Posted: February 22nd, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Info on schemes, Sanctions | 3 Comments »
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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Posted: October 5th, 2014 | Author: editor | 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”.
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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Posted: October 3rd, 2014 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes | 1 Comment »
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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Posted: June 11th, 2014 | Author: editor | 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 . The DWP will argue that due to widespread public opposition, the controversial workfare scheme could collapse if the names are revealed . 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 .
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 .
Despite the government’s own evidence showing that one month MWA placements have “zero effect” on helping people into work , 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” .
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Posted: June 2nd, 2014 | Author: editor | 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.
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 »
Posted: April 15th, 2014 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes, Public Sector | 1 Comment »
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group attempt to resist the eviction of a private tenant. Photo by Louppy Hart
As we struggle to access our subsistence benefits – trying to navigate around workfare, benefit sanctions, and disrespect encountered in the job centre – often, simultaneously, we are struggling to keep a roof over our heads. Welfare and housing are closely connected, the poor state of both of them is causing poverty and suffering. The homelessness charity Crisis recently highlighted how benefit sanctions are causing homelessness. Huge cuts to housing benefit mean that often people have to use money from their meagre Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance in order to cover rent, leaving even less money for food and other basic necessities. And then there are the exceptionally vile landlords (including ‘social landlords’) who discriminate against people claiming benefits making finding and keeping a home even more difficult.
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Posted: March 25th, 2014 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Info on schemes | 3 Comments »
During the Week of Action against Workfare (29th March – 6th April) actions will take place across the UK to stop workfare and the new 6 month workfare scheme being introduced called ‘Community Work Placements’. Actions are already planned in Brighton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Liverpool. We have also created the above leaflet that we encourage people to hand out at Job Centres – along with our ‘Know Your Rights’ info. As placements are meant to begin in late April this leaflet will help us find out the first places taking this latest, and longest, workfare scheme, helping us put an end to the ‘Community Work Placements’ before they have even properly get started. The recent statement by the Salvation Army where they announce they will not get involved in the new scheme (but sadly keep their involvement in all the others *boos*) demonstrates the effect exposing and taking action against workfare users has.
Here you can get the pdf of the leaflet (print on A4 and cut in half to get two A5 leaflets). If you are unable to print your own flyers get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org with the amount you want and an address and we will send you them (along with know your rights leaflets if you wanted). Send us photos or reports of how the leafleting has gone and any information you find out from speaking to people!
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.