Unemployed people and welfare rights campaigners partied outside A4e on Brixton high street this afternoon to give a late farewell to its former chairperson Emma Harrison who resigned after allegations of fraud at her company and to celebrate the cancellation of one of their contracts in the South East of England which the DWP deemed was ‘too risky’ for the company to continue with. 8 A4e staff are currently being investigated by the police for conspiracy to commit fraud and a parliamentary hearing next week will look into ‘fraud within welfare to work providers’. Our party was intended to send A4e, and all the other ‘welfare to work’ companies which include G4S and Serco, on their way. The party was also a chance to talk with claimants about their rights.
Campaigners set up their party outside A4e with cake, rhubarb crumble, party hats, party blowers and horns, music, and Boycott Workfare leaflets which detailed claimants’ rights regarding workfare schemes. Campaigners sang ‘for they are jolly good fraudsters’ and gave speeches to Emma and A4e reflecting on the ‘something for nothing’ culture that is pervasive in the ‘welfare to work’ industry which takes millions of pounds of tax payers money for bullying unemployed people and forcing them onto workfare.
We spoke with many interested passers-by who joined us for cake about A4e, workfare, and the welfare to work industry. One man told us that he was a decorator by trade but had been forced by A4e to attend a painting and decorating class under the threat of losing his benefits. What was particularly important was talking with fellow unemployed people about Boycott Workfare and how we can organise together to defend our welfare rights. If people know their rights – we can hamper the projects of these companies.
As Liz Wyatt, a member of Boycott Workfare, described:
‘We’re here not just because of the investigations into fraud which has seen A4e lose one of its contracts – anyone who has been to A4e or any of the other ‘welfare to work’ providers is aware that the goings on in these places is fairly dodgy, whether it be farcical ‘how to write a CV’ classes to forcing people onto workfare – what’s important is to raise awareness about what exactly these companies are doing – they receive hundreds of millions of pounds of tax payers’ money for harassing and bullying unemployed people and forcing them onto workfare. The ‘welfare to work’ industry completely undermines welfare rights so we are here to reclaim those rights.’
With one contract down, the struggle continues against these companies and for living wages and welfare rights for all. Why not pay your local ‘welfare to work’ provider a visit and hand out leaflets about claimants rights? Have another leaving party until they get the hint.
And these ones as well!