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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.

DWP in court: challenged to reveal list it fears could make workfare “collapse”

Posted: June 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Info on schemes, Name and shame | 8 Comments »

Update 13/6/14: Read about what happened at the hearing here. Judgement is expected in 4-8 weeks.

Media release, 11 June 2014

Tomorrow, 12 June, the Information Commissioner will challenge the DWP to reveal a list of organisations which have used Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) placements for jobseekers at an Upper Tribunal hearing [1]. The DWP will argue that due to widespread public opposition, the controversial workfare scheme could collapse if the names are revealed [2]. If it loses the appeal, the decision could become a landmark ruling on the obligation of the DWP to reveal details of the private companies delivering government contracts [3].

It is thirty months since the original Freedom of Information request was made, and the second time that the DWP has appealed the Information Commissioner’s decision that it must reveal the names of MWA workfare placement providers [1].

Despite the government’s own evidence showing that one month MWA placements have “zero effect” on helping people into work [4], the government launched an extended six month version on 28 April, “Community Work Placements”. Like MWA, these placements rely on the participation of public and voluntary sector “host organisations” to deliver placements for “community benefit” [5].

Even without the DWP publishing a list of placement hosts, participants have received widespread criticism. Grassroots organisation Boycott Workfare has compiled a list organisations which use workfare based on claimants’ reports, and successfully challenged tens of organisations to withdraw from the scheme [6]. The campaign is having an impact: 2,670 people were sent on the scheme in February 2014, compared to a high of over four thousand during the same period last year.  In December 2013 only 1,720 starts were recorded, the lowest figure since the scheme was just beginning in the summer of 2011 [7].

The launch of Community Work Placements has also been met with significant opposition from the voluntary sector: in six weeks, 377 organisations have pledged not to take part, by signing up to the “Keep Volunteering Voluntary” campaign [8]. These organisations point to the devastating impact that the benefit stoppages (sanctions) these schemes involve have on hunger, debt and homelessness. They see workfare as undermining both the values and mission of many voluntary sector organisations, and point to the risk of job replacement when thousands of unemployed people are made to work without pay for six months at a time. Over 15 councils have also pledged to avoid the schemes.

Jim McLaughlin, member of Boycott Workfare says:

“There is no evidence that these schemes help people find work and mounting evidence that they do not. Instead this punitive forced work drives people into hunger and destitution when benefit sanctions take away the little we have to survive. This is an issue for everybody: every unpaid worker could be one less paid worker. The government should reveal those involved and face up to the huge scale of public opposition to forced work in the UK.”

If the DWP loses its appeal at the Upper Tribunal, precedent will be set that the organisations using workfare through numerous other DWP schemes must also be revealed. This highlights the importance to members of the public and campaigners on making effective use of our Freedom of Information Act. [9]

Notes to editor:

1. The hearing relates to a Freedom of Information request first made on 25 January 2012. Following the DWP’s original review, the Information Commissioner decided that the list of placement providers must be revealed. The DWP lost its appeal at a first tribunal on 3 May 2013.

The judge’s decision at the first tribunal can be found here: http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DBFiles/Decision/i1016/EA-2012-0207(+2)_Judgment_17-05-2013.pdf

The Freedom of Information correspondence can be found here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/successful_bidders

2. In its submission to the first tribunal the DWP argued that: “Put simply, disclosure [of names] would have been likely to have led to the collapse of the MWA [Mandatory Work Activity] scheme”.
See: http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DBFiles/Decision/i1016/EA-2012-0207(+2)_Judgment_17-05-2013.pdf
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/nov/09/mandatory-work-activity-names-witheld

3. MPs have been urged to bring contractors under the FOI Act: http://www.cfoi.org.uk/2014/06/mps-urged-to-bring-contractors-information-under-foi-act/

4. Multiple DWP surveys of evidence have found workfare schemes to have zero effect on helping people find work.
Mandatory Work Activity: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/jun/13/mandatory-work-scheme-government-research
Community Work Placements: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1867

5. Community Work Placements were announced by George Osborne at the Conservative Party Conference in Sept 2013 and were launched on 28 April: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/community-work-placements-info-pack.pdf
The maximum community sentence that a judge can hand out is for 300 hours, but claimants on six-month workfare schemes are already being forced to work without pay for 780 hours. The four-week Mandatory Work Activity scheme is already the equivalent of a medium level community service order that a person might receive if they were found guilty of drink driving or assault.

