Monthly Archives: February 2012

Iain Duncan Smith Credits Anarchists For Trashing Forced Labour Scheme

Kronstadt is avenged comrades!

In a humiliating snub to Trotskyite factions everywhere, Iain Duncan Smith has credited anarchists as the driving force behind his Department’s decision to drop benefit sanctions on the Work Experience scheme.

Speaking on Radio 4 the Secretary of State claimed ‘out of touch’ anarchists and Trade Unions were behind the campaign against forced labour.  This came at the same time as the Government conceded to anarchist demands that sanctions be removed from the scheme.

The battle against workfare is just warming up.  The announcement only applies to the Government’s Work Experience scheme aimed at young people.  The far larger Work Programme, which can see claimants mandated to work for six months with a private company was not mentioned in the announcement.  Neither was the Government’s Mandatory Work Activity scheme, essentially Community Service for claimants deemed to be not trying hard enough to find work, which can even apply to those already in part time work (more on this soon).

George Osborne said last year that young people who refuse Work Experience “will be considered for mandatory work activity, and those that drop out without good reason will lose their benefits.”

There has also been no statement from the Government on recent revelations that sick and disabled people are soon to be  bullied into forced labour or face benefit sanctions.

The Government have been pretending that Work Experience is the only forced labour scheme.  This is far from the case.  This Saturday’s Day of Action Against Workfare is more important than ever.  Just one last push is needed to break workfare for good.

DWP Locks Down Freedom of Information Responses to Hide Workfare Lies

The DWP are now refusing to answer questions which would reveal that Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith have been lying through their teeth about workfare.

A Freedom of Information request asking for a list of organisations and companies who have been used as workfare employers under the Work Programme and Mandatory Work Activity schemes in Norfolk has been refused.  The DWP claim that:

“In line with the Department’s transparency commitments, we have previously provided information about companies who participate in a number of our programmes that offer work experience, where we can collect this information without disproportionate cost. However, we  are now invoking the exemption because it has become clear in recent weeks that there are a minority of people who appear to be seeking to undermine the goodwill of employers who are prepared to offer opportunities to unemployed people by attempting to harm those companies’ commercial interests. ”

Had the Department chosen to answer this request it would no doubt have revealed a whole host of corporate parasites using forced labour at the tax payers expense.

The revelation that people on the Work Programme have been mandated to work at Pizza Hut, ASDA and many more private companies has already been removed from the DWP’s website.  It seems the Department is refusing to reveal any information which proves  Chris Grayling was lying when he said on Radio 4’s Today programme that:

We will never mandate anyone to work for a big company. They wouldn’t take them if we did.”

Despite being made to squirm on Channel 4 news last night after it was revealed that the Government’s Work Experience is voluntary in name only, Grayling was once again allowed to get away with this exact same lie.  Using the last refuge of every desperate shyster Grayling pleaded that he wasn’t lying, he was looking in journalist Cathy Newman’s eyes after all.  He then went on to lie his fucking arse off.

Ministers are pretending that the Work Programme, the government’s flagship scheme for harassing the unemployed, doesn’t exist.  And even if it does no-one is mandated to workfare.  The truth, as it’s almost getting boring to repeat, is that many people on workfare, of all ages, have been forced to work for private companies with no pay for up to six months at a time.

A Freedom of Information request has already been made to the DWP asking exactly how many of the almost 400,000 people on the Work Programme have been mandated to work for free.  It now appears quite likely the DWP will refuse to tell us that as well.  With the Government going as far as re-writing documents to cover up for their dishonesty it is now impossible to believe anything the ministers say about welfare policy.

In order to maintain the deceit the DWP are claiming it is not in the public interest to reveal the names of businesses profiting from forced labour because it may affect the company’s commercial interests.  Another reason given is that it may hamper their ability to carry out the current workfare policy, claiming that telling us the truth about workfare might “inhibit or limit the ability of the Department to obtain the best services to improve people’s chances of securing employment”.

