Government statistics on the number of claimants forced to work for charities without pay reveal just over 12,000 disabled people have faced mandatory referrals to unpaid work since the workfare scheme was launched.
The statistics cover the Mandatory Work Activity scheme which is used by Jobcentre staff to punish people who they believe are not trying hard enough to find work. Claimants of Jobseekers Allowance can be sent on four weeks unpaid and full time workfare even from the first day of their claim. DWP research shows the scheme has no impact on whether people actually find a job after attending.
Usually claimants are sent to work for charity shops such as The Salvation Army or environmental organisations like Groundwork and The Conservation Volunteers. Claimants who refuse can now have benefits stopped for up to three years. Most decent charities, including Oxfam, Scope and Marie Curie have pulled out the scheme in disgust.
The figures show that in total, 53,720 people were forced to work unpaid between May 2011 and February 2013, of which 12,230 were known to be disabled. Some of these people may have been sickness and disability benefit claimants magically cured of all ills by the Atos assessment regime and declared ‘fit for work’. Others will have not been quite disabled enough to qualify for the tough criteria in place for the sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance.
Claimants can be sent on unpaid work with no real assessment of their health or circumstances. Jobcentre staff may not even know that a claimant has a health condition which makes a placement unsuitable. With many claimants too terrified about DWP bullying and sanctions to complain, it is almost certain people have been sent to do work which has damaged their health.
Even those on sickness and disability benefits are not safe from workfare. Despite ESA claimants in the Work Related Activity Group being assessed as unable to work at present not just by their own doctor but also the DWP, they can still be mandated to unpaid workfare as part of the Work Programme. Astonishingly the DWP does not know how many people this has happened to, or where they were sent. Welfare-to-work companies running the Work Programme are given free reign to demand claimants attend unpaid work – potentially even for up to two years with - no scrutiny from the department.
A week of action against workfare has been called from 6th – 14th July, so if you are opposed to this exploitation then please take part and help spread the word. For the latest news keep an eye on: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/
In the meantime @salvationarmyuk @tcvtweets and @groundworkuk can always do with reminding that if they exploit us, we will shut them down!
To view the Mandatory Work Activity statistics visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/208900/mwa-may13.pdf
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