Category Archives: DWP

20 Million Hours Of Forced Unpaid Labour: How Much Lower Can So-Called Charities Sink?

ymca-no-payThe DWP have finally released some information on the performance of Community Work Placements, the mass workfare scheme first announced by George Osborne way back at the 2013 Tory Party conference.

The placements were finally launched in 2014 and require unemployed people to carry out six month’s unpaid work under the threat of brutal benefit sanctions – benefit sanction that are known to kill.  This work must be with a charity or a company which offers a ‘community benefit’.  In reality this has meant many people working unpaid for private, profit making companies who can claim to be a bit green or environmentally friendly, such as recycling businesses.  Many others have been sent to work in charity shops.

Despite the scheme having been in operation for over 18 months, the DWP are not telling us whether anyone has successfully found real work as a result of their placement.  This is sadly unsurprising, this programme was never about getting people jobs but was simply intended as punishment for the long-term unemployed.  And the punishment is severe.  Participants carry out 780 hours of forced unpaid work – almost three times the maximum possible community service sentence that can be handed out by the courts.

According to last week’s figures, around 25,000 people have started a Community Work Placement since the scheme began.  That means that companies and charities prepared to take part in this grotesque exploitation have potentially benefitted from just under 20 million hours of unpaid work – saving up to £130 million in wages even if all these jobs had only been paid at minimum wage.  And they call benefit claimants scroungers.

What the statistics do show is that Community Work Placements have been yet another DWP shambles.  51,430 people have been referred to the companies running the scheme – G4S in most areas – yet less than half of those have actually started a placement.  In an economy where 4 million people are out of work and want a job the truth is there isn’t even enough workfare to go round, a problem which has dogged unpaid work schemes ever since Tony Blair launched the New Deal in 1998.

The ferocious resistance to workfare is another reason why the DWP is struggling to find enough work placements.  Even the most enthusiastic supporters of workfare such as the Salvation Army and the YMCA snubbed the placements as ‘too long’ and ‘not beneficial’.  Worryingly however, other DWP documents show that these so-called charities may be wobbling on this position.

In February and March this year (pdf) Esther McVey, the now unemployed former Employment Minister, met the Salvation Army, YMCA and the Sue Ryder Foundation to discuss Community Work Placements.  All three of these charities have told the public they are not involved with the scheme, and Sue Ryder claim to be out of workfare completely.  Which begs the fucking question why the cosy chat with McVey?  What is there to talk about?  What were they offered and did they accept?  Why not ask them @YMCA_England, @Sue_Ryder and @salvationarmyuk

To join the fight against forced unpaid work visit:

Usual apology for lack of posts, emails unanswered, slack moderation etc.  Been one thing after a fucking other this last few months.  Normal service will hopefully be resumed soon.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Oh Ros, You’re An Embarrassment We Can’t Ignore #DontIgnoreIt

WorkieThe last time the DWP used the word workie they were encouraging young people to tweet pictures of themselves whilst they were being exploited on unpaid work experience schemes. It was a predictable disaster that was roundly ignored by the nation’s youth.  Now they have decided that a Workie is actually a giant multi-coloured monster like the one pictured.  Really.

This is Pension Minster Ros Altmann’s big idea to encourage small employers to sign up their staff to Workplace Pensions.  The Workie will debut on prime time televion tonight in a series of ads accompanied by a twitter campaign using the hashtag #DontIgnoreIt.

It is astonishing that the (unelected) Pension’s Minister should attempt to treat the public like small chldren. This is what the government thinks of normal people.  That we are fucking idiots who can be persuaded to do as we’re told by a giant furry kid’s TV character.  At a time of so-called austerity latte slurping wankers at some advertising agency have been paid real money for this embarrassment.  Our money.  £8.5 million pounds of it.  According to a gushing DWP press release Ros Altmann was personally involved in designing the character.  You can tell. It’s shit.

There are lots of things currently taking place that shouldn’t be ignored, besides workplace pensions.  Like Ros Altmann’s idea that we should work until we die.  Or record street homelessness.  Or the growing number of deaths linked to welfare reforms.  This bungled pensions campaign is a good chance to let everybody know just how far the chaos and carnage dealt out by the DWP has gone.  #DontIgnoreIt

Disabled People Against Cuts are also calling on people to tweet using the hashtag #PMQs to highlight the human rights violations of disabled people:

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Never Trust A Landlord. How Housing Associations Are Teaming Up With The Workfare Industry

workfare-gravy-train-largeThe National Housing Federation (NHF), the umbrella body which represents housing associations, are quietly teaming up with the fraud-ridden welfare-to-work sector in a bid to monetize ‘workless’ tenants in social housing.