Neither of these are reasons that are in the public’s interest, they are in the interests of private companies and the Government.  What the Government means is that if we release this information then some people won’t like it.  There may even be protests and questions about why Government ministers lied.  And we can’t have that now can we.

In fact their response seems to openly indicate that they don’t want people to find this out in case someone might try and do something about it.  This is a tacit admission that this information is very much in the public interest and exactly what the Freedom of Information Act should be used to facilitate.  The request has been referred to the Information Commissioner.  Their response will tell us a lot about whether we can trust the Freedom of Information act any longer under this Government.  We certainly can’t depend on politicians to tell us the truth.

The Seven Principals of Public Life, which form part of the Ministerial Code (PDF) state that:

“Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to
the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate
to their office.”

As well as:

“Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the
decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their
decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly
demands.”

Both of these key principals have been clearly breached by Chris Grayling.  The Ministerial Code also demands the principle of collective responsibility.  This means that all Ministers agree to follow the party line in public, even when they think it’s bollocks in private.  This is intended to ensure that all Ministers share the blame when things go wrong and speak with one voice on Government  policy .  The Code states that: “Ministers should ensure that their statements are consistent with collective Government policy.”

The only person who can launch an investigation into  a breach of this code is surprise, surprise, the Prime Minister (thought you lived in a democracy?  think again).  That he hasn’t suggests that the Government, from the top down, completely endorses Grayling’s lies.  In other words, it is Government policy to lie that “We will never mandate anyone to work for a big company.

When Government are reduced to telling bare-faced lies about their own policies then all mainstream channels of political dissent are redundant.  What is the point of lobbying, letter writing and even marching when we can’t even believe the Government are doing what they say they are?  When the opposition party (shamefully in name only) and the mainstream press fail to hold the Government to account for their lies the situation becomes even more dire.

All that is left now for those opposed to workfare is direct action.  All other forms of political action have been shut down by this Government.  Workfare can be made unworkable by making it unprofitable.   Already most High Street companies have pulled out and many more are wobbling.  It is testament to the arrogance of some charities that they have proved more difficult to crack.  With enough pressure we can ensure that forced labour, under threat of the poverty and potential homelessness of benefit sanctions, is no longer acceptable in the British workplace.

26 towns and cities are now lined up to take action this Saturday as part of the National Day of Action Against Workfare called by Boycott Workfare.  Pressure on the internet shows no sign of dying down and an online protest is also taking place this week on facebook.

If companies and charities realise that exploiting unemployed people to benefit from free labour costs them more money than it saves, then Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith can whinge as much as they want, it will matter not at all.  The workfare policy is already looking desperately fragile.  Just a few more kicks and we will break it for good.

Charities and Workfare: The Sad Truth

Many charities are still some of the biggest exploiters of the government’s workfare scheme despite the public outcry over the last couple of weeks.  Whilst several, most notably Oxfam and Marie Curie, have made clear statements that they will no longer be involved in forced labour of any kind, many more are being typically evasive.  Barnardos (@barnardos),   Cancer Research (@CR_UK) and the British Heart Foundation (@theBHF) have chosen simply to ignore the hundreds of people who have contacted them expressing outrage at their use of forced labour.  Others, such as the Salvation Army and Age UK have wobbled, but are still using workfare.

Far more concerning is the number of charities still happy to profit directly from workfare as contractors of the government’s Work Programme scheme.  According to Chris Grayling the Work Programme is the largest Welfare to Work scheme seen since the 1930s.  Figures just announced show that since June last year 370,000 Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants have been referred onto the Work Programme scheme and around 20,000 claimants on Employment Support Allowance (ESA, the replacement for Incapacity Benefit).

The Work Programme is a mandatory scheme under which unemployed and sick or disabled claimants can be forced to undertake ‘Work Related Activity’ for up to two years.  In the case of JSA claimants this could include a period of six months workfare, often with a private sector employer.  Despite the lies told by ministers Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith, a now apparently censored document reveals that claimants have been forced to work at Pizza Hut, ASDA, Wilkinsons and many other household names from the private sector.

