Network, and Disabled People Against Cuts will be protesting the scheme from 3pm on 4th March, outside City Road Medical Centre. For more details on the protest and our reasons for opposing the scheme, see the Facebook eventthis co-written article on the DPAC website and this letter from a GP about work cures and the duty to #DoNoHarm.

This guest post is an open letter from Mental Health Resistance Network to the leader of Islington council, Richard Watts.

Dear Councillor Watts

As you are aware by now, the Mental Health Resistance Network are involved in the organisation of a demonstration  due to take place outside the City Road Surgery in Islington on March 4th. The protest is intended to voice our disquiet at the introduction of  Job Coaches into six Islington surgeries, in a pilot project which has been enthustiastically promoted by yourself and Dr. Josephine Sauvage, a GP at City Road surgery, and Joint Vice Chair (clinical) of Islington CCG.

We first learnt about this pilot in an article in Pulse Magazine, and immediately suspected that that the DWP were likely to be central to this scheme. Our suspicions were confirmed when we found a document, authored by Kay Peat, the CCG Employment Lead for Islington CCG. The document makes it clear that Ms. Peat’s job is directly  funded by the DWP, and that the Working Better’ pilot which you and Dr. Sauvage were promoting is also directly funded by the DWP. Furthermore, Ms. Peat’s document confirms that Remploy, a company mainly owned and controlled by Maximus, have been engaged to provide the Job Coaches that Dr. Sauvage says she will be ‘prescribing’ to her patients.

Maximus, as I am sure you are aware, have taken over from ATOS, in conducting Work Capability Assessments for those claiming Employment Support Allowance. What you may not know is that we at the MHRN instigated a judicial review of the WCA which found that the procedure “disadvantages people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism”. Read the rest of this entry »


Mustard Tree: from workfare exploiter to workfare refuser

Posted: January 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Charities, Pulled out! | 2 Comments »

12265661_1515689348749285_1701812175792048410_o (1)Mustard Tree is a charity that works with homeless and other disadvantaged people in Greater Manchester. Until recently, it participated in workfare. But thanks to a sustained campaign by Boycott Workfare Greater Manchester, they’re no longer involved!  

Mustard Tree had been part of the government’s Mandatory Work Activity Programme (MWA)  –  4 weeks’ full time unpaid work, carried out under threat of sanctions.   Boycott Workfare Greater Manchester first picketed Mustard Tree in December 2014.  Then again at the end of January 2015, again on March 21st, and again in November.  On January 13th, Mustard Tree updated their position on MWA:

Following further consideration, the board of Trustees of Mustard Tree have decided to withdraw our offer of the 4 week work placements associated with the Mandatory Work Activity element of the Welfare to Work Programme.

This updates their earlier stance. In the previous position statement, from March 2015, they said that:

We believe that the 4 week work experience placement [i.e. MWA – unpaid work] is a wholly proportionate and effective tool for accessing sustainable employment.

Like Haringey Solidarity Group’s campaign against North London Hospice, it shows that sustained campaigns against charities using workfare are effective.  BW Greater Manchester put pressure on Mustard Tree in different ways:

  • they wrote to supporters of the charity, like FC United
  • they kept a dialogue going with Mustard Tree throughout the process,
  • they continued picketing their shops and offering information to people passing about what workfare is and how it links to sanctions.  

On all the demonstrations, people from BW Manchester had a massively positive response from passers by.  Even people who were hearing about workfare for the first time very quickly understood what is wrong with workfare, and especially what is wrong with a charity participating in it.

Protest report: MUSTARD TREE: STOP USING WORKFAREMustard Tree’s Eccles shop, Saturday (14/11/15) at 12 noon.As usual…

Posted by Boycott Workfare Greater Manchester on Saturday, 14 November 2015

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