Tomorrow the NHF will hold a joint event with the notorious Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade organisation established to lie on behalf of the welfare-to-work industry.   The Housing and Employment Forum will allow housing associations to discuss how they can further collaborate with sanction-happy workfare exploiters like G4S, Serco and the shadowy US conglomerate Maximus.  To look at the website of the National Housing Federation however you would never know this event is happening, despite them being the joint organisers and chairs.  They are right to be ashamed of their dirty little workfare secrets.

ERSA themselves are also remaining tight-lipped about the forum which is only open to ERSA members and details of which – such as where it is – are not available.  Claimants and housing association tenants themselves are obviously not welcome.

Several housing associations already hold Work Programme sub-contracts, although many pulled out when they realised that they weren’t making enough money out of the mandatory scheme.  In a renewed effort to get their snouts in the welfare-to-work trough they are now not just sucking up to ERSA but also lobbying the DWP directly to get their hands on some of the workfare cash.  Over 40 housing associations are now members of the Give Us A Chance (GUAC) consortium which was formed in 2011 to try and hoodwink the government into giving them some juicy welfare-to-work contracts.  The Give Us Some Money consortium would be a more accurate name.

According to their literature, GUAC are being advised by Jonathan Shaw, the former Labour Minister for Disabled People who helped oversee the introduction of the despised Atos fitness for work tests.  Housing Associations who join GUAC are also being offered free automatic membership of ERSA.  They have even released a joint manifesto (pdf) with the workfare industry in which they ominously call for more data sharing powers between social housing providers, Work Programme companies and Jobcentres.  Who better than a landlord to be the ever-watching eyes of the DWP.

Don’t be in any doubt that this is about anything other than fucking money.  It’s not like housing association tenants are crying out for more CV workshops or mandatory work placements.  Billions of pounds is being doled out by the DWP to organisations prepared to bully and harass unemployed people and housing associations have no intention of missing the gravy train.  Don’t expect them to actually build any houses with all this cash though.  Those six figure Chief Executive salaries won’t pay themselves you know.

Above pic from the SchNews archive.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

How The DWP Is Drafting In Doctors To Promote Iain Duncan Smith’s Warped Ideology

fit-note-guidanceAre you working hard enough?  Are you sure?  What if you get sick, or have an accident?  Are you prepared to go to work anyway, even if you don’t think it would be good for your health?  What if your doctor and boss agree you could do something other than your usual job instead of malingering at home?  Like making cups of tea all day, or cleaning the bogs, or any form of work your empoyer can dream up to force you not to take time off.  Because that is now the chilling reality as the DWP attempts to inject Iain Duncan Smith’s warped ideology into the NHS.

Last week the DWP issued patronising new guidance to GPs on when they should issue a Fit Note.  Doctors are warned of the dangers of ‘worklessness’ and told they must consider “the vital role that work can play in your patient’s health”.  According to the department, “the evidence is clear that patients benefit from being in some kind of regular work”.

This is an outright lie.  What the evidence says is that on balance most people might be better off working but the beneficial health effects depend on the nature and quality of that work.  In the report on which the DWP’s claims are based – a paper incidentally commissioned by the DWP themselves – the authors actually warn that “a minority of people may experience contrary health effects from work”. 

This study – called Is Work Good For Your Health and Well Being (pdf) – has formed the basis of government policy ever since the Labour administration launched the despised Work Capability Assessment for out of work sickness benefits in 2008.  It features a reasonably wide-ranging review of the evidence of the health risks and benefits of work and concludes that work, on balance, is better for most people’s health than unemployment but with important caveats.  These findings have been consistently misrepresented by politicians who have used them to claim that any kind of work is good for health, and that this applies to everybody.

The study found that in some cases – possibly 5-10% – unemployment can lead to improved health and well being.  It warns that negative health impacts of unemployment are “at least partly mediated through socioeconomic
status” – meaning it is not work that is good for you, but poverty that is bad for you.   The review points out that whilst the evidence is conflicting, shift work and long hours could have a weak negative impact on health.  It also finds that school leavers who move into ‘unsatisfactory’ employment can experience a
decline in their health and that economically secure people who retire early may experience beneficial effects on their health.   Even if this report is taken at face value – and it comes loaded with assumptions about the social and moral imperatives of work – all it shows is that work can be good for your health – but only if it’s a good quality well paid job.

If you are in low paid or insecure work then what your GP should tell you – based on the existing evidence – is to take a few days off if you aren’t happy or feel unwell.  Perhaps they should warn that you might be one of the 5 or 10% of people who are healthier if they are unemployed, despite the loss of income.  A more recent study carried out in Australia, and quoted on The Conversation, found that people “who moved into poor-quality jobs showed a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remained unemployed.”

