Grayling Escalates Workfare Row – Protests To Go Ahead as Planned

Chris Grayling could have laid the workfare row to rest yesterday, but he chose not to.  A clear and unambiguous rejection of sanctions across all of the workfare schemes would probably have shut us up.  Instead he’s once again attempted to mislead and fib his way out of trouble.

The Government has not ended workfare.  They haven’t even come close.  As Boycott Workfare tweeted last night:  “The government HAVE NOT scrapped #workfare sanctions. They have removed some sanctions from ONE of the FIVE schemes.”

By far the largest workfare scheme, the ‘Work Programme’, can still see claimants forced to work without pay for up to six months.  The scheme is shrouded in secrecy and we simply don’t know how many people have been referred to workfare, or even where they ended up.  Now apparently censored documents have revealed that Work Programme participants have been forced to work at ASDA, Holiday Inn, Pizza Express, Savers, Barnados, Wilkinson and 99p Stores.  They could well still be there as barely anything has changed.

Last night Boots announced they were specifically pulling out of the Work Programme.  Poundland have made a similar announcement (although they are still part of the Work Experience scheme).  Oxfam have also rejected all workfare schemes.  As for Tesco, Argos, McDonalds, ASDA, Burger King, and charities such as SCOPE, Barnados and the Salvation Army, we just don’t know how many of them are currently employing unpaid staff for up to six months at a time.

According to the for the trade body for the companies delivering the Work Programme, Boots are the only business so far to pull out.

All pickets, actions and boycotts should remain in place until companies and charities issue a clear and unambiguous rejection of all workfare schemes.

Whilst it’s clearly good news that some companies appear to have forced a climbdown on the Work Experience Scheme, let’s not pretend the likes of Tesco and McDonalds are noble defenders of the proletariat.  If they can find a way to continue using forced labour without if affecting their corporate reputations then of course they will.

Perhaps this was the deal Grayling offered, pointing out he’s been getting away with lying through his teeth for two weeks now, so he’d just come up with a bit more horseshit in an attempt to mislead the public and this horrible business would all go away.  Well, it hasn’t.

We don’t even really know if anything is likely to change on the Work Experience Scheme, with the DWP Press Release stating that the ‘sanctions regime remains in place’.

Until the DWP issues a clear statement that the workfare regime is over, we are simply back to square one.  If the companies concerned think Grayling’s weasel words were anywhere near enough then they have once again misjudged the public.  We are not fucking stupid.  And we can recognise an attempted Government and corporate stitch up when we see one.

31  (and counting)  protests against companies profiting from forced labour will still go ahead this weekend.  It is telling that Boots, hounded as they were last year over their dodgy tax arrangements, should be the first to distance themselves from workfare altogether.  They know all too well of the consequences of suffering this kind of repeated protest outside and inside their stores.

The campaign against workfare is undoubtedly working.  But it is a long way from over.

42 responses to “Grayling Escalates Workfare Row – Protests To Go Ahead as Planned

  1. We have a mountain to climb and not just because it’s there either. Add this to the Welfare Reform bill being passed and oh dear! My heart is broken

  2. I agree with everything you say but why have you , yet again, not mentioned that people on ESA , those deemed too sick to work , can be placed on these programmes INDEFINITELY not just for six months. It is about time that the sick and disabled started getting support here too.The impact of the wrb on the most vulnerable is being ignored in the press and I fear here too.

    • Daisy the plans for indefinite work for people on ESA have not yet been brought in and if they are I am sure will be challenged every bit as fiercely, if not more so. At present people on ESA can be mandated onto the Work Programme (and 20,000 have been) but they cannot currently be forced to undertake workfare – the government wants to change this, but if we can draw a line under workfare now then they will find that much harder.

      • Johnny, PLEASE, you have to make more of this!!! The Welfare Reform Bill finished going through Parliament on 29th Feb. IT IS ALL BUT LAW.

        Just to be clear – people on ESA are sick and disabled – a person put in the WRAG (work-related activity group) after a Work Capability Assessment is described in the Welfare Act as someone whose “capability for work is limited by his physical or mental condition, and the limitation is such that it is NOT REASONABLE TO REQUIRE HIM TO WORK”

        Determination of limited capability for work
        No.19 – Determination of limited capability for work

        19.—(1) For the purposes of Part 1 of the Act, whether a claimant’s capability for work is limited by the claimant’s physical or mental condition and, if it is, whether the limitation is such that it is not reasonable to require the claimant to work is to be determined on the basis of a limited capability for work assessment.
        The limited capability for work assessment is an assessment of the extent to which a claimant who has some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement is capable of performing the activities prescribed or is incapable by reason of such disease or bodily or mental disablement of performing those activities.

        YET – in Clause 54 of the Welfare Reform Bill it says –

        54 – Work experience etc
        In section 13 of the Welfare Reform Act 2007 (work-related activity), after
        subsection (7) there is inserted—
        “(8) The reference to activity in subsection (7) includes work experience or

        And Lords Hansard 10 Nov 2011 : Column GC90 – Lord Freud’s answer –
        “The Bill seeks to clarify what may be included by way of work-related activity, rather than extend its meaning. Work-related activity is already defined in the Welfare Reform Act 2007 as –
        “activity which makes it more likely that the person will obtain or remain in work or be able to do so”, AND CLAUSE 54 MAKES IT EXPRESSLY CLEAR THAT THIS MAY INCLUDE WORK EXPERIENCE OR A WORK PLACEMENT.”



        Importantly, those who are sick and disabled are highly unlikely to be able to go out and protest for themselves. So they need others to speak out for them and include them in any protest.

  3. “Work Experience” scheme (that is without voluntary or mandatory attached to the front of it) is an employment programme.

    The companies using your free labour are treated as your EMPLOYER in a similar way as other schemes, you provider becomes your EMPLOYER (even though its not a job)

    Hence Gross Misconduct can get you a benefit sanction.

    As for relaxing the rules… there has been no legislation changes, so people will continue to get sanctioned.

    Word of caution, the 220 sanctions figure is probably outdated. Most FoI requests return statistics that are 6 months old etc. so could be double that.

  4. I will be disappointed if the protests went ahead as planned.

    There must be more ANGER, Chris Grayling went on the news on numerous occasions lying through his teeth calling an employment programme “voluntary” and that people cannot be sanctioned (although he has since come up with a figure of 220 victims).

    The truth is those who they expect will have a problem with Work Experience is placed on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme anyhow – why? has longer period of sanctions! There is also no cooling of period.

    I don’t even think the biased media fooled for the lies – with evidence in black and white.

    Now there is suggestions that the rules are being relaxed without ANY evidence – no legislation changes and confirmation that sanctions remain in place.

    Does that make me angry? YES. Lets not forget the rewrites and disappearing documents… and Work Experience with the mandatory “voluntary” prefix.

    Its not just DWP. “Employers” have been shady to whether or not they are involved in any of the workfare schemes. Many have declared they are not involved in Work Experience but wont comment on Work Programme, CAP etc.

    Lets step up the protests a gear or two! (Don’t forget the Conservatives want to increase the sanctions to 3 years – they will keep trying)

  5. How will Fit for Work notes work with this? I now thy’ll try to ignore them but people will end up seriously ill/hurt through this scheme. And history (and Herstory for that) shows that before change there are many sacrificed; hence my earlier post; but I’d seriously sooner not live in a world that allows it’s Government to condemn the most vulnerable. I’d willingly be a martyr for the cause

    • For a fit noted sick or disabled person that is trapped into workfare like schemes; all that they need to do is “get hurt” while on the premises and have them call an ambulance and tie up hospital beds at £1,500 a day. While making sure that their loved ones have a no win no fee ambulance chaser on standby for the compo.
      For many of us sickies and disableds it is very difficult to establish if injury or just the condition itself is the cause of sudden increased illness or even injury. A history of falls or poor walking hand eye coordination, mental capability etc etc would suffice to win in most cases.

