Posted: February 24th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Action report, Info on schemes, Unions | No Comments »
Last week figures on how many people faced sanctions (benefit stoppages) were published. There were no surprises, only the disturbing reality that more people are facing the hardship, hunger and stress of sanctions than ever before.
What about the union of the job centre workers who are pushing poor people into these devastating situations? Last year its members voted for PCS union to look into means of non-cooperation with sanctions, but its leadership is point blank refusing to even consider this an option. This is despite the fact that over 4000 workfare placements have taken place in the DWP, undermining jobs and wages for PCS members.
Elsewhere, the TUC mustered a cynical statement condemning sanctions – cynical given they also support the use of sanctions (PDF – 3.6, pg 31) and have explicitly called for Labour’s ‘workfare-lite’, the so-called ‘job guarantee’, to be backed with this threat of destitution. Also taking the cynical “sanctions bad, but also necessary” line were charity Gingerbread, which seemed determined to have its cake and eat it, in a press statement which managed to both condemn and advocate sanctions. Read the rest of this entry »
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 13th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Info on schemes | 4 Comments »
Community Work Placements
Salvation Army is one of the charities propping up workfare and sanctions – let charities know it will damage their reputation if they get involved [Photo: Sinister Pics]
are the workfare part of the ‘Help to Work’ scheme. This was announced by George Osborne in September, and will begin in April next year. The other parts are daily attendance at job centres (for 35 hours per week) and compulsory training.
This means that once again we’re seeing ads for workfare subcontractors that target the Community & Voluntary Sector. While some charities (e.g. YMCA, Salvation Army, The Conservation Volunteers & Groundwork) are dedicated workfare exploiters, many others say they do not support workfare, but still end up helping to deliver it. The supply chain is so (deliberately) complex, it can disguise what’s going on.
Currently EOS, Maximus, Learn Direct, Reed in Partnership, ESG, G4S (tax dodging supremos) and Interserve (they rely on prayer & financial support from Christians) are all inviting bids from voluntary sector ‘partners’ to provide Community Work Placements in a ‘real working environment’ for up to 30 weeks, for up to 30 hours per week. In other words, forced unpaid labour for people who have not found ‘sustained employment’ while on the Work Programme.
The criteria for being sent on a Community Work Placement are ‘lack of motivation‘ (for example a reluctance to be exploited in no pay, low pay jobs) and/or ‘lack of work experience‘. Claimants will have to do these placements alongside ‘supported job search’: the exhausting and pointless process of endlessly looking for non-existent employment opportunities. As blogger Johnny Void says: “This new scheme represents 780 hours unpaid work, over two and a half times higher than the maximum community service penalty that can be handed out by the courts. And this is just for the crime of being unable to find a job.” Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 30th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Info on schemes | 12 Comments »
Community Service punishments are less harsh than the forced work handed out to unemployed people
Campaigners have condemned George Osborne’s announcement that more unemployed people will be forced to work without a wage or face losing their only source of income as a further criminalisation of the unemployed.
The maximum community sentence that a judge can hand out is for 300 hours, but claimants on six-month workfare schemes are already being forced to work without pay for 780 hours. The four-week Mandatory Work Activity scheme is already the equivalent of a medium level community service order that a person might receive if they were found guilty of drink driving or assault.
When a similar scheme was introduced in the US, thousands of jobs in the Parks Department were lost in New York alone – to be replaced with forced unpaid workers. Similar case studies have emerged in the UK, where workfare placements are already taking place in hospitals, council offices, charities and businesses.
Campaigners accuse Osborne of rehashing existing schemes, which DWP research has repeatedly found to fail in helping people find work. The pilot of the scheme announced today was found to have no effect on helping people find employment. 71% of people sanctioned on the scheme reported going without food; half went into debt. The requirement for daily visits to the Job Centre for people leaving the Work Programme is already in place for many people – though Osborne’s announcement is rebranding the current ‘Hit Squad’ and ‘Mandatory Intervention Regime’ as ‘Help to Work’.
