Posted: November 6th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
After months of delay, the DWP have finally released data on benefit sanctions for JSA and ESA claimants. The data confirms what claimants and anti-poverty campaigners have been saying all along; that sanctions are being used on a massive scale to bully and intimidate claimants and leave hundreds of thousands of people without subsistence benefits for a minimum of four weeks, with the maximum sanction lasting for three years.
Some of the key stats from the DWP’s data shows that:
- Since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012, there has been an average of 69,000 JSA sanctions a month – a 75% increase on the previous year.
- Between October 2012 and June 2013 0.58 million JSA sanctions were applied.
- Between December 2012 – June 2013 11,000 ESA sanctions were applied. 71% of these were for “failure to participate in work related activity”. ESA claimants having been declared unfit for work by ATOS were subsequently sanctioned by the DWP for failing to do workfare.
- Between December 2012 – June 2013 45,000 ESA sanction decisions were made with 11,000 of these being applied. For JSA between October 2012 – June 2013, 1.35 million sanction decisions were made of which 0.58 million were applied. This shows the high rate of successful challenges that claimants have made to a sanction decision.
With the post-Work Programme ‘support’ and Osborne’s mass workfare plans, it is likely that these numbers will continue to soar as a result of these increasing obstacles to subsistence benefits. The DWP also has plans for one million low paid workers to be subject to the brutal sanctions regime.
Boycott Workfare have called on the Public and Commercial Services union, the union for job centre staff, to ballot their members on a boycott of workfare and sanctions.
Boycott Workfare have called for a UK-wide Week of Action Against Sanctions and Workfare from 2nd to 8th December.
Liz Wyatt from Boycott Workfare said: “These statistics are sickening to see, but they are no surprise. We are contacted regularly by people who tell us horrific stories of being unable to afford to buy food as a result of having their benefits sanctioned. They also describe the significant mental toll that sanctions and the threat of sanctions cause them. Sanctions must stop. They are causing hunger, homelessness, and intense suffering in our communities.
“Yet the government is intent on extending benefit sanctions to low-paid workers as well, bringing one million more people under the savage sanctions regime. Sanctions are being used by the government to bully people from claiming what is rightfully theirs. People around the country will be taking action against sanctions and workfare in December as part of Boycott Workfare’s week of action and we invite people to join us.”
Posted: November 1st, 2013 | Author: againstworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | 5 Comments »
Boycott Workfare at the beginning of the workfare case.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court dismissed the Government’s appeal in the Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson workfare case. The government were appealing against the Court of Appeal’s findings in February that the regulations which the government used to create most workfare schemes were unlawful and should be quashed.
The government was appealing even though they enacted retrospective legislation in March, which obliterated the Appeals Court judgement. The Jobseekers (Back to Work Scheme) Act 2013 amended the law and re-wrote history. It made it so that the regulations were legal, and had always been legal, even though the Appeals Court had just found that they weren’t. It was passed with Labour’s support.
The only reason the government can still say that ‘DWP is able to require claimants to take part in employment programmes’ is because they’re willing to override the courts when it comes to workfare. Public Interest Lawyers, who represent Cait and Jamie, have already launched a judicial review of the legality of this legislation.
The Supreme Court’s full judgement can be found here (summary version here), and there’s a good overview of what’s significant in the Court’s ruling on Public Interest Lawyers website.
The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal was right to quash the 2011 regulations: Ian Duncan Smith overstepped his powers when he drew them up. In relation to Jamie Wilson’s case, it found that the notice he was given was invalid under those regulations anyway – something the Government was also appealing.
Most importantly, the Supreme Court went further than the Court of Appeal on one point. They agreed with the argument made by Public Interest Lawyers that it is right that you should have some information about laws and policies that will punish you (like workfare) before they punish you (paragraph 65):
Fairness … requires that a claimant should have access to such information about the scheme as he or she may need in order to make informed and meaningful representations to the decision-maker before a decision is made.
The Supreme Court didn’t say how the government should make this information available (paragraph 76). But the judgement means that, in the future, the government has to provide enough information to you so that you can challenge your eligibility for workfare. If you don’t get this information before you’re told you must take part, this is likely to make it unlawful for the job centre to force you to take part, and unlawful for them to sanction you if you don’t take part. PIL say that:
The requirement on the DWP to provide jobseekers with adequate information about the schemes has far reaching implications as all jobseekers who, like Jamie, were not provided with adequate information will be able to seek the repayment of their benefits.
So even though they passed the unjust retrospective legislation and denied justice to unemployed people, the government still might have to pay back some of the £130 million in benefits that they unlawfully took from people. Thousands of people weren’t given information about workfare schemes: if you were sanctioned, you might be able to have your benefits repaid – check Boycott Workfare for updates.
But the Court didn’t find that workfare breaches article four of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article four says that ‘No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour’. The courts say that workfare, in general, is fine. It isn’t likely they’ll change their minds soon.
We have to make workfare impossible in other ways: we have to force the government to end it and we have to force businesses and charities to end their involvement in it. We must support each other when we’re on workfare and in the job centre. We must make sure people know their rights.
To do all this, take part in the Boycott Workfare week of action!
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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 | 2 Comments »
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 | 12 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 | 3 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.
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