      What I want to do is go back to being a Jumbo Jet pilot. I loved that job before I got ill, with random acute pain and eye discomfort and sleeping sickness and pain.
      Yeah… they,ve convinced me. I will go back to work tomorrow.

  6. Johnny,

    I think what you do is fantastic and I refer to your site often.

    However, I agree with Daisybee above, who says the protests against Workfare never mention the sick and disabled.

    You say they can be mandated and 20,000 have been but they cannot be forced. This needs explaining as it doesn’t seem to make sense.

    Last night the welfare Reform Bill passed into law. Under clause 54 and plans agreed by the DWP on 1.12.11., This makes unpaid work compulsory for the sick and disabled with NO TIME LIMIT.

    I have talked to people who represent the “ordinary public view”. Many see nothing wrong with being made to work for benefits. But they do react with horror at it being extended to the sick and disabled. Especially when it is explained to them that many of those found fit for work or put in the ESA wrag group are in fact seriously ill and cannot meet these requirements.

    Personally if found fit for work, which I expect to be, I will not even be able to manage to sign on, nevermind work.

    I think the campaign as a whole will be infinitely more succesfull if this is pointed out to the public NOW, The campaign will gain a lot more support as it reveals the true depths to which this government is prepared to sink. Plus it PROOVES this is nothing to do with getting work experience in order to be able to get a job. What benefit is there is sending the terminally ill (i.e more than 6 months to live but still dying) or those on cancer treatment on work experience, especially as many of these will be off sick from jobs they already have and may be able to return to if they recover. The indefinite nature also PROOVES it is about free labour until you drop.

    • You say they can be mandated and 20,000 have been but they cannot be forced. This needs explaining as it doesn’t seem to make sense.

      I think i can answer this, i won the appeal to reinstate me onto ESA and am currently in the WRAG, mandated to attend for 2 years but cannot be forced to apply for employment.Im unsure of the frequency of attending, i thought it was 6 times over the two years, then every 8 weeks but thats not holding true so as it stands my adviser gives me a date to attend.After 2 sessions, sessions have so far been me arriving, signing in and literally saying hello and i leave again, i was then told the next session would be by phone.Initially i agreed with that but im not happy with phones and as my mother pointed out that im currently not answering the phone to anyone it would be a waste.I wondered if not answering would get me sanctioned so i went back and said no to that and got a time and date to attend in person again.

      And that’s my total experience of WRAG.5 months after i won the appeal i’d waited 2 1/2 years for, that overturned the decision to remove ESA from me but did not overturn the decision to remove all but low rate care DLA that the WCA triggered, i got a call from ATOS to say an appointment had been made for me to attend for assessment.Ive successfully argued for an at home assessment.The thing is as i said to ATOS, the contract states that a diagnosis of ASD means i shouldn’t be required to travel for an assessment, yet im having to argue, threaten with legal action, refer them to DED and hassle my GP for evidence the DWP already holds from my appeal and reconsideration request.I fully expect to be found fit for work and around i go again.

      • Oh and this time any appeal i’ll be attending will be as an unrepresented person.The government convieniently removed funding from my previous representatives organisation and they cant rep me next time.I hear also that i may now not get an appeal as the DWP will be able to effectively keep me waiting for thier decision without access to appropriate benefit.
        Erm, surely that would breach the right to fair hearing?Im sure theres a clause in there about hearings being held in good time and as there was concern when the legislation came in surrounding employment tribunal rights not kicking in until 12 months employed, i suspect it could encompass DWP hearings also.

  7. Article on sick and disabled face unlimited unpaid work or benefit sanctions:

  8. The idea behind the unlimited work for the sick and disabled is to first propose an extremist position, then concede, in the face of protests, back to the position that was planned in the first place – that the sick and disabled will be thrown into the same slop-bucket as the unemployed.

    This is so unbelievable self-evident that I am screaming with frustration that I seem to be the only person that understands this.

    Also, what is happening in the UK is just part of the European neo-liberal blitzkeig that Germany has already had a decade of. You’re all fighting blindfolded.

    There’s no need for a crystal ball… Just read

    Please. Pretty please.

