A long running war of words has been waging between the DWP and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ever since a Freedom of Information request was submitted by Frank Zola asking for the names of organisations taking placements under the Government’s Mandatory Work Activity scheme. Three times the DWP have attempted to dodge the ICO’s demand for transparency which resulted in this week’s tribunal hearing.
In an astonishing legal defence the DWP claimed this week that if the public knew who was taking part in the workfare schemes then the entire racket might be in danger of collapse. Providing an unwitting but glowing testimony to the effectiveness of Boycott Workfare and other anti-workfare campaigners, the department claimed: “The activities of campaign groups and the results of negative publicity meant that… “a great many placement organisations” had ceased to offer placements. That in turn reduced the numbers of opportunities available across both programmes with a loss of many placements and prospective new placements being at risk.”
The DWP’s wild claims included a shabby, if half-hearted, attempt to smear anti-workfare campaigners as violent – something which was dismissed out of hand by the tribunal – and even a claim that campaigners might be responsible for increasing unemployment. This is despite the fact that the DWP’s own evidence shows that forced work has no impact on whether people taking part eventually find a real job. It appears the department are desperate to blame anyone except themselves for the failure to bring down soaring unemployment.
Perhaps one of the most shocking aspects of the DWP’s evidence is just how far they wanted to go to protect charities from being held to account by their donor and their supporters. The Charity Commission’s ‘Hallmarks of an Effective Charity’ is very clear that an “effective charity is accountable to the public and others with an interest in the charity in a way that is transparent and understandable”. Yet, no doubt with the connivance of some of the charities themselves, the DWP have sought to undermine the very foundations of charity governance in an attempt to keep the public in the dark about the activities of the sector.
Unsurprisingly the views of the welfare-to-work industry were also brought in to bolster the DWP’s argument. Evidence was submitted in which SEETEC warned disclosure of who the workfare exploiters are could put their very organisation at risk. Another workfare contractor, Ingeus, claimed that it might cost them around £1 million in lost revenue if this information was made public – although by them, they meant us, because all their money has been stolen from the tax payer anyway.
This is a revealing admission from the corporate poverty pimps who have turned forced labour and harassment of the poor into a multi-billion pound scam. It’s not just DWP policy that could be affected by an escalation in anti-workfare protests according to the industry, but the entire welfare-to-work gravy train.
With this in mind the last word should to go to Boycott Workfare themselves:
“Since the Salvation Army gets a special mention from the DWP for ‘holding the line’ (point 196), you may like to take this opportunity to remind them why this position is just so inconsistent with their Christian values. The Salvation Army UK can be contacted on facebook, by phone (020 7367 4500), by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). More background on their involvement and contact details can be found here, or you can tweet at them @salvationarmyuk”
Read the full judgement at: http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DBFiles/Decision/i1016/EA-2012-0207%28+2%29_Judgment_17-05-2013.pdf
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid