Posted: October 30th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »
In January this year, 110,000 people had their benefits stopped – ‘sanctioned’ – in a social security system that now leaves people with nothing for up to three years.
The government has not revealed how many thousands of people have been sanctioned since then, but it looks clear that more than a million people will have faced sanctions - and the hunger, pressure on families and stress they cause - by the end of the year.
Workfare, which forces people to work without pay and pushes those in work out of their jobs, is still the government’s ‘flagship’ solution for the unemployed. Osborne’s latest workfare proposal is more than twice the length of a maximum community service sentence.
But people’s action is pushing back their plans:
- Wetherspoons, Argos, Shoezone, The Red Cross, and Superdrug have all dropped out since the start of the year. Homebase has scaled back significantly and Homes for Haringey has started paying people.
- Despite a court ruling, the government is still refusing to publish the list of organisations exploiting people on workfare. It argued “disclosure [of names] would have been likely to have led to the collapse of the MWA [Mandatory Work Activity] scheme”!
- The government’s plan to send people leaving the Work Programme from June this year on an automatic six month workfare placement could not be rolled out.
- The government has had to double the amount of money it pays to workfare contractors like Seetec to find Mandatory Work Activity placements because they say it’s got so difficult since organisations started pulling out.
This is your actions making a real difference.
The chances are you probably know someone who has faced the hardship and stress of sanctions – which means you’ll know that these devastating decisions are handed out for the pettiest of reasons.
It’s time to take action, and to push back against sanctions as we have against workfare. Whether you’re on your own or in a group, take part in the week of action
And let us know what you plan so we can help spread the word!
Join our facebook event for the week of action here
Posted: October 23rd, 2013 | Author: againstworkfare | Filed under: Unions | 8 Comments »
“There is clear evidence that the benefit sanctions regime has gone too far and is leading to destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale.”
Not our words, but the findings of Oxfam’s report Walking the Breadline, which links the rise in the use of food banks to the rise in the number of people having their benefits sanctioned. The DWP have postponed the release of the latest sanction figures, but we know that the number of people sanctioned and using foodbanks stand at record levels.
Many of these sanctions are as a result of workfare, and many are being handed out for the pettiest of reasons. The imposition of a workfare regime has created a situation where the Red Cross are now having to deliver food aid in the UK for the first time since the Second World War.
Back in May the PCS union (the main union for DWP workers) had a real chance to address this state of affairs.
PCS branches put forward motions to their annual conference calling for action to be taken in solidarity with claimants being forced to do workfare and being made destitute by sanctions. Disgracefully, the response of the PCS leadership was to rely on overcautious legal advice to block any discussion of these motions, which angered many. They did however pass Motions A92 and A533.
Motion A92 is designed to instruct PCS members to refuse to sanction PCS members who work part-time in Job Centres, whilst they continue to sanction everyone else. This is because, when Universal Credit is fully rolled out, the same ‘conditionality’ (i.e. sanctions and workfare if you aren’t doing what the Job Centre thinks you ought to be) will apply to everyone, whether they are unemployed, disabled, in part-time work, or self-employed.
Emergency motions submitted by PCS branches which called for action to be taken against all sanctions were either not accepted or guillotined. In the end, motion A533 was also passed: this merely instructed the National Executive committee to “explore the possibility of including non-cooperation with sanctions in the next industrial action ballot”. So far they have failed to do even this.
Perversely, the only action they have taken so far appears to be against Boycott Workfare.
So what have the PCS actually done? After all this pressure from claimants and their own members, the PCS have declared they are responding by “spearheading a campaign against benefit sanctions”. They call on others to take action, but what exactly the PCS think others can or should take is not specified. There is no real PCS counter-narrative questioning the morality or implementation of workfare or sanctions. There is no real strategy for changing the current intolerable situation which sees people made destitute, and PCS members being instructed not to send people to foodbanks.
Their whole campaign is an empty PR exercise, designed to cover up their real lack of action and pacify an increasingly restless membership.
The PCS may claim that they are unable to take action because it would be illegal to do so. But there is a legal basis for action. The PCS may claim that to call for real action is an attack on their members. It is not. It is simply a call for solidarity: for an end to the implementation of policies which are an attack on all of us – and on the very idea of a welfare state.
Sanctions are a form of structural violence targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable. The workfare regime currently being imposed by the DWP is causing destitution, hardship and hunger. It is leading to an increase in homelessness and, tragically, to suicides. The PCS have had plenty of time to “consider the possibility of non-cooperation”. They should now ballot their members on a boycott of workfare and sanctions.
The PCS publicly claims “to stand up for public services and social justice”. The facts, and now its bizarre public attack on this campaign, clearly state otherwise. We’ll let you make your own mind up about what the PCS leadership really stand for. We stand with those who are left with nothing due to workfare and sanctions. Stand with us.
Posted: October 7th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action | 1 Comment »
Our new stickers! Email us for some
Put the date in the diary! Central London venue will be confirmed soon!
Workfare has gotten a battering from the collective action of people across the UK – Seetec managers have been complaining that they are struggling to find placements to force people onto, whilst the government is depending on the Salvation Army to ‘hold the line’ as other organisations withdraw from the schemes. However, the government is determined to force through welfare cuts with a record number of sanctions for this year and the arrival of parts of Universal Credit (which is essentially one big workfare scheme). Accessing benefits is likely to get even harder than it already is as the government finds more ways to deny people of what is rightfully theirs.
But people have been organising together; as well as keeping up the inspiring workfare campaigning of the last two years, people have been setting up local support and solidarity groups in their areas. In these groups people help each other with claiming their benefits, provide information about their rights, give each other moral support in the face of the continual bullying of Job Centre Plus and take action together, including occupations of Job Centres and housing offices.
Several new groups have been set up in recent months, in Birmingham, Bristol and Lambeth. We’ve been contacted by people from other areas keen to start something there. We thought this would be a good time to organise a UK gathering for local welfare support and action groups, and those interested in starting one up, so that we can come together and learn from each others experiences.
Plans are in their early stages so if you want to get involved in making this happen or would like to facilitate a workshop, then send us an email. The rough plan is to have a series of workshops and skillshares throughout the day addressing various issues – workfare, sanctions, Universal Credit and more – and what we have been doing locally to challenge these and support each other, as well as discussing and planning what else we can do. Please help spread the word to groups and people you think would be interested in coming along and keep your eyes peeled on our blog for updates. Let’s build and strengthen our local networks to combat the Universal Credit, workfare and sanctions at every JCP and ‘welfare to work’ provider.
Posted: September 30th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Info on schemes | 10 Comments »
Community Service punishments are less harsh than the forced work handed out to unemployed people
Campaigners have condemned George Osborne’s announcement that more unemployed people will be forced to work without a wage or face losing their only source of income as a further criminalisation of the unemployed.
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.
When a similar scheme was introduced in the US, thousands of jobs in the Parks Department were lost in New York alone – to be replaced with forced unpaid workers. Similar case studies have emerged in the UK, where workfare placements are already taking place in hospitals, council offices, charities and businesses.
Campaigners accuse Osborne of rehashing existing schemes, which DWP research has repeatedly found to fail in helping people find work. The pilot of the scheme announced today was found to have no effect on helping people find employment. 71% of people sanctioned on the scheme reported going without food; half went into debt. The requirement for daily visits to the Job Centre for people leaving the Work Programme is already in place for many people – though Osborne’s announcement is rebranding the current ‘Hit Squad’ and ‘Mandatory Intervention Regime’ as ‘Help to Work’.
This latest workfare scheme may become unworkable as charities and voluntary organisations refuse to take part. Tens of large charities have already quit workfare schemes: Oxfam stated that the schemes were incompatible with its goal of reducing poverty in the UK. The government is currently appealing the Information Commissioner’s decision that it must reveal the names of the organisations involved. If it loses, charities involved in sanctioning unemployed people will face further public pressure to withdraw.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Joanna Long, member of Boycott Workfare said:
“Community workfare schemes literally treat the unemployed as criminals – with far harsher sentences than if they had committed a crime. Osborne’s announcement is a PR rehash of schemes that are already failing to help people find work on a massive scale. It’s bad news for people who will be forced to work at far below the minimum wage – and it’s terrible news for the people whose jobs they will be replacing. This is about cutting the safety net for unemployed people, and handing something for nothing to charities, companies and councils which should be paying wages and taxes.”