    • ‘that I seem to be the only person that understands this’,

      i think it is a horridly complex bill with all sorts of booby traps and back doors but when it is applied to the DWP, a byzantine tower of babel in itself, it will be a nightmare and no one will be able to forecast what will happen, sure the end result will be easy enough to predict but the getting there will be awesomely wankoid

    • Socrates, what I cannot understand is how workfare slave labour is law…. it’s been before parliament and they voted to make it so.

      How does Grayling then, overturn law when he stated that people would no longer be forced into slavery, the other day.

      He has not changed the law he has not put it to Parliament, was it even law in the first place ?

      • I’m no law or constitutional expert, but there’s “The Law” and there’s “Regulations”. Often the regulations (which are established by the law) can be written and re-written on the hoof by ministers, junior ministers, even civil servants. If one objects to changes in regulations, who ya’ gonna call? There’s not really anything one can do about it without going to the High Court and asking for a judge’s opinion.

        I remember a lot of controversy when it started becoming more common for governments to pass enabling legislation, allow the finer points to be decided out of the public eye and away from parliamentary scrutiny.

  9. I totally agree with those posts about the sick and disabled. It IS law now, Johnny, and those in ESA WRAG group can be mandated onto the Work Programme. What is the difference between Work and Work-Related Activity? There is none, it is all complete and utter BS. We need to catch the mood. After all, if the young and healthy can succeed in dropping the mandatory element then just how much more sympathetic will the public be towards the sick and disabled?

    • sorry been out all day so couldnt answer sooner.

      according to the provider guidance, at present ESA claimants can not be mandated to work experience on the work programme, but can be mandated to other activities, such as 16 hours training a week, CV skills workshops etc. this is unacceptable and ive written about it at:

      this will change now the wrb is law, but it will take time, providers will have to be found, a tendering process will take place etc. one thing we can do now is put pressure on disability works and the other charities happy to make a quick buck out of these schemes to not touch mandatory work for people in the wrag group with a bargepole.

      if we can break workfare for jsa claimants now then it will be much harder for them to implement mandatory work for ESA/WRAG claimants – also many people on jsa are sick or disabled due to the atos holocaust – most of them not on the work experience scheme, which is why its more important than ever that we point out workfare sanctions have not been scrapped – and if companies are genuine about not profiting from forced labour then they need to pull out of work programme as well

  10. Let’s nail these scumbags once and for all. Anger is right, let’s get some real protest happening (and i don’t mean bottling innocent people or even workers). Len McCluskey has the right idea; but let’s start earlier and send this government of con men a solid message.

  11. Arbeitsscheu_UK

    The DWP have today refused another freedom of Information Act request to supply Mandotory Work providers on the website.

    It might be an idea for #workfare protesters to use the website to flood the DWP with similar requests for their own areas, or any other area come to that. The text from the refused request would be fine just substitute the area.

    Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

    Please could you provide a list of organisations signed up to
    provide unpaid work placements under the mandatory Work Activity
    and Mandatory Work Programme schemes as referred by Jobcentre Plus,
    and the name of the linked providers in the Poole and Bournemouth

    Yours faithfully,

    How do they think this is going to protect these corporate scabs? Given that anyone who has been forced onto a mandatory work scheme is free to share on the Internet the name of the company they were conscripted to.

    The DWP will no doubt refuse any further requests, most likely of the grounds they are vexatious, but this hardly matters given that the the DWP are infamous for wriggling out of supplying information and as a result people tend to use the website as a notice board to put awkward questions in the public domain. Of course anyone is able to comment by adding an annotation to the request and sometimes people even wait to have the request refused, on some dubious grounds or other, and then add the information they had requested themselves.

    • how could it be classed as ‘vexatious’, if you are a happy camper who wants to find out what is availble to you, to help your application process 😉

    • Sorry but that is not an freedom of information request letter, thats just a request letter.They can refuse that no problem and they did.It should mention the basis for the request, that its under the freedom of information act and state a reply time, 28 days i think is the limit.Ive only written one FoI letter and that was a few years ago now so my memory for it is not good but it didnt look like the letter you have posted, it was more substantial.

