From today: workfare for sick and disabled people

Cancer Research have told the Guardian they are pulling out of Mandatory Work Activity – but what about the other schemes?

From today, the Government will force sick and disabled people to do workfare. Under the guise of “community benefit placements” Jobcentre staff and companies such as A4E will send people to carry out workfare, not for four weeks or even the six months as currently being experienced by 18-25 year olds in Derbyshire. No. People claiming ESA in the WRAG group, people who may be seriously ill with cancer, have disabilities or mental health issues will be expected to work unpaid on threat of benefit sanctions for an ‘unspecified length of time’.

With providers now bribing companies and charities to take people on workfare, it is no surprise that the DWP has admitted that ‘community benefit’ extends to working in for-profit organisations too. The most vulnerable members of society now face working without pay quite literally till they drop. Last year 1,700 disabled people died within weeks of being found “fit for work” by the IT company paid by the government to ruin disabled people’s lives, Atos.

Even before workfare, between 1 June 2011 and 31 May 2012 there were 11,130 sanctions applied to ESA WRAG claimants. Those on the Work Programme are more than twice as likely to be sanctioned than to find a job. The average length of such sanction is seven weeks.

But just when you thought this story couldn’t get worse, it does. Perhaps the most shameful part of this whole saga is the involvement of charities such as Scope – who are meant to help people with disabilities – in workfare schemes. Charities such as Scope, Salvation Army and the British Heart Foundation to name a few are profting from the forced unpaid work of the very people they are supposed to represent. Instead of alleviating poverty and suffering, they are excerbating it.

In this climate, it has been left to the inspiring work of groups such as DPAC and Black Triangle to stand up for basic human decency and social justice. Boycott Workfare stands with them. Workfare does not work and is not fair. Please support them and us as we continue to campaign against workfare in the upcoming week of action, which kicks off on Saturday.

Which charities use workfare?

Here’s a selection. If you know of others, please let us know on our name & shame form.

Barnardo’s – work experience scheme and Work Programme (personal testimony)

British Heart Foundation – have been using workfare on a massive scale but now claim they are “stepping back”. Keep up the pressure until they end all involvement.

Cancer Research MWA placement (personal testimony)

Community Service Volunteers – MWA placement (personal testimony)

Haven House Children’s Hospice

PDSA (several sources including personal testimony of MWA, Nov 2012)

RSPCA – Mandatory Work Activity

Salvation Army – Work Programme and here

Scope – Mandatory Work Activity (DWP press release)

Sense (Mandatory Work Activity, personal testimony, Dec 2012)

St Oswald’s Hospice shops (MWA placements, personal testimony, Nov 2012)

Sue Ryder – Mandatory Work Activity (personal testimony)

The Conservation Volunteers – press release stating they have used 20,000 placements since the 1980s

YMCA (Mandatory Work Activity, personal testimony, Dec 2012)


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Arbeitsscheu UK

Apart from this amounting to a hate crime surely it is contravening equality legislation as they are being treated more harshly due to their disability.

Workfare Week of action kicks off tomorrow! Brighton Benefits Campaign picket Saturday 8th December. « Wessex Solidarity

[...] WORKFARE NOW FOR SICK AND DISABLED PEOPLE Since Monday, sick and disabled people claiming ESA can now be forced to work without pay. As if this isn’t bad enough, many of their placements will be with the very charities which are meant to support disabled people. Charities such as Scope, Sense and British Heart Foundation are all profiting from workfare. But what we do is having an impact: yesterday Age UK announced they were pulling out; Scope claims to be reviewing its involvement; British Heart Foundation has not pulled out completely, but has announced it is “stepping back”. [...]

another second-class citizen unfortunate

Isn't it a coincedence that this comes in at the same time as their new lengthy "sanctions".


First break up British families just because they have a non-EU family member, now attack the most vulnerable. Is there nothing this govt will not stoop to?

It may be more useful to indicate which charities/non-profit organisations DON'T subscribe to this disgusting policy.

I've been a Cancer Research volunteer and donor..perhaps time to move allegiance to a body like Oxfam?

Birmingham Trades Council » Just two people can have a big impact

[...] here’s what happened when two campaigners took to the streets in Newcastle to highlight that people on sickness and disability benefits can now be forced to do [...]


The government is changing the meaning of the word disability.An illness,injury,or a condition that makes it difficult for someone to do things that other people can do.Changing peoples attitudes to a disability is an uphill struggle,thats not just to do with work,benefits, that's a bit deeper.Bad attitudes do not cause disability,only more than good attitudes guarantee health

Birmingham Trades Council » Join the physical or online blockade of the Salvation Army!

[…] Mandatory Work Activity and the Work Programme. The Salvation Army have expressed their support for workfare for sick and disabled people using the disturbing phrase “emancipation through employment”. Their enthusiastic […]


I am 45, female, permanently disfigured (look over 9 months pregnant ALL the time) due to multiple major stomach surgery for a recurring condition (they cannot do anything else for me - as further surgery could kill me)

- A chest complaint - heart disease - damaged nerves in the stomach and bowel - arthritis in both hands, and a condition that makes my hands shake.

I am on a HEAVY cocktail of drugs including morphine and I am MOSTLY confined to bed or HAVE to lie down when the pain in my stomach kicks in, or I end up in A & E . I am currently appealing ATOS.

One of these so called Workfare Companies "R**T*S To Work" have HOUNDED me with letters and phone calls - saying my benefit would be sanctioned if I don't attend. I am NOT FIT and on such a cocktail of drugs that I would be a danger to myself AND others. (Medication makes me like a zombie and in hospital on the same drugs I am confined to bed)

I told them, I WILL attend BUT they will have to provide me with a PAID taxi, a bed where can lie down AND SIGN a LEGAL document that if my health is compromised THEY will be liable in Court. I have not had my ESA (71 pw appeal rate) sanctioned yet. They just keep saying they will continue to phone and send out letters to me. They are making my conditions WORSE, causing me worry and angst on top of my existing conditions.

My advice is to FIGHT these Workfare Companies and the disgusting individuals who work for them. DON'T be forced into ANYTHING you are not fit to do. If your benefit is sanctioned go to Welfare Rights and seek advice.