As ever, the ‘Work Programme’ scheme was contracted out largely to the private sector.  40 prime contracts in 18 regions were selected to manage the programme, and despite Cameron’s claims that the voluntary sector would be at the heart of the Work Programme, just one of these contracts was awarded to a charity, the Careers Development Group.  The rest have been awarded to profit making companies such as much maligned fraudsters A4e.  The contracts have been estimated to be worth 3-5 billions pounds.  To place this sum in context, George Osborne’s cuts have wiped £11 billion from welfare benefits, including savage cuts to housing benefit which have already led to many families losing their homes.  Yet he is happy to dish out almost half of that sum to private companies, for a scheme so apparently flawed that they daren’t even tell us if anyone has actually found work due to Work Programme.

Some of that cash is intended to flow down to the 289 sub-contracters who have been brought in to provide ‘specialist support’, often for the most vulnerable claimants.  The vast bulk of these are charities including household names such as MIND, SCOPE and Action for Blind People.  However all is not well on the Work Programme gravy train.  Some charities have pulled out, many are claiming a lack of referrals has made the scheme uneconomic, others are concerned that the payment after results system means they do not have the capital to develop workfare provision.

Shamefully not one charity has pulled out over concerns that some people are being bullied into forced labour in supermarkets under the scheme.  Neither have any raised concerns that many people, including sick and disabled claimants, have had benefits sanctioned  and been condemned to poverty and possible homelessness as a result.  Whilst some charities, including MIND and SCOPE have issued statements that they will no longer use forced labour in their shops, they appear unrepentant about profiting from a scheme that involves forced labour on an industrial scale.

Disability Works is a consortium of disability and mental health charities which was formed to maximise income from the Work Programme.  After facing heavy criticism when the workfare row first blew up, a statement was issued by mental health charity MIND, which attempted to clarify their position:

“Mind is a member of Disability Works UK, a not-for-profit consortium of eight disability charities that have come together to provide tailored support to people who are ready to enter the workplace.

Through Disability Works UK, our local Minds may be involved in offering specialist support to people with mental health problems helping to improve their skills and boost their confidence. 

Well-structured and meaningful volunteering can be an excellent way to prepare people for paid work.

However, we believe that forcing people to volunteer is not the best way forward.

Disability Works UK will not play a role in imposing sanctions and will only seek contracts with providers whose values are compatible with our own.”

This is disingenuous to say the least, in fact it might best be described as a deliberate distortion of the truth.  Benefit sanctions are at the heart of the Work Programme and all of the prime contracters and sub-contracters are aware of this.  Disability Works may not play a role in imposing sanctions, they don’t play a role in paying out benefits either.  Only the DWP can sanction someone’s benefit’s (obviously).  Member’s of Disability Works however are contractually obliged to report any ‘Compliance Doubts’ to the prime contractors who in turn send them onto the DWP, who are the ones who  administer a benefit sanction.  A ‘compliance doubt’ may mean that a claimant has refused to go and work in Poundland for no pay, or has failed to turn up for an Interview Skills workshop, short training course, or other activity.  If Disability Works do not follow this procedure and refuse to report compliance breaches,  then they are in breach of contract with their contractors and ultimately the DWP.

The Work Programme Provider’s Guidance* (PDF) clearly states that:  “Sanctions are a tool to encourage participants to actively engage with support offered. Where a participant has failed to comply with a mandated activity, you are required to follow a process for raising a compliance doubt.

Whilst it is true that providers can appeal that in some circumstances a claimant (on ESA only)  is vulnerable, the end decision will be made by the DWP.  Sick and disabled people are not exempt from benefit sanctions as is clear:  “If one of these participants fails to undertake WRA (Work Related Activity) without good cause, a sanction will apply. The Work Related Activity Component (WRAC) will be reduced whilst the ESA participant is sanctioned.”

All of the charities involved in Work Programme, including Disability Works have signed up to this, and indeed are profiting from it.

The big disability charities are attempting to treat both their users and the general public as fools.  Whilst corporate slime like Tesco and Burger King have at least attempted to be honest about their role in workfare, the big charities are using weasel words to completely misrepresent their involvement in the scheme.  The likelihood is that the members of Disability Works will make far more money out of workfare than Tesco ever did.