  12. Green Garland

    DWP recommendations were for 10,000 mandatory placements a year

    The latest month we have statistics for is last October, where in that month alone 8,000 people were mandated to forced work.

    Doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to see the huge huge HUGE discrepancy.

    • Arbeitsscheu_UK

      We need to find the people who have been forced to work for these rogue companies and name and shame them. The situation as it stands at the moment is that people are being forced to work for secret companies, so much for openness and transparency.

    • Green last I read it was 100,000 a year. Saving the employers around £144 million in unpaid minimum wages.

  13. Heglian Dialect

    Spot on, Socrates!

  14. A4E work programme performance data has been leaked.

    This shows what a total disaster this scheme is. No wonder Grayling has fought so hard to maintain the embargo

  15. All 4 Emma… are you saying its all over now for A4e AND the work programme?

  16. Johhny, please see my reply to you above @ March 2, 2012 at 9:07 am above.

    PLEASE do NOT leave sick and disabled people out of this campaign. Are we yet again to be marginalised with the presumption that “they would never do that” to people who are ill or disabled, as so many of the public seem to think? They would do that – you only have to look at the nightmare of the Work Capability Assessments to know that they will do what they want unless they are stopped. Many ill people have committed suicide and died as a result of the process involved in the WCA. They don’t care. People who are sick and disabled must be included in this. If the public knew the majority would be appalled and it would show, as someone else said, just how low they are prepared to stoop, it would add a powerful emphasis to protests.

  17. I would just like to echo all the calls above for this campaign to be extended to make the public aware of the abuse that sick and disabled people are subjected to as a result of forced work.

    The fact that the workfare fiasco has finally elevated such abuses into public consciousness is a great thing. However, sick and disabled people in the WRAG of ESA have been subjected to similar abuses for some time at the hands of the DWP and ATOS. This is now set to get even worse as a result of the Welfare ‘Reform’ Bill (I always have to put the ‘Reform’ part in inverted commas because calling it a ‘reform’ makes me want to throw up. It’s not a ‘reform’ it’s a dismantling!)

    Forcing the unemployed poor into irrelevant work for no pay is disgusting. Forcing the sick and disabled into irrelevant work for no pay is the most evil thing any UK government has ever done!

    The public need to be made aware of this while the topic is in the public consciousness. Finally, the sick and disabled people of this county actually have a chance for people to recognise the appalling abuses they are subjected to as a result of the welfare system. Please, please speak up for them. Yes, continue your fight and protests against Workfare, but please consider changing your dialogue to emphasise how terribly the sick and disabled are being treated by the system too!

    • HI CG – if you look in the archives of this blogs you will find scores and scores of posts about Atos and the new PIP legislation. The online action this weekend against workfare also has a call for people to contact the members of Disability Works to demand they refuse to play any part in future workfare schemes for sick and disabled people:

      Many people on JSA have disabilities or health problems, especially after the atos holocaust – they face workfare now, and if we can stop it now then the teeth will have been permanently removed from the welfare reform bill

      Please join in!

      • So is that a NO then Johnny? It’s great there are loads of posts and Blogs about PIP etc – but this is about getting the public to be aware of what’s going on and getting the companies to stop supporting it. If you leave it for another day human nature says that it will be “old news” and they won’t be affected by it in the same way. A moment like this only comes round occasionally. If not now, then when?

        P.S. – if the online campaign is planned for a weekend I doubt very much that there will be anyone answering phones at all the Charities offices, they are not shops, and most will only be there during the week.

        Have you read all the posts here today? – nearly all saying the same thing.

    • Hi CG,
      What no one understands is that all of these benefit denial systems have been worked out and tested on our elderly sick. And few if anyone took any notice and I would hope that every one posting hopes to get old at some stage.
      At the moment the Alzheimers Society are commenting that Northampton PCT is the worst organisation for making up the rules as they go along. I have even been threatened with the PCT’s security team popping round to sort me out if I ever try to add to my mother’s appeal information. Because I commented in an e-mail that they did not know to whom I was sending their obstructive letters and e-mails to me.

