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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.

Day of action against benefit sanctions, workfare and disability cuts – 30 March

Posted: March 13th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Sanctions | 1 Comment »

Day of action against benefit sanctions, workfare and disability cuts – 30 March 1

Forced labour schemes such as Community Work Placements and Mandatory Work Activity may have finished but many claimants still face workfare under other names – Work Experience, Sector-based Work Academies, Work Trial, Youth Obligation, Work Programme, Work and Health Programme and even ‘internships’ with companies like Poundland – all backed with the threat of sanctions. Those on disability benefits have to deal with the farcical Work Capabilities Assessment (WCA), and those joining the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) group from April will experience a cut of £30 a week to their benefits. Claimants continue to be left penniless and sometimes homeless by sanctions and the built-in delays of Universal Credit (at least 42 days and sometimes longer to receive first payment).

The fightback continues

Through protests, leafleting and direct action we can break the silence and challenge the divisive narrative of ‘scroungers’. We can show our solidarity and march together – claimants, workers and disabled – to demand an end to the ongoing marginalisation and ill-treatment of the unemployed and those on benefits.

All these actions are powerful ways to resist these cuts: in resisting sanctions and resisting workfare. They have worked time and again, forcing companies and charities to pull out of workfare schemes. They have embarrassed politicians into resigning – remember Ian-Duncan Smith, head of the DWP?

So speak to politicians in MP surgeries. Campaign on social media. Drop leaflets. Join a protest. Organise a protest. For targets and ideas see below for some of the actions already planned. The government has to work hard to keep the reality of welfare cuts hidden, tying itself in a knot of lies about the ‘burden of benefits’. But we will expose the truth and demand that injustices are recognised and righted. All people should be able to live in dignity and be free of the constant threat of destitution.

Let us know if you are organising an action and we will share this on our blog.

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Tales of unpaid toil: sanctioned by the Samaritans

Posted: August 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Guest blog, Name and shame, Personal accounts, Sanctions | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

Though the Samaritans don’t appear on the recently released lists of workfare exploiters from 2012, we’ve had a report of a Mandatory Work Activity placement in their shop in Hove in 2014. Recently, a claimant has also contacted us about Community Work Placements at another Samaritans charity shop in May 2016. Our correspondent writes: “I would like to point out that, even though I wasn’t placed at the Samaritans, other people sent by Interserve were.”
Like some other claimants who told the truth when questioned about health considerations during an interview and were not taken on, this individual has been sanctioned.
So a claimant who replies honestly about a health condition is alleged to be ‘negative’? Given that the upcoming Work & Health Programme targets claimants with disabilities and long-term health issues, we’ll greet this with a shudder and then get very, very angry.

Tales of unpaid toil: Sanctioned by the Samaritans 1

This doesn’t seem to apply to claimants conscripted to work for free in Samaritans shops

Sanctioned by the Samaritans

I was sent for a CWP placement interview at a Samaritans charity shop. Due to my health issues, the store manager decided that I wasn’t suitable. On returning to Interserve I was removed from the CWP program and ended up with a four-week sanction.

I complained and tried to appeal but the provider Interserve and later the Jobcentre claimed that I had been very negative during the interview and refused to do the placement. This was a lie! The store manager had asked me early in the interview if I had health problems and I had only told her the truth. Read the rest of this entry »


Sanctions centre plus: open all hours?

Posted: February 3rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: In-work conditionality, Sanctions, Welfare to work industry | 4 Comments »

Roll up! Roll up! The first oral evidence session for the Works and Pensions Committee inquiry on ‘in-work progression in Universal Credit’ began on 3 February. This is all about ‘in-work conditionality’, where low-earning workers receiving top-up benefits such as Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit will be subject to the tender attentions currently enjoyed by unemployed claimants. We previously covered this in Workfare: Don’t Think a Job Means You’re Safe and Suggestions, They Want? Now, with Universal Credit due to be ‘rolled out’ in more areas, we can enjoy another round of parliamentary mumbling.

