Workfare hasn’t gone away (as evidenced by the number of name & shame posts we still get). But the recent press coverage of the court ruling revealing workfare exploiters is an opportunity to ask some tough questions of charities that may still be involved with workfare. We would like to encourage people to contact charities on that list to find out whether they are currently using workfare, and their position on workfare.
On 9th July, at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester, groups and individuals from across the UK are getting together to discuss welfare, its challenges, and how we can most effectively fight to make it more just and equitable. There is still room for anyone who would like to join us.
There will be refreshments and food provided and we can also help out with transport for anyone who needs it. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest or for more information.
The Mechanic’s Institute is a 0.4 mile walk from Manchester Piccadilly train station. The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. A creche will be available throughout the day.
And here’s the programme of workshops and discussions:
Boycott Workfare will be holding its 3rd Welfare Action Gathering on Saturday 9 July, supported by Unite Community Manchester. We’re inviting groups and individuals from across the country to join us.
We will be coming together in Manchester to share ideas, tactics and concerns about current and future attacks on welfare. It will be a day of learning from each other and an opportunity to plan how to work together to continue to defend these fundamental rights.
Previous gatherings have seen the sharing of a huge wealth of knowledge and acted as catalysts for further successes in our fightback. At a time of continuing attempts to undermine basic rights to welfare and dignity, it is vital that those opposing these injustices come together in solidarity, to support our related struggles and exchange our expertise. Read the rest of this entry »
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 event, this 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 »
Update: the charge of ‘threatening behaviour‘ against Tony has been dropped! But he’ll be back in court on 18th November to face charges of resisting arrest (via ECAP).
Yesterday, 12th October, Boycott Workfare took part in a national day of action in solidarity with Tony Cox, who was arrested at Arbroath Job Centre on 29th January this year while representing an unemployed woman. Tony is a welfare rights officer and a member of the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network. He was taken into custody and charged with threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest.
— BoycottWorkfare (@boycottworkfare) October 12, 2015
Boycott Workfare in London joined with Haringey Solidarity Group and welfare action groups in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Doncaster, Cardiff and Nottingham outside job centres talking to claimants about avoiding sanctions, workfare, and the right to be accompanied to interviews at the job centre and DWP offices.
Two stores in Manchester will be targeted, at 2 pm:
- Chorlton – 595-597 Wilbraham Rd, Manchester M21 9AJ
- Ashton-under-Lyne – 9-11 Bow St, Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 6BU
Join the Facebook event here.
The last action saw an overwhelmingly positive response from the public and showed again how workfare relies to a great extent on a lack of general awareness of its very existence and what it involves for those made to participate. Large sections of the public recognise the inherent unfairness and contradictory nature of being made to work for free or lose your benefits. This has also been shown to be ineffective in achieving its own aims – the DWP’s own research points to workfare having ‘no impact on the likelihood of being employed‘.
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
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..””
We r blocked in High Riggs jobcentre in edinburgh police and g4s are denying our right to accompany 1 of our claimant pic.twitter.com/sgNohBzhFI
— ECAP ORG (@ecap_org) September 10, 2015
Here is the full list (as far as we know) of actions in the national day of action against B&M Bargains’ use of workfare today, Saturday 27th June!
- 2pm-3pm B&M Store 473 High Road, Willesden (near Dollis Hill tube station) NW10 2JH
- 11.30am, B&M Bargains, Tottenham, 867 – 869 High Road Tottenham, London, N17 8EY
- 11am – 1pm, B&M, 593-613 Old Kent Road, London SE15 1LA
Sheffield – 2 actions:
- B&M Bargains on Chesterfield Road, Meersbrook, Sheffield, meeting outside the shop at 2pm
- SheffieldUncut: Sat 27th June 2pm, B&M Bargains, 12-18 Haymarket, Sheffield S1 2AX
- Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/943407845679998/
B&M bargains in Rotherham, Great Eastern Retail Park, Park Gate (Off Beale Way), Rotherham S62 6EJ
Manchester: 2pm, B&M Bargains Chorlton, 595 – 597 Wilbraham Road, Manchester, M21 9AJ / Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1700748456819555/
“Make it noisy – bring pots and pans and wooden spoonsBring trumpets, drums, whistles and kazoosMake it colourfulBring a message small or big for B&M Bargains”
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty – Gather 2pm onwards at B&M Bargains, 91 – 93 High St, Musselburgh EH21 7DA
Mental health services in exchange for job seeking
Streatham Job Centre will be the first of 10 pilot sites to bring CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) into JobCentres. And the opening of Lambeth ‘Living Well Hub’ for Community Mental Health Services in the same building is planned for Monday 29th June.
As the Mental Health Resistance Network has pointed out, these together amount to an extension of the coercive powers of the 1983 Mental Health Act, with psychologists pressured to act as state enforcers and claimants potentially subject to sanctions for refusing therapy.
Whereas at present people can only be forced into “treatment” under in-patient Sections of this Act or by Community Treatment Orders, making welfare benefits and by extension housing conditional on agreeing to psychological treatment broadens the principle of compulsion.
The psychological coercion and manipulation that claimants face are inspiring a strong and growing fight back. In the face of widespread press and social media coverage, the British Psychological Society has finally made a statement ‘expressing concern‘ (it’s only taken them 18 months). We’re still waiting for an enquiry.
Claimants, service users and mental health survivors are organising to resist the use of psychology and pseudo-psychology to force people off benefits. Psychologists Against Austerity and many other mental health professionals are also mobilising against these developments. Let’s keep up the pressure!
What you can do:
Join the protest at Streatham JobCentre Friday 26th June: Meet at 1.30pm Streatham Memorial Gardens, Streatham High Road/Streatham Common North, London SW16. The Facebook event is here.
B&M Bargains have won a ‘prestigious’ workfare industry award for their use of forced unpaid labour. We need to let them know this has not gone unnoticed. They need to understand that it is unacceptable to have this sort of exploitation take place in our communities.
B&M bargains are a private, profit making company (they made over £100 million last year) and yet it won’t pay its workers for their labour. People on workfare are given sanctions (loose their benefits) if they don’t work for free, and even when they do work they are sanctioned for ‘misdemeanours’ such as being late. Sanctions mean that claimants loose their basic means of survival – the money they need for food, bills and other necessities. Sanctions are a major cause of the rise in the use of foodbanks.
Apart from exploiting claimants, workfare also undermines the hours and conditions of paid employees at B&M. As with all workfare placements in the private sector, workfare provides free labour that replaces paid jobs.
Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare placements: Read the rest of this entry »