What the new guidance to GPs is intended to do is impose workplace dicipline via the healthcare system.  Much like a seven day NHS is a health service for bosses, not patients, and likely to lead to pressure on workers not to book medical appointments in working hours, the Fit Note scheme is designed to bully people into the workplace even if they are sick.  That is why the guidance states that if GPs consider their patient could do any work at all, regardless of their usual job, then they should tick a box suggesting amended duties, or workplace adapatations rather than issue a full Fit Note.  And if doctors are too squeamish to treat patients this way then they are instructed to refer them to Maximus – the shadowy US conglomerate brought in carry out health assessments under the new Fit For Work scheme.

To help doctors decide what is best for their patients, or more correctly their patient’s employers, the new Fit Note guidance features case studies, with recommended courses of action that GPs should take.  They include an example of someone diagnosed with anxiety disorder who says that her work in customer services is giving her panic attacks and that she is too distressed to carry out her duties.  According to the DWP her doctor should first warn her that working is important for her mental health and “remind her that there are still other things that she can do – for example, physical tasks or back-room duties.”  This will help her feel more positive according to the department.  Then she should be referred to Maximus who will develop  a plan with her boss, such as sending her on a course to learn coping techniques, or doing quieter shifts.  And of course bosses, being always right and always reasonable, will not abuse this new power to force sick employees into the workplace.

Yet even the most bullying of bosses are to be accommodated according to the DWP.  Another case study features someone – a woman again – who complains that a poor relationship with her manager is causing her severe stress.  She says the manager has been ‘really horrible’ to her and she feels unable to cope.  Rather than raise any concerns about what seems to indicate workplace bullying however, her doctor is instructed to declare she does not have a health problem and she should speak to her human resources department, or union rep.  She should not be issued with a Fit Note and her GP should explain that they are “acting with her health interests in mind.”  It is better for her health to be bullied and abused in the workplace than be workless, even for a short while, according to the DWP.

The introduction of this guidance makes it clear that the scroungers vs scroungers narrative is now impeding on healthcare even amongst those who are not on benefits.  It is not hyperbole to suggest that the credibility of doctors is now at stake.  For too long the entire healthcare sector has remained silent whilst scientific evidence is distorted to further the ideology of modern capitalism and increase the power of employers over their staff.  Any GP who believes in evidence over rhetoric should tell Iain Duncan Smith to stick these guidelines up his fucking arse.  Anything else is a betrayal of the role of doctors as guardians of our health and well being.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Access To Work Cuts Show The True Nature Of This Pig-Fucking Government

access-to-work-marchCuts to the Access To Work scheme – which pays for adaptations, equipment and support for disabled people in the workplace – shows the true nature of this pig-fucking Government.

Whilst Iain Duncan Smith rants at disabled people to get a job, the changes being made to Access To Work will make this impossible for many.  That won’t stop people’s benefits being slashed however.  Some sick and disabled people are now being plunged into desperate poverty, with no way out.  It is little wonder that benefit claimants and disabled people are now openly calling Iain Duncan Smith a murderer.

A march is taking place in London on Saturday (26th Sept) to protest against the cuts to the Access To Work scheme.  According to the organisers:

“Changes to Access to Work mean that Deaf, Deaf blind and hard of hearing and disabled people are being restricted to unrealistic budgets for support that does not meet their needs. The budgets are insufficient to fund qualified interpreters and personal assistants and prevent personal choice or control, placing jobs at risk.

“The introduction of arbitrary rules has changed the relationship between Access to Work and the individuals it supports. Deaf and disabled people are no longer being acknowledged as the experts in their own access needs and issues and problems they raise are being ignored.

“Please stop the changes to Access to Work support for BSL users and disabled people.”

The march will be gathering at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3JY at 12pm on Saturday 26th September.  Please help spread the word and share the facebook page.

For more info visit:

And don’t forget the Fuck Parade on Saturday night in Shoreditch!

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Unpaid Work Schemes Are De-Skilling A Generation And Perhaps That Is The Intention


A delegate at a recent skills conference promotes the use of unpaid work schemes. h/t @screenedout

Anyone who thinks you need to carry out an unpaid work experience placement  to be qualified to work in Poundland has never shopped in fucking Poundland.  This is not being a job snob as former Employment Minister Chris Grayling claimed when people objected to Tesco using unpaid staff.  It is simply recognising that an employee in a shop adds value to that business from day one – and so they should be paid from day one.

The growth of unpaid work in the UK has been justified with familiar claims that the young are lazy, or need to be taught how to get out of bed in the morning.  There is nothing new about this.  The generation that came of age in the late 80s and early 90s were ‘slackers’ and all the same crap was said about us.  Now some of those slackers are saying the same thing about young people today.

