The Guardian has finally picked up on the charities involved in workfare and benefit sanctions with a piece entitled ‘Why did large charities embrace the government’s work schemes?’.
Buried in the community section of the website, this is probably the best that can be expected from a newspaper that depends on charity recruitment ads to stay in business. Unlike workfare, at least most of those jobs carry a salary.
Even then it largely let’s the Disability Works members off the hook. Many big name disability charities, including Mencap, MIND and Scope, have all joined forces to deliver sub-contracts for the Government’s mandatory Work Programme. Sick and disabled claimants, along with unemployed people can be mandated to work related activity or face benefit sanctions. As yet claimants on the health related benefit ESA cannot be forced into workfare, however the Government has pledged to change that as soon as possible, with Minister Chris Grayling pushing for charities to be at the heart of the scheme.
Unemployed people can be forced onto up to six months full time workfare, often for private companies including ASDA and Poundstretcher. Failure to attend leads to loss of benefits.
The Guardian reports that charities claim that they ‘will not play a role in imposing sanctions’. This appears to be the party line having been spouted by several major charities over the last couple of weeks.
This is an utter distortion of the truth and reveals the contempt charities feel for both users and donors alike. That they think this let’s them off the hook just shows that they think we are fucking stupid. Tesco played a far lesser role in imposing benefit sanctions, yet even corporate bastards like them didn’t stoop to this level of misinformation.
The way it works is like this. Big companies, mostly utter scum like A4e, have the main contracts to deliver Work Programme. They are ultimately responsible for raising ‘Compliance Doubts’ with the DWP. A Compliance Doubt means that a claimant has failed to attend or complete mandated activity. This activity could be a training course, or interview skills workshop, or it could mean six months workfare. When the DWP receive a Compliance Doubt they then administer a benefit sanction.
Many charities have sub-contracts to deliver Work Programme, including the members of Disability Works and major anti-poverty charities such as the Salvation Army and St Mungos. As sub-contractors charities are legally obliged to report any Compliance Doubts to the main contractor who will then pass this information onto the DWP who will arrange the sanction. This is unlike the role of companies who have workfare placements, who just ring up the charity or organisation who arranged the placement and tell them if someone didn’t turn up. The DWP recently restated that charity subcontractors on the Work Programme are required to report claimants for sanctions. Charities are far more involved in the sanctions regime than Tesco and Sainsburys ever were.
Bizarrely the piece in the Guardian then claims that the Hardest Hit campaign represents marginalised groups standing up for themselves as an alternative to the cash and contract obsessed big charities. The Hardest Hit campaign is actually largely a mouthpiece for many of the charities, including Mencap and Mind, who have been so quick to profit from Work Programme.
When the Hardest Hit campaign began they had to be virtually shamed into even mentioning benefit cuts at all. The focus initially was on cuts to services, many of which are provided by the charities backing the campaign. Whilst some of these services are indeed vital, the campaign once again represented charities putting their own needs before those of their service users. On last year’s Hardest Hit march, disabled people and supporters were patronised and in some cases even pushed around by stewards for not getting back to their charity organised coaches and clearing the streets fast enough. Several grassroots Disabled People’s Organisations boycotted the event due to the involvement of the big charities.
Boycott Workfare, Disabled People Against Cuts and the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign are some of the marginalised groups which have been standing up for the rights of claimants. They haven’t received a whisper of support from the big disability and anti-poverty charities, who believe they know better than their users what their needs are.
The truth is that when charities become involved in exploitative and in some cases downright cruel Government schemes aimed at cutting the benefits bill they become anything but charitable. They are little more than unaccountable private sector parasites, much like A4e and G4s, but without the wit to make a profit.
This shouldn’t bother charity Chief Executives though, many of whom earn more in a fortnight than claimants have to exist on in a year. Many people have already pledged to no longer donate to these organisations until they completely reject workfare schemes and sanctions altogether. That none of the big charities seem to care is testament to how they genuinely feel about their supporters. They probably make more money from Work Programme than they do individual donations these days so who can blame them. After all, they aren’t charities, at least not in any sense of the word most people understand.
Above cartoon from: http://www.crippencartoons.co.uk/
Contact details, twitter feeds etc for the big disability charities involved in workfare and sanctions can be found at: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/disability-works-admit-their-role-in-sanctioning-disabled-peoples-benefits/
Details of homelessness charities involved are at: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/the-homeless-charities-involved-in-workfare-and-benefit-sanctions/