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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.


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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Tales of unpaid toil: workfare continues at B&M

Posted: July 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog, Info on schemes, Personal accounts | 7 Comments »

Tales of unpaid toil: workfare continues at B&MReferrals to the Community Work Placements and Mandatory Work Placements schemes ended on 31 March 2016, but we are receiving more complaints from people put on Work Experience and Sector-based Work Academies. Here’s an account from someone who served time at B&M Bargains. Remember that these schemes are not compulsory though you may be told otherwise: please see Workfare: Know Your Rights for more information. We are in the process of updating this page but the information on Work Experience still applies.

I am currently on the Work Experience scheme at B&M in Droitwich Spa, doing over 30 hours of unpaid work for four weeks. If I do not do this I will have my Job Seekers Allowance cut.

There are four people, including myself, doing forced unpaid labour here. We have been told by the job centre and B&M that only one out the four of us might be given a job after the four weeks. So three of us will be working full time and won’t even get a chance at the position, and even the fourth person might not even get the job as they say it is only “possible” someone will be taken on. 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 »

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 »

Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements to go! But what’s coming next?

Posted: November 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes | 12 Comments »

Hidden in the Autumn Statement was the news that the contracts for two flagship workfare schemes – Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements – will not be renewed. Their demise is significant: it means that together we have frustrated and scaled back the government’s mass workfare project.

Total spending on employment will be reduced, including not renewing Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements, but introducing a Work and Health Programme for the longer term unemployed and those with health conditions.

This is down to all of us. The DWP is ditching MWA and CWP after deciding that they’re too expensive – and it’s our solidarity and resistance that contributed to those costs and ultimately made those schemes unworkable. If you named and shamed your workfare placement organisation, if you tweeted at workfare-using companies, blockaded their doors or encouraged a local community organisation to Keep Volunteering Voluntary, then you helped make this happen.

We should be proud. We know that thanks to our efforts, workfare providers have found it so hard to find organisations willing to tar their reputation with workfare that only half of the people referred for Community Work Placements were found places. We know that the government has gone to every length to avoid publishing which organisations use workfare for fear that our campaigning could lead to these schemes’ collapse.

So before we look at what’s coming next, it’s important to see what we have achieved: forced unpaid work in the UK has been beaten back from the vast scale the government had planned. This matters. Benefits have not become pegged to unpaid work in the new poverty “settlement” Osborne hopes to establish.

So what now?

Workfare is still taking place. Referrals to punitive six-month Community Work Placements are due to run until the end of March 2016, so the placements will end in October – see section 1.25 of the CWP contract details. The end date is the same for referrals to Mandatory Work Activity – so contracts for that 4-week scheme end in April 2016.

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#GE2015 More workfare, less pay

Posted: February 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Info on schemes, Sanctions | 5 Comments »
Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre to support Tony Cox and affirm claimants' right to be accompanied

Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre to support Tony Cox and affirm claimants’ right to be accompanied

This week the Conservatives announced in their manifesto they would introduce a new ‘community’ workfare scheme, specifically targeted at young people.

This is odd because chancellor George Osbourne had already launched just such a workfare scheme last year – and neither David Cameron, Osbourne, nor the media appear to remember it.

What does this workfare reboot really tell us? That workfare as a policy must be in enormous trouble if it has to be rebranded and relaunched on a yearly basis. Successful polices don’t need constant spin and retreads. And this tells us that the public is just not buying workfare. But then why would they when it replaces  jobs?

But then this latest ‘new’ workfare announcement is just more poorly thought out PR masquerading as a manifesto policy. A large number of workfare schemes already exist, and it is a proven fact that they do not work. They are very expensive failures. The Work Programme for example is a £5 billion failure, while the existing Community Work Placement scheme costs £235 million alone and is faltering badly with over 500 charities pledging not to take part in the scheme – and with more signing up every week.

More recently, the DWP evaluated the London Mayor’s ‘Day One Support for Young People’ (DOSfYP) workfare scheme. The DOSfYP scheme, like this new community workfare scheme presently touted by the Tories, was also targeted at young people. It cost £12 million and its chief outcome was to deter young people from claiming JSA – while making no difference to young people’s employment chances at all (see p. 28 of the evaluation here).
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Leaked email: Whose job is next?