The nature of the Work Programme makes it very difficult to know for sure exactly what is going on at grassroots level.  Providers have been given free reign to mandate claimants to all kinds of activities, with many of their programmes kept confidential under the handy smokescreen of commercial confidentitality rules.  Some charities may only be partaking a small role, such as provide housing advice to homeless participants, others may manage the full spectrum of a person’s activity on Work Programme.

Were Disability Works to publish a full outline of their Work Programme provision then this may go some way towards developing some much needed transparency in the scheme.  As it stands the statement from MIND suggests that they may well be involved in mandating people to forced labour.

Under current rules, claimants on ESA cannot be mandated to workfare, although they can be  mandated to up to 15 hours of training a week amongst other activities.  For those claimants on JSA the situation is very different and they could face forced labour for six months.  Thousands of people with disabilities and mental health conditions have been bullied onto Job Seeker’s Allowance by the flawed Work Capability Assessment, many of them will no doubt have been mandated to workfare.

Those on ESA, many of whom have fluctuating conditions, are just if not more vulnerable to benefit sanctions.   Should a mandatory appointment or training scheme with one of the charitable providers happen to fall on a ‘bad day’, and the claimant is unable to attend, they are very likely to face sanctions.  All of the charities have been happy to go along with this as long as it kept lining their pockets.

The members of Disability Works, (who can be found here) should be ashamed for colluding in this attack on the most vulnerable in society.  That they allowed themselves to put aside the needs of their users in favour of juicy government contracts is a disgrace.  That they are still participating, and profiting from the scheme which is bringing misery to thousands, shows they do not deserve the support of those appalled by forced labour.   Until they clearly, and unambiguously reject the Work Programme they should be condemned along with Primark and McDonalds and all other organisations happy to profit from workfare.  Anything other than an absolute condemnation of the Work Programme, workfare and benefit sanctions will be seen as yet another gross betrayal of the very people these charities were established to support.

*Disclaimer: this document may change at any time to cover up for government lies.

A full list of charities and other organisations with Work Programme sub-contracts can be found (for now) at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wp-supply-chains.pdf

Above pic from: http://crippencartoons.wordpress.com/

20 Towns And Cities Line Up to Take Action Against Workfare

Come to the protest the Tories want to ban!

Despite hysterical Tory threats to crack down on workfare protest’s, 20 towns and cities have lined up to take action next Saturday 3rd March and the number is growing daily.

Action is set to take place in Belfast, Brighton, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Nottingham, Bristol, Lincoln, Sheffield, Aberdeen, York, Margate, Tunbridge Wells and Oxford.

A five day online protest beginning tonight will kick things off, you can find all the details at: http://www.facebook.com/events/373373192687532/

With ministers telling bare faced lies in the press, and government documents being disappeared, or hastily re-written, to cover up for their fibs, more than ever the pressure needs to be stepped up. Rarely has a government looked so weak as they flounder around, bewildered by public disgust at the likes of Tesco and ASDA forcing benefit claimants to work nightshifts at the tax payer’s expense.

This government is vulnerable like never before on workfare. The entire policy of welfare reform depends on it. Already Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith have lied that workfare isn’t mandatory on the government’s flagship Work Programme, plunging the scheme into chaos at grassroots level.

Plans revealed recently to force sick and disabled people to work without end for their benefits are now sure to be abandoned. As major retailers and charities pull out of workfare, it matter’s little what the government tries to do or say. Every company that pulls out is another nail in the coffin of the government’s forced labour schemes.

Four actions are set to take place in London alone, in Lewisham, Hackney, Brixton and Central London. Meet outside BHS on Oxford Street at 11.30am, or visit the Boycott Workfare website for details of all protests at: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=359

You can also find details of all events on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/events/373373192687532/

The Day of Action was called by Boycott Workfare, an unaffiliated claimant led group who have been campaigning against workfare since before this government weren’t elected.

This day has nothing to do with the SWP, despite the lies ministers tell.

Workfare affects all workers, as wages are driven down, overtime slashed, and much needed jobs go to benefits claimants forced to work without a wage.  It is down to all of us to resist this attack on wages and the unemployed.

There’s still time to organise locally.  Contact Boycott Workfare via their website or facebook to have your protest or action added to the list.

Please share, blog and tweet details of all events.

Join in online, then to the streets on Saturday March 3rd!

Yet More Disappearing DWP Documents – Now It’s a Freedom of Information Request

The shameful attempt to cover up Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling’s lies about workfare appears to have led to another document disappearing from the DWP’s website.  This follows the revelation yesterday that the Work Programme Provider guidance on the DWP’s website was altered last Friday to remove references to mandatory work experience.

The latest disappeared document, which was a response to a Freedom of Information request, revealed the names of several private companies who have enjoyed free forced labour under the government’s Work Programme scheme.

The document revealed that claimants have been placed at Poundland, ASDA, Wilkinsons and many other private sector companies. Once again this document proves that Chris Grayling was lying when he said “There is no circumstance in which we would mandate any individual to take part in work activity for a big company, that doesn’t happen.”

The document could previously be found at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/foi-3238-2011.pdf

You can even view where it used to be on google:

Unfortunately it’s no longer there.  But that’s okay because good old google cache has a copy of this as well.

This FOI request was only published in December 2011.  Less than 3 months later it appears that Freedom of Information has been sacrificed to protect lying government ministers.

Some extracts of the disappeared document are below:

If further proof were needed that this is being done to cover up for Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith’s lies, then this older FOI response (PDF), which is still available on the DWP website, is revealing. This happens to show that work experience placements happen to have only involved working for charities in the Maidenhead area. In this case there is no reference to private companies. It is clear from the document above that this is not the case throughout the country. But since this document supports the minister’s claims it gets to stay, those that prove they are lying bastards are removed.

Stalin Would Blush at this Government’s Workfare Tantrum

Senior ministers are lying through their teeth about workfare. Opponents are smeared and demonised. The free press are coming under attack, simply for not kowtowing to the party line. Documents have disappeared or are being hastily rewritten to cover up ministerial falsehoods. Now the police are being ordered in to stamp out any dissent against this government’s policies. And all of this to defend the undefensible, forced labour.

Stalin would blush at the activities of the government this week. It’s true that politically orchestrated famine has yet to materialise. Instead the policy seems to be to euthanise those deemed unproductive via suicide, poverty or homelessness. Political dissenters are not yet condemned to the Gulag, but say the wrong thing, at the wrong time on facebook and you may well find yourself disappeared for four years.

It is somewhat ironic that the government should be falsely blaming the trot left for public opposition to workfare, whilst acting like mini-soviet dictators themselves.

The truth is that the SWP and their rivals the Socialist Party, have done little more than attempt to colonise a debate which has rightly seen the public erupt in fury. They do not represent the millions of people who are outraged by the activities of this government. Just like Cameron they care only about political power and are equally duplicitous in their pursuit of it. But luckily it’s not really about them, whatever government ministers try to claim. The tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people who have threatened pickets, boycotts and direct action aimed at the companies involved in workfare have nothing to do with the SWP. All Cameron’s cronies have done is further enrage the public by attempting to smear and misrepresent them. Well that and made themselves look very silly indeed.

Whilst the likes of Emma Harrison and McDonalds pick up millions from forced labour schemes, the government employs ever more dubious means of attempting to suppress true dissent. This has always been the true face of the Tory Party. Big business running rampant with the Stasi ever ready to pounce on those who object. It was true under Thatcher, who introduced ever more draconian laws to suppress dissent, and it appears to be true under Cameron. That they should pretend to be in favour of ‘small government’ and against the ‘nanny state’ is just more doublespeak. Workfare slavery is freedom after all.

Except there is one huge difference. Iain Duncan Smith is no Jo Stalin. Cameron is certainly no Thatcher. This bunch of over-privileged braying toffs are just making themselves a laughing stock. Already derided across Europe,  Cameron is fast becoming a national joke here as well. A fucking embarrassment to be honest.

This government are nothing more than snivelling little public schoolboys, most of whom have never done a day’s real work in their lives. The very worst of the effete upper classes. Not clever enough for business, or brave enough for war, they slunk into politics in the desperate bid to gain some meaning in their empty cossetted lives.

As for their lib dem lapdogs, well perhaps they should be pitied. And then put down.

In an effort to bolster their flagging egos, they are now calling on police to halt next weekend’s National Day of Action Against Workfare which will see protests across the UK, with action planned in 15 towns and cities so far. This has not been organised by the SWP or the Socialist Party  although their supporters will no doubt be welcomed as long as they resist their natural instincts to attempt to hijack them. The day was called by Boycott Workfare, in a feat of spectacular foresight, some time before the workfare row blew up in the press. Boycott Workfare is an unaffiliated claimant led organisation that has been campaigning against workfare since it was shamefully first introduced by Labour. Some other claimant led groups (and by no means all of them) can be found at Benefit Claimants Fighting Back.

Everyone opposed to workfare should get out on the streets next weekend and show that we are not an SWP front or reds under the bed. We need to show that opposition to workfare comes from every sector of society and we demand it is abandoned. And most importantly we need to show that we will not be intimidated by lame threats from the Tory press.

For the latest list of events taking place next week visit Boycott’s Workfare’s website, or you can find a round up of the plans so far on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/108260229303114/

The Case of the Disappearing Workfare Documents

Well yesterday’s revelation that the DWP seem to have been altering documents on their website to cover for Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith’s lies seems to hold weight.  Someone on the forum urban75 has pointed out that the document was indeed modified yesterday:

“If you download the current modified pdf file from the DWP website and look at Document Properties you see that the pdf file was:

Created: 2012-02-24 15:07:49

Modified: 2012-02-24 15:08:39″

It even appears the Ministry of Truth have been busier than first suspected, with yet more information on compulsory workfare vanishing from the DWP’s website.

This blog reveals that the prospectus for the Work Programme also seems to have gone walkabout. If you go to where the prospectus was originally located you are informed: “The page you are looking for is no longer available on the DWP site.”  You can then follow a link to the archive (PDF) which contains the prospectus.  Whilst it is not unusual for documents to be archived, there are plenty of other documents about the Work Programme still available on the DWP’s website, yet any mention of the mandatory nature of the scheme appears to have been removed.  That includes the table below from the prospectus which clearly shows that Iain Duncan Smith was lying when he claimed in the Mail that “our work programme is entirely voluntary”.

You don’t even need to go internet sleuthing to expose their lies now that broken toy retailers Poundland have said they have ended:

“participation in the government’s mandatory work programme.”

Which contrasts sharply with Chris Grayling’s claim on the Today programme yesterday that “There is no circumstance in which we would mandate any individual to take part in work activity for a big company, that doesn’t happen.”

The Guardian asked Poundland to specify exactly which scheme they meant, which they did saying:

“Poundland have been taking part in two schemes, the work programme and the work experience scheme,”

“Poundland has suspended its participation in the work programme, because of concerns about the compulsory nature of the programme but they are continuing with the work experience, which is voluntary.”

Most claimants could have warned Grayling that you can’t really trust anything you get from a pound shop.

This statement is important because it refers to the Work Programme, not the Mandatory Work Activity scheme, or the much discussed Work Experience scheme for young people.  Work Programme can see claimants forced to work for private companies for up to six months without pay, something that DWP ministers have pretended isn’t happening time and time again.

Iain Duncan Smith and his minion Grayling have repeatedly told bare faced lies over the last couple of weeks as the workfare story has continued unabated. That they remain in post tells us everything we need to know about this shameful government. Next time Lansley or Cameron claim they are not privatising the NHS, remember this – they lie through their fucking teeth and there is no reason to ever believe a word this government tells us again.

The blog mentioned above also has an interesting story about Cameron’s recent disastrous visit to a hospital in Newcastle, which was also covered up.  The Ministry of Truth has had a busy month.