An anti-workfare petition setup on the governments petition site reached 10,000 signatures, meaning that the government has to issue a written response to the petition. Their response begins with a barefaced lie:
We do not have Work for Your Benefit or Workfare schemes in this country. Workfare is an American term used to describe employment programmes which force all jobseekers to work at a certain point of their claim in order to continue to receive benefit
So according to the DWP, Mandatory Work Activity – which if you say no to the “offer” you can have your benefits stopped for up to three years – is not forcing people to work in order to continue to receive benefits. Or maybe it also isn’t workfare when on your first day of signing on your are forced to work for 3 months unpaid or be threatened with up to 3 months of withdrawn benefits?
But we’re dont just take our word that the DWP are lying. Take the DWPs whose own guidance states that:
.. mandatory work programmes, such as the MWA and ESE schemes fall within the
meaning of “Work for your benefit” schemes
It is typical of this government to respond to a petition with a lie, after all they have been lying about benefits all the time, and both Ian Duncan-Smith and the former employment secretary Chris Grayling make a habit of it. Perhaps they think that lying about the existence of unemployed and disabled people being used as forced labour is the only way they can stop protests from bringing down the schemes – this is the reason they gave the information commissioner for refusing to tell us which organisations take part in workfare schemes.
If you thought that this petition would change the governments mind over workfare, it should be clear that it won’t – instead, why not follow the DWPs instructions, and join groups around the UK taking action against the charities and companies that take advantage of free labour from these schemes.
This Saturday sees Bradford Against Workfare demonstrating, meeting at 12noon in Centenary Square. Actions happen every weekend in different places, and there will be a week of action in March.