Posted: October 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Welfare to work industry | 8 Comments »

As the week of action against workfare begins, Boycott Workfare can reveal an email sent by a subcontractor for the new Community Work Placements, a six month workfare scheme. It exposes how workfare is being marketed to employers as a way of replacing paid jobs. It also exposes the smoke and mirrors involved, with people mandated to workfare referred to both as “unpaid employees” and “volunteers”.

leaked email

If you are in paid work, that list of potential roles should worry you: at the moment these are paid jobs. After Ixion Holdings have offered “large numbers of [volunteers] to cover the same job role or to cover different departments”, why would any unscrupulous employer keep paying people to do them?
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Claimant Segmentation Survey – The facts & your rights

Posted: October 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes | 1 Comment »
you don't have to take part in the survey

you don’t have to take part in the survey

At the start of September, the government announced it would be using ‘attitude tests’ to assess claimants’ attitudes towards work and their ‘behavioral norms’. This test is in fact a survey – or rather data mining exercise – and would take place in 27 Jobcentres, targeting 27,000 claimants. It is supposed to record the effects on people of signing on every week versus every fortnight. In other words, it is designed to find out what kind of person deserves more hassle from the Jobcentre, based on their attitude.

These surveys are completely unethical. Attempting to classify people according to their feelings about work is being used to stigmatise and pathologize certain claimants. The tests are part of the DWP’s efforts to pretend that unemployment and a low wage economy are a result of individuals’ bad attitudes, rather than a deliberate policy. Esther McVey talks about ‘psychological resistance to work’.  The test assesses people’s attitude to work through just 20 widely varying and unrelated questions, placing claimants into in the following four bizarre rigid categories:

1 Willing but nervous Jobseeker
2 Eager Jobseeker
3 Ambivalent Claimants with few barriers
4 Other Jobseekers

Here at Boycott Workfare we always try to keep on top of these events and find out what people’s rights are when each new shameful and wasteful tax payer funded scheme is rolled out by the DWP and the welfare to work industry. So the guidelines – your rights – regarding the Claimant Segmentation Survey scheme are as follows.

If you have made a new claim, or are signing on as your claim continues then it is important that you know you do not have to take part in this ‘attitude test’ at all.

These are the facts:

  • If you are asked to agree to take part in the Claimant Segmentation Survey you can disagree to take part (see picture ) – it is an entirely voluntary survey.
  • Refusal to take part or answer will not affect your benefits in any way: you cannot get sanctioned for refusing to answer any of the test questions or for refusing to take part in this test [Link 3]:

“There is no obligation to answer these questions and it has no bearing on your entitlement to benefits whatsoever.”

  • Your advisor has to ask for your consent before going through the questions, because they ‘are collecting additional information beyond what is necessary for the claims process for the purposes of research’.

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DWP in court: challenged to reveal list it fears could make workfare “collapse”

Posted: June 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Info on schemes, Name and shame | 8 Comments »

Update 13/6/14: Read about what happened at the hearing here. Judgement is expected in 4-8 weeks.

Media release, 11 June 2014

Tomorrow, 12 June, the Information Commissioner will challenge the DWP to reveal a list of organisations which have used Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) placements for jobseekers at an Upper Tribunal hearing [1]. The DWP will argue that due to widespread public opposition, the controversial workfare scheme could collapse if the names are revealed [2]. If it loses the appeal, the decision could become a landmark ruling on the obligation of the DWP to reveal details of the private companies delivering government contracts [3].

It is thirty months since the original Freedom of Information request was made, and the second time that the DWP has appealed the Information Commissioner’s decision that it must reveal the names of MWA workfare placement providers [1].

Despite the government’s own evidence showing that one month MWA placements have “zero effect” on helping people into work [4], the government launched an extended six month version on 28 April, “Community Work Placements”. Like MWA, these placements rely on the participation of public and voluntary sector “host organisations” to deliver placements for “community benefit” [5].
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Flagship workfare scheme floundering due to voluntary sector opposition

Posted: June 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Info on schemes, Pledge to boycott workfare, Public Sector | 1 Comment »
On Saturday, this demo in Sheffield persuaded tens of people to boycott workfare users TCV.

On Saturday, this demo in Sheffield persuaded tens of people to boycott workfare users TCV.

Today, 2 June, is the deadline by which Community Work Placements – the flagship policy announcement at last year’s Conservative Party conference – were required by contract to be up and running (see 1.22 &1.23 here). Community Work Placements are six month forced unpaid work placements for unemployed people which require local council and charity participation to claim to be of “community benefit”.

However, thanks to massive opposition to this draconian new workfare scheme, CWP is floundering. Here’s how: 350 voluntary sector organisations have so far signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement not to take part since the campaign launched a month ago. The list includes household names Shelter, Oxfam, Crisis, Scope and many others.

These organisations point to the impact of benefit sanctions on food poverty and homelessness and believe mandatory work undermines the value of freely given volunteering.  Over 15 councils have also pledged not to take part, many through signing Unite the Union’s new pledge. Read the rest of this entry »