150215sanctioncentre

Ready to welcome workers into the fold?

Despite the limited terms of reference, Boycott Workfare made a written submission to this inquiry. Given that we campaign against sanctions imposed on unemployed people, we naturally oppose sanctions against working claimants. Extending conditionality – which will include sanctions – to working claimants extends these harms to a wider population and will only punish people on the receiving end of the UK’s low-pay no-pay precarious labour market. Small rises in the national minimum wage will not make these concerns go away: with the imposition of conditionality for workers, a higher minimum wage will simply mean a higher conditionality threshold and the use of the minimum wage as a stick to hit workers who are not earning ‘enough’.

We have already stated our opposition to all sanctions in our previous submission to the same committee, and oppose any attempt to extend the regime that has been described as Britain’s ‘secret penal system’.

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Mind Control

Posted: April 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Psychological coercion, Sanctions | 6 Comments »
Tweet by dwp zealot

Psychobabble in a Jobcentre near you

On top of punishing claimants with sanctions that leave people destitute, the Government now has plans to use psychological treatments to force people into work.

George Osborne’s budget announced measures to ‘improve employment outcomes’ for people with mental health conditions. These include online cognitive behavioural therapy (change the world by changing how you think) for people on ESA or JSA and putting psychologists in JobCentres.

Unemployment is being redefined as a psychological disorder and the main purpose of psychological therapy will be to force people off benefits.  Or to promote yet another specious reason to cut people off benefits.

Meanwhile, the Tory Manifesto states that claimants who ‘refuse a recommended treatment’ may have their benefits reduced. This is an assault on the human rights of people on benefits and an attempt to co-opt medical professionals as state enforcers.

We’re hearing more and more reports of the misuse of psychology to coerce, bully and punish claimants into ‘getting the right mindset': “all new starts must attend an initial two week course to develop their confidence”.
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Let them eat inquiries

Posted: April 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Sanctions | 4 Comments »
Job centres have become "sanctions" centres

Job centres have become “sanctions” centres

It is no longer a secret that benefit sanctions are causing ill health, hunger, homelessness and deaths.  The disastrous impact of sanctions and the deaths of David Clapson and others have now been widely reported.   More than 200,000 people signed the petition calling for an inquiry into sanctions which led to the Work and Pensions committee agreeing to look at the issue.  As we predicted their response is woefully inadequate.
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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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Challenging the Sanctions Inquiry

Posted: January 20th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Sanctions | 9 Comments »
Job centres have become "sanctions" centres

Job centres have become “sanctions” centres

Last year David Clapson died because benefit sanctions left him unable to pay for electricity to refrigerate his insulin. His story meant hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition opposing the current sanctions regime. The petition had an impact and an inquiry into sanctions was announced.

Championed by Debbie Abrahams MP, who has previously stated, “I support the principle of a sanctions regime. If somebody consistently fails to turn up for work experience or a Work programme scheme, sanctions should be applied”, the inquiry looks set to stay within a framework which assumes some sanctions are necessary or even beneficial. Though it’s clear the inquiry won’t come to the conclusion it should – that all sanctions should be abolished – we think it’s important that our voices are heard.

On January 7th, the government held the first of its three evidence hearing sessions for the inquiry. It was important because some views that the DWP doesn’t agree with, some very good arguments against the sanction system itself, went on record, as well as some of the usual toxic workfare rhetoric.

Boycott Workfare has also submitted evidence to the sanctions inquiry. In contrast to the narrative that the DWP, the media or workfare industry representatives use to justify sanctions, we think another story needs to be heard. Our story of sanctions is that they are part of a shift from a supportive welfare state to a punitive workfare state. We highlight how many sanctions are not only petty and unfair, but how they also cause harm to mental and physical health and deliberately threaten and impose poverty and destitution.
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