      Oh yes. It’s true. I cannot properly continue an appeal in case they come around and duff me up because I complained and told them that I would act. Yeah, I’m quaking in my boots.
      You think workfare is bad, so far the robbing bastards have taken £30 Billion in previously taxed income and Pension contributions from those that are least able to object or to make back the loss.

      No I hear you say….. I have some personal bills to prove it.

  18. Chris Grayling has received “donations” from the founder of an recruitment company as well as Toyota and several other large companies including SWIIS healthcare who recruit Nurses so no wonder he pushes workfare on us. He owes the people who “donated” to him. More than 100,000 pounds and rising.

  19. Bob, I’m not entirely sure what it is you want me to do. I’ve written extensively about Atos and PIP, the testing regime and the possible workfare schemes for sick and disabled people. Protests have been organised around the country for over a year aimed at Atos, all of which have been more than covered on this blog. I’ve recently published two pieces discussing disability charitites and their role in implementing workfare schemes, and called for people to take action, and as part of the online protest, the issue of sick and disabled having to face workfare in the future, is at the heart of it.

    This one single piece is about companies using people on JSA as unpaid labour. That is something that is happening now, and something we can stop. Are you telling me I should only write about ESA claimants?

  20. Hi Johnny, no, of course not – hope you weren’t offended – I realise you’ve done loads – all I was trying to put across is that if you have any influence over people who may be protesting, to make them aware, and also ask them to make the public and journalists aware that this isn’t just about 16-24 year olds, it’s about everyone who is unable to work – including people who are sick and disabled.

    • nah, not offended at all. the journos know, unfortunately one of the impacts of the SWP/Socialist Party’s opportunistic hijacking of the workfare issue has been the media going to people who dont understand the welfare system and haven’t been giving out the best information

      the other problem is that ‘work programme’ is shrouded in secrecy – the DWP havent said how many people have been forced onto workfare through the scheme and ministers have been lying through their teeth that it even happens. the big disability charities are also being coy with the truth and haven’t released any details on what they actually do as providers of work programme for ESA claimants. we need to push for this and get a clear statement from them in advance that they will not play any part in implementing sanctions, or providing workfare schemes (whatever they call them) which force sick and disabled people into unpaid work.

      i agree they won’t be there at weekends, but some of them have been responding on twitter – just as a reminder @scope, @mindcharity, @mencap_charity, @LCDisability, @action4blind, @plussaddtolife, @unitedresponse

      this won’t be enough on it’s own, but it would be a good start

  21. Good, glad you’re not offended. I’m really not sure that it is just charities that will be providing work placements for those on ESA – can you say why you think that is the case? Yes, agree, charities must be challenged about where they stand on all schemes.

    may be some interesting answers (or lack of them!) here –

  22. I think those who pull the strings to governments have been planning all this for a long time.. starting with all the propoganda BS to get the sheeple mind prepped into accepting it. The slow drip of the propoganda BS has been painting an image of lazy dole dossers living it large on tax payers money for years, and single parents getting pregnant for a council house and benefits to live scott free… the media has helped play this game too! Now we have uneductaed sheeple who are cushy in their jobs saying they think its good to make unemployed people work for their dole, so less public uproar for the string pullers and their puppets.

    The sheeple yap on about thier taxes being used to fund ‘lazy dole dossers’, yet seem to overlook the fact that billions of their taxes are being wasted on these schemes in order to boost the fat cat capitalist regime. Also billions of £’s are being pumped into the illegal occupation of Palestine… that is tax payers money! Tesco, McDonalds and many of the big companies on the list are also known supporters and active funders of Israel… they are used to protestors and boycott campaigns and have never given way to it.

  23. Pingback: 2012: A Year of Lies and Blunders at the DWP Part 1 | the void

  24. Pingback: Repost/reblog from “the void” 2012: A Year of Lies and Blunders at the DWP Part 1 « Launchpad: By and for mental health service users

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