This latest workfare scheme may become unworkable as charities and voluntary organisations refuse to take part. Tens of large charities have already quit workfare schemes: Oxfam stated that the schemes were incompatible with its goal of reducing poverty in the UK. The government is currently appealing the Information Commissioner’s decision that it must reveal the names of the organisations involved. If it loses, charities involved in sanctioning unemployed people will face further public pressure to withdraw.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Joanna Long, member of Boycott Workfare said:
“Community workfare schemes literally treat the unemployed as criminals – with far harsher sentences than if they had committed a crime. Osborne’s announcement is a PR rehash of schemes that are already failing to help people find work on a massive scale. It’s bad news for people who will be forced to work at far below the minimum wage – and it’s terrible news for the people whose jobs they will be replacing. This is about cutting the safety net for unemployed people, and handing something for nothing to charities, companies and councils which should be paying wages and taxes.”
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 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: June 29th, 2013 | Author: againstworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Info on schemes | 6 Comments »
This week the government announced a further cut of £350 million to the welfare budget – a ‘new contract’ that targets the unemployed. In future anyone who is made unemployed will have to wait a whole week before being allowed to claim JSA.
As well as this, the governments wants around half the people claiming JSA to go to the job centre twice as often as they do now – the same frequency that will be ‘routine’ for people suffering under the ‘intensive and uncompromising regime’ which will hit leavers of the Work Programme. And, despite funding for English language courses being cut in 2011, people whose English the job centre doesn’t think is good enough will be sanctioned if they don’t attend the courses (though already this is happening on a smaller scale than announced). Lone parents will start having to do what the job centre tells them as soon as their child turns three.
The government knows that ‘claimants targeted by an intensive approach [are] much less likely to stay on benefit’. The aim is to make it as difficult, stressful and intrusive as possible for unemployed people to claim the money they need to survive – and to make it as easy as possible for the job centre to stop that money – by increasing the number and extending the detail of the tasks you have to complete, and the conditions you have to fulfill, in order to deserve benefits.
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Posted: June 1st, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes | 13 Comments »
Time to start combating the hit squads
The government appears to have abandoned their previous plans for compulsory 6 month workfare placements for everyone finishing the 2 years on the Work Programme. There was no mention of it when they announced their post-Work Programme plans yesterday, which is a victory for all anti-workfare campaigns. By us all putting pressure on workfare providers there are no longer enough companies and charities who are willing to be involved to make such a huge scheme possible.
Unfortunately the government are planning to go ahead with their other plan of intensified Job Seeker Agreements and pointless activities for when we finish the Work Programme. They are threatening daily meetings with advisors and referrals to Mandatory Work Activity (which is already struggling to cope with current placements) – all coordinated by the sinister sounding “hit squads”. On top of this they are planning to throw another £30 million at the likes of A4e to provide “training schemes” which normally involve little training, and just provides another opportunity to sanction us.
Pushing people out of the welfare system is what this new scheme for people finishing the Work Programme is all about. As the Department for Work and Pensions admits:
“The programme comes after Jobcentres involved in a trailblazer found that claimants targeted by an intensive approach were much less likely to stay on benefit.”
They do not even pretend these measures are there to help people into work. Instead they are there to provide more opportunities to sanction us and to take away our only financial support.
Posted: May 25th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Info on schemes, Welfare to work industry | 8 Comments »
Another week, another admission from politicians that the government’s Work Programme is failing (but obviously without any moves to bring it to an end). This open letter of complaint highlights just how useless the Work Programme really is, and concludes “I think the only solution to my complaints is for your company (and the Work Programme in general) to cease to exist.” For more stories of people’s experiences, read the comments on the blog where this letter was originally posted.
Work Programme: proving there’s money to be made out of the unemployed, but none for the unemployed themselves. Photo: Howard Jones
To whom it may concern
I am writing to lodge a formal complaint against Avanta. I do not wish to target any individual branch or person in my complaint but, rather, your organisation as a whole. My reasons for this are that I believe any branches or individuals are only acting in the interests of your company and their actions are a reflection of what is expected of them.
I will state, however, that my branch is the [removed] branch – but I’m fully aware my complaints are not limited to this one branch.
I am extremely dis-satisfied with what is supposed to be a service intended to help myself, and other jobseekers, back into work. There is nothing about Avanta which proves to me that Avanta are interested in anything more than filling their own pockets.
My complaints are as follows, and in no particular chronological order:
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