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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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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: , , | 3 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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


Solidarity with Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty #AdvocacyIsNotACrime

Posted: September 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Guest blog | No Comments »
The scene outside High Riggs job centre on Thursday.

The scene outside High Riggs job centre on Thursday.

Here is a guest post from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, who on Thursday shut down High Riggs job centre in Edinburgh, in response to G4S security and job centre staff refusing a claimant his right to be accompanied to interview. There will be a solidarity demo tomorrow (Monday 14 Sept) at 9 am at High Riggs Jobcentre. If you’re not in Edinburgh, you can support the demo on Twitter using the hashtag #AdvocacyIsNotACrime. Recent reports about job centre bosses pressurising staff to sanction claimants make it more important than ever to support people who want to be accompanied at the job centre. Boycott Workfare will have new materials available soon to help you navigate, avoid, and resist Community Work Placements and other schemes 

Though we shouldn’t have to, we need to insist on the very basic right to be accompanied, even though the DWP have repeatedly affirmed it is available to everyone claiming benefits.  

Update! Read about the success of ECAP’s response to the job centre here.

This direct action and solidarity won a tremendous victory as the DWP gave in and agreed that jobseeker Adam could be accompanied to his appointment by ECAP activist Mike, without the requirement to show any ID.

The original post from ECAP is here:

SOLIDARITY DEMO CALL FOR 9am MONDAY 14th SEPTEMBER AT HIGH RIGGS JOB CENTRE

The entire ground floor of Edinburgh’s High Riggs Jobcentre was closed down for almost three hours on 10th September as Jobcentre managers called in police and refused to permit a jobseeker to exercise his right to be accompanied to an appointment. Members of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty defied threats of arrest and stayed in the jobcentre to support the claimant and the ECAP advocate.

Now ECAP are calling a solidarity demo for this Monday 14th at 9am at High Riggs Jobcentre, when the jobseeker, Adam, will attend his rearranged appointment, once more accompanied by an ECAP advocate.  ECAP say: “We will not be intimidated by the DWP bullies, G4S security or the police.  We will assert claimants’ right to be accompanied.  The DWP themselves state: “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf..””

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Fast food workers are hungry for justice and a living wage!

Posted: April 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Guest blog, Unions | 2 Comments »

fast-food-rights-logo-square-ii-2This is a guest post from the Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). They are organising actions around the UK on Wednesday against low wages and zero hour contracts in the fast food industry.  BFAWU was one of the first unions to sign up to the Boycott Workfare pledge, after workers at a 2 Sisters Food Group factory in Nottingham were sacked and replaced with people on workfare back in 2012.  Unlike some others, BFAWU has consistently campaigned against workfare as well as the precarious work, poor conditions, and low pay that workfare supports.   See here for more details of BFAWU actions on Wednesday.    

On 15 April 2015, thousands of fast food workers will lead a mass movement of around 60,000 low waged workers striking across the United States to raise the issue of poor wages and the lack of trade union rights within their industry. At the same time, fast food workers and activists in 33 other countries around the world will also be taking action against low pay. Here in the UK, the Bakers’ Food and Allied Workers’ Union’s Fast Food Rights campaign, which works in conjunction with the US workers’ movement, is calling for an end to the use of zero hours contracts and demanding an increase in the minimum wage to £10 per hour.

Protests have been organised across the country against employers who are wilfully exploiting their workforce in order to boost their already significant profits. Fast Food Rights actions will take place in London, Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, Darlington, Leeds, Birmingham, Leicester, Cardiff and Southampton (For details: fastfoodrights.wordpress.com)

One fast food worker on a zero hours contract said,

“I’m joining the 15 April global day of action because zero hours contracts and low pay are no way to live. What the American fast food workers have done shows we can fight for better. It is great that the bakers’ union has taken up the fight for £10 an hour and union rights for fast food workers here, and that’s why me and my workmates have joined the union.”

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Fans’ success – Dulwich Hamlet Football Club end workfare!

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog, Pulled out!, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Dulwich Hamlet FC end workfare

Out of workfare!

Pressure by Dulwich Hamlet football fans has resulted in the club pulling out of using workfare in its grounds. Boycott Workfare were contacted through a Name and Shame form by someone who was forced to work at DHFC as part of Mandatory Work Activity. They told us how they had received a 3 month sanction after they asked questions about the health and safety forms Seetec told them to sign.

Dulwich Hamlet FC fans were quick to respond – as soon as we told them about this they contacted their club to find out what was going on and call for an end to workfare at their club. After talks with the new management, who had inherited the workfare contract from the previous owners, fans managed to get the following statement that workfare would no longer be used:

It has become apparent that the previous owners were using mandatory work activity programmes, and that local ‘long-term unemployed’ people have been assisting on site without payment. We want to support the community in as many ways as possible, but do not feel this is a suitable option. Dulwich Hamlet are willing to speak to any service providers regarding apprenticeships and training programmes”

We welcome that Dulwich Hamlet FC acknowledge that forced unpaid work under threat of benefit sanctions is at odds with supporting the community and that they will not be involved in such schemes. Apprenticeships and training programmes involve poverty wages. To truly support the local community, paying at least a living wage for all work at the club is a good place to start.

Boycott Workfare have received numerous reports of workfare being used in football clubs, and other sports clubs. We encourage others fans to follow the impressive example set by Dulwich Hamlet FC fans in their dedication to workfare free football.

Here, one fan outlines the situation at Dulwich Hamlet FC and their personal response to hearing about its use of workfare:
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Guest blog post: No Refuge from Sanctions

Posted: November 20th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog | No Comments »
No Benefit Sanctions No Workfare

No Benefit Sanctions No Workfare

Stuart Crosthwaite is a member of the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group. He wrote this article in response to Boycott Workfare’s call for sanction stories. If you would like to contribute some writing on sanctions or workfare, we’d love to hear from you, please get in contact with us: info@boycottworkfare.org

If your aim is to reach targets for numbers of people sanctioned then you’ll pick on the easiest targets. Understanding the language of Job Centre Plus is hard enough if you speak good English but if you don’t, you’re in trouble. Evidence from South Yorkshire shows that refugees claiming JSA are being disproportionately sanctioned by JCP.

“Most of them get sanctioned at some point” a refugee support worker told me. From interviews with refugees I estimate that at least 50% of refugees on JSA are sanctioned. For women, particularly older women, the figure is higher still.

Why and how are refugees particularly vulnerable to being sanctioned by JCP?
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