Posted: September 26th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes | Tags: Community Action Programme | 17 Comments »
Some large charities continue to profit from workfare. Others – like Oxfam – give it a wide berth.
Rumours are abounding in the press that the Conservative Party conference will be used to launch a workfare scheme (or pilot of one) for people unfortunate enough to still be unemployed after two years on the Work Programme. We thought we should reproduce this article, first published by us on 12 December 2012, to point out it has already been piloted. And found to fail (apart from at increasing sanctions).
More news of workfare schemes that fail to help people into jobs came out last week, as the first examination of the “Very Long-Term Unemployed Trailblazer” is released. The headline is that being sent on the Community Action Programme (CAP) – a 6 month workfare placement – has no effect on employment levels with 15-18% of people finding work – the same amount as people who simply got standard job centre plus support.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 25th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
After an article published here on Friday reporting how people had been coerced into applying to volunteer at Brisfest through the Work Programme, it turns out Brisfest had no knowledge of this. We have removed the blog following assurances from Brisfest that they were not aware that this was taking place and that they will take steps to prevent it happening in future. It is because the government are refusing to reveal the names of organisations using workfare we have to rely on people naming and shaming the organisations involved.
Boycott Workfare were told that Prospects (and at least one other local work program provider) were getting claimants to apply for the volunteering and training at Brisfest, in some instances under coercion. It now appears this was done without the Work Programme providers ever making contact with the organisers of Brisfest. Brisfest were not aware of what was going on until the article posted here as the Work Programme providers were getting people to apply through the normal procedures that all volunteers do. This shows how workfare has corrupted true volunteering, where organisers do not even know that all the volunteers are actually volunteering.
Brisfest, have said this could have come about by them advertising the volunteering posts in the Job Centre, something they will not be doing next year. By taking this action, they are trying to make sure their placements and training remain truly voluntary. They were shocked to find out what was happening in some Work Programme providers, as they pride themselves on being a community festival brought together by volunteers. We are pleased that the Brisfest organisers do not support the use of workfare and that they are keen to ensure they only use genuine volunteers and they are currently looking into signing the Boycott Workfare pledge at their next group meeting.
Posted: September 24th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action | No Comments »
Action for ESOL is concerned about the impact of benefit sanctions and workfare on students in FE colleges. They’ve got together with Boycott Workfare for a day of workshops this Saturday to see how students and teachers can take action and defend our rights.
A free afternoon of workshops and discussion exploring the impact on ESOL students of welfare cuts, the expansion of benefit sanctions and workfare. Come along to share information and think about what we as teachers can do to support our students and show solidarity with them.
28th September, 1pm – 5pm, University of London Union, Malet Street, WC1E 7HY.
Nearest tubes: Russell Square, Goodge Street, Euston
Please emailactionforesol[at]gmail.com to let us know you’re coming.
Outline of the Day Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 19th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes, Welfare to work industry | 2 Comments »
This August will see the start of yet another role out of a scheme of unpaid labour aimed at the poorest. “Traineeships” are the grand plan of Skills Minister Matthew Hancock to provide free workers to companies for up to 5 months at a time to help us “secure an apprenticeship” afterwards ( which themselves have a minimum wage of only £2.65 an hour!). Although starting with 16-19 year olds it will eventually involve people up to the age of 24.
The government state they want traineeships to “simplify the system” for companies and “bring together, or cease, other similar programmes”. Although they do not say which schemes the traineeships will replace, it is most similar to the current work experience scheme. However, traineeships will not just be restricted to those on JSA, but also school kids when the compulsory age of education moves up to 18.
