Of the numerous workfare schemes introduced by this government, only Mandatory Work Activity remains lawful. With immediate effect, those on the controversial Work Programme, Sector Based Work Academies, Community Action Programme or other workfare schemes may leave without risk of sanction. Sanctions currently in place must immediately be brought to an end.
The government has however threatened to swiftly lay new regulations which may make the schemes mandatory and subject to sanctions. The impact of the ruling remains substantial, since unless the DWP wins the right to appeal in the Supreme Court and succeeds in that appeal, everyone who has been sanctioned on the schemes to date should be entitled to be paid back and all referrals to date will have been unlawful.
The viability of the remaining ‘lawful’ workfare scheme, MWA, is under question due to campaigners’ success in persuading charities and companies to withdraw. A DWP evaluation of Mandatory Work Activity in December 2012 noted that “The high profile withdrawal of placements from a number of larger charities meant a sharp reduction in placements.”
Joanna Long, a member of Boycott Workfare, has said:
“Today’s ruling is a victory of the people against a government which thought it could compel unemployed and sick people to work without pay, backed by a vicious regime of sanctions which made the poorest far poorer.
“We are confident the end is in sight for workfare in the UK. The only scheme found lawful is wobbling due to public pressure on the charities profiting from free labour. If Iain Duncan Smith attempts to put in place new workfare regulations, he should know that the public response will be outrage. Tens of businesses and charities are already boycotting his schemes, and today’s ruling shows that workfare is not only wrong, it is also unlawful.”
Boycott Workfare’s UK-wide week of action on 18th-24th March will go ahead with the aim of bringing Mandatory Work Activity to an end and ensuring the government don’t bring workfare back. The campaign will do all it can to ensure all those who have been sanctioned on the schemes are repaid, so watch this space.