Are you a claimant who has been harassed under ‘in-work conditionality’? If you have been earning equal to or above the ‘administrative threshold’ of £338.43 a month for a single claimant and £541.02 a month for a couple, then you should NOT have been subjected to work-related requirements from February 2015. And you are entitled to claim compensation. This briefing from Housing Systems contains information on how to do this, including template letters.
So you should claim compensation if you:
- Are earning equal or above the administrative threshold
- Have been sanctioned
- Ended a Universal Credit claim while still entitled
- Suffered costs and stress as a result of mistaken work-related requirements
- Are not on the in-work conditionality ‘randomised control trial’ pilot scheme (see below).
While the government’s expanded conditionality aims eventually to punish those earning less than 35x the national minimum wage per week, this has not been fully implemented. Many DWP staff have jumped the gun in their zeal to get more sanctioning in. These amendments to the Universal Credit regulations state that sanctions for those earning over the administrative threshold should not be applied from February 2015 onwards, as outlined in point 3 of these DWP regulations.
As Universal Credit expands and more working claimants are included (32.5% of UC claimants in November 2015), the damning reports come in: workers sanctioned for going on holiday; a worker on a zero-hours contract doing a full week of nights sanctioned for not doing 35 hours of job search in the day. It appears that many DWP minions believe that claimants are not entitled to sleep or enjoy time with friends or families.
In a recent Guardian article a working claimant says he felt ‘criminalised’ as soon as he walked in the Job Centre. So he may have the opportunity to put the DWP in the ‘dock’ instead – as will many others. This post reveals how two claimants lost their jobs due to DWP interference. They could have good cause to take the DWP to the cleaners for loss of earnings and extensive damages.
If you are a worker earning at the administrative threshold or above who is about to claim UC, be on guard against work coaches – or ‘work roaches’ as the Unemployment Movement Forum puts it – eager to slap on the conditionality. They shall not pass!
RCT conditionality & other pilots
Be aware that this non-conditionality above the administrative threshold does not apply to many of those selected for the in-work pilots that began in April 2015. The pilot initially applied to ten job centres, and it was extended to a further 80 job centres in December 2015.
If you’ve been put on the pilot scheme, please get in touch with Boycott Workfare or your local claimants group. Any information will stay anonymous. Disabled People Against Cuts has commented on the conduct and secrecy surrounding these trials, and included in their post is a list of quashed freedom of information requests. While this will be challenged, we can’t rely on FOIs alone – we need to expose this scheme through our own networks.
RT this letter received by someone working on Universal Credit. There are no words. pic.twitter.com/TXu0weXtzy
— Universal Disgrace (@postwpsupport) April 5, 2016
One theme that emerges from recent experience is the ignorance and wilfully cruel behaviour of the work coaches, who are now mooted as a ‘new kind of civil servant’ by the Select Committee on Work and Pensions in its report In-work Progression in Universal Credit. This document calls for more ‘training’, but ignores the fact these abuses flow from a system set up to ensnare and punish claimants. This grand government experiment has already wrecked havoc with peoples’ livelihoods and homes: for example, in questions directed to Priti Patel, Neil Coyle MP refers to a “Southwark trial” that resulted in 100% of its survivors facing rent arrears.
If the administrative threshold does not apply to you for any reason, make sure any working time (paid or voluntary) is subtracted from your work preparation requirements. We’ve received reports of work roaches (or perhaps we should compare them to a much more predatory insect) abusing all guidelines. (For the detail on this, see paragraph 5 of the DWP regulations and page 4 of the Housing Systems briefing.)
We intend to publish further advice on how whittle down work preparation requirements. We are also seeking advice on whether tort law (interference of a third party in a contract) can be used to defend working claimants and how DWP actions could be violating data protection rights, the EU working time directive (which after the EU referendum might be in question) and various health and safety regulations.
Make or break
Meanwhile, the government and workfare industry sees in-work conditionality as the make-or-break element of Universal Credit. It is also a tangle of dodgy and contradictory regulation from start to finish. Under these circumstances, unemployed and low-paid workers need to join together and bring it down. All unions need to attack this regime and all sanctions – and that includes the union representing DWP workers, who are likely to end up sanctioning each other in a set-up worthy of a Monty Python sketch. For further thoughts on this, see our previous post Sanctions Centre: Open All Hours?
Some have suggested that in-work conditionality will be “political dynamite” or the regime’s “Poll Tax moment“. We can’t say for sure at this point. However, if we stand up for ourselves and target the system’s weak points we can bring that moment closer.