Like with the work experience scheme the placements can be with companies. However, whereas the Work Experience scheme placements were 2-8 weeks, with traineeships the length will more than double to 6-22 weeks (5 months). This will make it easier for companies to exploit us as they won’t have to train new people as often.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 4th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Welfare to work industry | 10 Comments »
Today the Taxpayers’ Alliance has released a bizarre report entitled ‘Work for the Dole’, in which they argue for more austerity and further massive cuts in public spending, calling for people to effectively be made destitute. Overlooking the strange fact that they appear to be arguing the UK at present does not have workfare – when it clearly does- it is a timely reminder of what we are all up against. The Taxpayers’ Alliance call for all sanctions to be even tougher, and as to be expected they blame the unemployed for being unemployed rather than a lack of jobs. Furthermore the report does not advocate job creation, just more workfare and sanctions to be used to deter people from claiming social security.
Unsurprisingly this report ignores the economic reality of the UK employment market, bizarrely claiming that the Government should use workfare to change people’s ‘behaviour’. The report is a classic example of a ‘blind faith based policy’, as opposed to a policy proposal reflecting the UK’s economic, social or political realities. But then it is based on data from American schemes implemented during 1997. That was 16 years ago.The world economy was booming and very different back then. The evidence (ignored by Taxpayers’ Alliance) from existing schemes in the UK is that they simply do not work. The evidence (again ignored by the Taxpayers’ Alliance) from international schemes is that they can in fact harm people’s chances of finding work.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance seem unconcerned about the massive subsidy to the private sector these failing schemes represent. The ‘Welfare to Work’ companies which set up the placements currently pocket over £400 for every month of forced labour – far more than those forced to work receive in social security. The failing Work Programme is costed at £5 billion. That’s before we even consider the subsidy to business that forced labour schemes represent, or the lost taxes from wages that would otherwise have been paid.
Unlike the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who have strong links to the Conservative Party, Boycott Workfare is a real grassroots organisation that is totally independent. Whilst our campaign, your campaign, has won many important victories, there are many more still to be had. Some leaders in the Trade Union movement act as if their families or membership are immune from workfare and welfare reform. They are not. It has been left to all those who support our campaign – you- to provide the ethical, moral and political opposition to workfare. We’re all doing a great job, and should be proud.
This delusional report demonstrates that the workfare lobby is getting desperate. Workfare is a threat to the disabled (ESA), those employed part-time or full-time, the unemployed, organised labour, and to wages in general. Given the nature of what we all face, Boycott Workfare doesn’t pull any punches. Over the coming weeks and months Boycott Workfare will state the facts exactly as they are in relation to workfare and who is pulling their weight against workfare, and who is not. Do the right thing. Do the moral thing. Support us, and support yourselves. Boycott Workfare. Boycott Exploitation.
Posted: August 23rd, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
‘How to Avoid Workfare’ leafleting in Bristol
We’re excited to hear about a number of new welfare support and action groups that have been set up recently across the UK. There has also been a public meeting in Stroud on the benefit cuts and what we can do.
These groups provide a space for claimants to support each other with benefit problems they are facing and take action together to try to resolve that issue, as well as organising actions against welfare cuts in general.
London Coalition Against Poverty and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty both have a great deal of experience in running these sorts of groups. Take a look at their websites for resources, especially this inspiring booklet from LCAP which has tonnes of useful information on starting a group.
The last workfare week of action saw thousands of ‘how to avoid workfare’ leaflets being handed out at job centres across the UK. Through informing people of their rights and forming support groups so that we can make sure these rights are upheld and extended, we can effectively challenge the government’s various workfare schemes and their welfare cuts.
We are currently organising a UK gathering for welfare action groups and individuals looking to start a group to come together and share ideas and experiences. Save the date 18th January 2014. Get in touch with us if you’d like to be involved in making this happen firstname.lastname@example.org and if you or your group would be interested in running a skillshare on the day. Keep your eyes peeled on this blog for further information.
Why not get involved in one of the groups listed below? Or drop us an email if you would like to set up a group in your area and would like to discuss how we can support you, advertise your group and link you up with others in your area.
New welfare support and action groups:
Birmingham Claimants Union
Brent Housing Action
Bristol Claimants Union meet 12.30pm every Friday at Easton Community Centre
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth
Established welfare support and action groups:
Brighton Benefits Campaign
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty
Hackney Welfare Action
Islington Poverty Action Group
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group
Leicestershire Solidarity Group
Leeds Unemployment Action
Liverpool Claimant Network