Two videos have emerged on youtube which appear to represent the reality of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme which Chris Grayling this week announced is to be extended to tens of thousands more unemployed people.
In the two part video diary, the claimant films aspects of the work he has been sent to take part in by the Welfare to Work company Working Links, who are currently mired in fraud investigations. The work involves tree brashing, a laborious task which involves stripping lower branches from trees in heavy forest growth.
Astonishingly, according to the video, the person concerned was provided with no protective clothing or equipment and was even required to provide his own saw. He was also left to work alone and completely unsupervised, despite the potentially dangerous nature of the work. It also highlights the fact that his transport costs to the job had not been met in full and that Working Links suggested he take a 90 minute bus journey followed by a five mile walk to his place of work each day in order to keep his costs down.
On Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) claimants are sent to work for 30 hours on a range of ‘community’ projects for no pay for four weeks at a time. The scheme is used as Community Service for unemployed people deemed not trying hard enough to find work by Jobcentre advisors. Failure to attend MWA leads to punitive benefit sanctions which leave people in dire poverty and facing possible homelessness.
There is nothing in the videos which suggests they may be inauthentic, but even if they were to be an elaborate hoax, they represent far from the worst case scenario that some benefit claimants now face.
All of the allegations made in the videos are perfectly consistent with the rules of Mandatory Work Activity. In some cases the scheme could be even more punitive. The person who made the videos appears relatively young, healthy and able-bodied. Due to the brutal assessment regime for sickness benefits, huge numbers of sick and disabled people have now been bullied onto Jobseekers Allowance. Jobcentre staff, most of whom have no training in sickness or disability issues, can now send sick and disabled people on this scheme where they too could be sent to work in the forests of Scotland, carrying out hard manual labour for the pittance of £67.50 a week.
As noted on the Black Triangle Campaign’s website this week, the Social Security Advisory Committee warned that people with ‘invisible’ disabilities such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, autistic spectrum disorders or those with mental health conditions are particularly vulnerable to being referred to Mandatory Work due to the nature of their conditions.
Previous workfare schemes have usually come with a small top up to benefit payments to help meet the costs of being in full time, unpaid employment. These payments have all been scrapped by the current Government. As the videos point out, substantial costs can be incurred when carrying out physical work, including the simple fact you need to eat more and take more baths.
This is the stark reality of this Government’s welfare reforms. People with serious and life threatening conditions can now be sent to carry out hard physical labour whilst they are barely given enough to pay for food. If the video is to be believed, and there’s no reason not to, they may not even be granted safety clothing, equipment or adequate supervision.
Tragically an increasing number of people have taken their own lives due to the brutality of the current welfare reforms. With Mandatory Work about to be increased on an industrial scale, it is only a matter of time before there are even more deaths due to unscrupulous employers – many of whom are charities – forcing people into unsafe and unhealthy working conditions under threat of benefit sanctions.
The first of the two videos is below, the second can be watched on youtube.