6. See Boycott Workfare’s crowd-sourced list of those using workfare and who have pulled out here: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=16

7. For analysis of MWA referral figures, see this blog piece: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/mandatory-work-activity-is-wobbling-keep-kicking-till-it-breaks/

8. The Keep Volunteering Voluntary Campaign was launched on 28 April – the day Community Work Placements were launched. 377 voluntary organisations have committed not to take part: http://keepvolunteeringvoluntary.net/blog/flagship-workfare-scheme-launch-delayed-again-following-widespread-voluntary-sector-opposition

Corporate Watch research has found that approximately 1 in 10 people sent on Mandatory Work Activity are sanctioned, although some sub-contractors refer as many as 45% for sanction: http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=4730

9. Freedom of Information campaigners have been using the act to reveal essential information for jobseekers to access their rights. See: http://refuted.org.uk/
Using the Freedom of Information Act http://refuted.org.uk/foi/ and
FOI training http://www.cfoi.org.uk/foi-training/

Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign network to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, while 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. We are not affiliated to any political party and are open to all who share our aims. More info: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/


8 Comments on “DWP in court: challenged to reveal list it fears could make workfare “collapse””

  1. 1 HomerJS said at 2:59 pm on June 11th, 2014:

    I was due to finish the Work Programme in June. Not happened yet. And there has been no information about anything happening. I had a briefing session on my impending return to the jobcentre on my 90th week, but nothing since. Makes me wonder whether the jobcentre aren’t ready and that people are being held at the work programme until they are.

  2. 2 Jeff said at 5:01 pm on June 11th, 2014:

    “If the DWP loses its appeal at the Upper Tribunal, precedent will be set that the organisations using workfare through numerous other DWP schemes must also be revealed. This highlights the importance to members of the public and campaigners on making effective use of our Freedom of Information Act”

    I have been wondering what sort of detailed information could be obtained using the FOIA. If details of workfare users are made public could requests be aimed at establishing the success or otherwise of each workfare user and 2nd tier subcontractor identified?

  3. 3 Ania said at 7:40 am on June 12th, 2014:

    Thought the DWP was forced to provide the list/s of workfare organisations 3 times previously?

  4. 4 CLARENCE JACKMAN said at 9:14 am on June 12th, 2014:

    Normally national and local governments BOAST about who their “partners” (in crime) are. If the scheme is so beneficial in practice we should be told. Watching the DWP on the backfoot shows how WEAK they are, hopefully to topple over!! Ha ha.

  5. 5 terminator said at 11:49 am on June 12th, 2014:

    If it fails all people have to do is be placed on workfare then publisize that they are been forced to work for nowt at this particular place then demo’s can be held outside all their work places.

  6. 6 Peter. said at 1:00 pm on June 13th, 2014:

    They do seem to be on the back foot. The PCSU should be giving it the final push by going on strike to support victims of the DWP.
    I have taken a sanction on the chin to try and get either a test case or a template for reconsideration, I am waiting on the decision coming through. Sitting with an overdraft availability of £53 till goodness knows when. If I can risk my benefit as a matter of principle to defend my right to be engaged with in a consensual manner, under the rule of law and not as a “Customer or Workflow number” then surely the PCSU can stage a one day strike here and there as a matter of solidarity with people on benefits, who ARE dying because of the illegal sanctions that are being applied.

  7. 7 Aaron of NOTTINGHAM said at 12:51 pm on June 17th, 2014:

    We need to strike out side each of the companies involved and if there is a job to be done .the worker should get paid to do the job .How can there be job with in a company but no pay ??? Forcing the weak. elderly .unskilled and

  8. 8 ken allen said at 10:20 am on October 30th, 2014:

    Hi I would just like people to know about my situation with regards to both J/C+ AND DWP
    I signed off JSA to become self employed, as I had set up my small business as a tour guide
    I was working with other agencies to try and get funding and was signposted to J/C+ website where a 50+ In work traing grant was advertised
    So the next time I signed on I enquired regarding applying for the grant, but was told by my advisor that it did not exist despite being advertised on both Govt WEBSITES?
    So to shut me up and fob me off they gave me the In work credits of £50 per week for 16 weeks, not merely enough to cover the costs of a business, and also it would not cover the£500 course fees for me to become a professional tour guide.

    So in essence they have prevented me from becoming a professional tour guide and obstructed me from having my small business and employing at least 6 other people and have left me destitute on just £51 per week Working tax credits which they claim is benefits under universal credits, but in their claim that the numbers of people signing on benefits has dropped to a record low is FRAUD as people are still on benefits I.e Working tax credits, although they are working as in my case but can’t generate an income as I can’t advertise my business so can’t get customers as I do not have a phone/computer or a website

    Anyone with any ideas how I survive on £51 let alone operate my business

    Thanks for your time sickof banging my head against walls with CAB?


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