The truth is that the young are working longer for less money than at any point in the last half century.  Many are on shitty Apprenticeships which will be paid just £3.30 an hour even after an increase which takes place next month.  Others are not even being paid at all and are working full time on Work Experience schemes whilst trying to survive on £57.90 a week Jobseeker’s Allowance.  To put this sum in context, as far back as 1989 employer based Youth Training schemes for 16-18 year olds paid a similar amount to this and usually came with a day-release placement at college once a week.  Even this has now disappeared.  Those on the government’s Work Experience scheme receive no formal training at all beyond the odd workshop in how to write a CV.  A recent survey of employers found that even 26% of young people on an Apprenticeship only received less than 3 hours training a week.

This shocking statistic comes from the Employer Perspectives Survey carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).  This large annual survey has regularly been used as evidence that unpaid work experience for the young is essential because this is what employers say they want.  The DWP’s recent disastrous #WECan campaign was launched with a gushing press release quoting from the survey that two thirds of employers say that “work experience is a crucial factor when hiring new employees”.

This was an outright lie.  What the survey actually says is that 23% of employers believe ‘relevant’ work experience is critical when recruiting staff whilst 43% said it was significant.  This is just obvious.  The first thing anyone’s going to ask when offering someone a job is whether they’ve done it before or not.  In some cases, such as being an airline pilot, it will indeed be critical that they have had some experience flying a plane.  Yet the #WeCan campaign claimed that any work experience was important, no matter how irrelevent to the job hopes of the young people concerned.

The DWP are not the only ones who have been less than honest with these survey results.  UKCES themselves have misrepresented the results to promote the value of unaid work – such as in the tweet below which claims that work experience is the most common attribute employers cite as lacking in young recruits.  A look at the accompanying graph shows that employers appeared to think that it is work or life experience that is lacking amongst new young recruits.  A look at the survey from which these figures came shows that what employers were actually asked was whether education leavers had a “lack of working world / life experience or maturity”.  Even then less than half of bosses said this was a problem amongst 16 year olds, whilst only 14% of employers thought that 18 year old college leavers lacked life/work experience or maturity.ukces-tweetWhat this survey suggests is that it is just not true that most employers are obsessed with the idea that the young are too lazy and feckless to work. And this shows in their recruitment practices.  31% of employers said they had recruited an education leaver in the last 2-3 years whilst only 29% had recruited someone over 50.

The current obsession with mass workfare is not just pandering to the needs of employers, it is pandering to the never-ending whining of the worst kind of employers – like the 10% of bosses who brazenly told UKCES that the reason they offered work experience placements was to help with the workload or because it meant they didn’t have to pay people.

Legislation is on the way which will force all young people into an unpaid traineeship, an unpaid community work placement, or if they can find one, a poverty paid Apprenticeship.  These are young people that could be studying at college, or might have gone to university had the government not tripled tuition fees.  They could be fucking about with computer code, or motorbikes, or making things to flog online.  Or making music, art or youtube movies.  From the UK’s once thriving music scene to the once thriving alternative press, young people with time on their hands have achieved incredible things which have brought benefits to the whole of society in time.  And in that process they gained far more work/life experience or maturity then any shitty work placement in a supermarket could offer them.

Unpaid work experience schemes are de-skilling the young, the opposite of their claimed intention.  But perhaps this is really why they exist.  With the number of middle class jobs expected to shrink due to automation then there will no longer be space for social mobility.  The architects of workfare schemes are simply ensuring that in future the good jobs go to their kids and the working class youth are put back in their place.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Male Applicants Only! The Government’s Job Seeking Website Is Still Breaking The Law

UJ-male-onlyOver a dozen job vacancies on the government’s job seeking website are advertising for male only teachers in Saudi Arabia in breach of UK recruitment laws.

The teaching vacancies, which ask for “MALE Applicants only”, appear on the DWP’s Universal Jobmatch website, the scandal hit online recruitment service run by Monster Jobs which unemployed people are bullied into using by Jobcentres.

In an embarassment for the government these vacancies have come to light on the same day that the DWP published a Privacy Impact Assessment for the website outlining how potential employers using the site are vetted.

Previously any dodgy bastard could post a job advertisement to Universal Jobmatch with barely any checks on whether they were a genuine employer.  This led to a predictable series of spoof vacancies along with many outright scams.  In order to prevent this the DWP have said that staff now check the first advert placed for each new employer.  Yet as these vacancies show, that hasn’t worked.

The problem is that most of the job adverts are automatically generated from other recruitment sites, meaning there is little real checking of whether the positions are genuine or legal.  These ‘male only’ teaching jobs have been harvested from but originally came from the employment agency Alderwood Recruitment. currently have over 40,000 other vacancies posted on Universal Jobmatch.

Alderwood Recruitment boast that they also specialise in hiring staff for the fraud-ridden welfare-to-work sector.  Says it all.

If you are required to sign up to Universal Jobmatch you still do not have to tick the box giving the DWP access to your account and can untick the box giving them permission to send you emails.  You should only be forced to use the website in Jobcentres.  To save time when using the site you can  download Universal Automation.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid