Category Archives: JSA/Workfare/Work Programme

Don’t Let The Garden Bridge Turn Into The Workfare Bridge, Tell @TheGardenBridge To Pay A Living Wage

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All those struggling with ever more vicious cuts to social security will be delighted to learn that millions of pounds of public money is soon to spent building a new bridge in Central London with a garden on it.  And if that isn’t enough of an insult at a time of soaring hunger and homelessness then – if Lanbeth Council get their way – some of those building this bridge won’t even get paid.

Over £60 million has been pledged already by the publicly owned Transport for London to build a Garden Bridge across the River Thames just yards away from two other bridges.  This vital project, which developers say has the support of business leaders and a famous architect, is the latest attempt to turn the capital into an elaborate Disneyland and playground for the global super rich.  With gentrification fast turning London into cultural desert then ever more gimmicks like this will be necessary to ensure middle class dickheads from across the globe keep flocking to city in the hope of bumping into Harry fucking Potter.

With planning permission granted it looks likely the bridge will now be built, although Westminster and Lambeth Council are still squabbling over the details.  As part of the negotiations, late last year Lambeth Council drew up proposals calling for the construction of the bridge to include ‘training and job opportunities’ for those that face significant barriers to work and ‘need support to get their foot in the door’.

Elsewhere in the document Lambeth say the developers should deliver Traineeships and Apprenticeships to local unemployed people.  Traineeships are a workfare scheme which include up to two months unpaid ‘work experience’ and are used to prepare young people for becoming an Apprentice where they will be paid just £2.73 an hour for the first year.  Let the good times roll.

Lambeth Council have also called for paid work experience placements in horticulture once the bridge is open, although they acknowledge that this would require some funding.  With the Tories promising permanent workfare for those under 21, then it is likely their flagship Westminster Council, who also get a say, will have their own plans to push young people into unpaid or poverty paid work on the bridge.

Nowhere in the document do Lambeth call for those working on the bridge to receive the London Living Wage, so we should, especially at the moment when the developers are pretending to be everybody’s friends.  You can contact them on twitter @TheGardenBridge and via their facebook page to demand that everyone who works on this bridge, whether they are training or not, gets a proper fucking wage.

UPDATE 29/6/15:  The Garden Bridge have said on twitter that they are “in early stages of developing educational & volunteering plans.”  So far they have not ruled out using workfare or committed to pay the London Living Wage.

Join the fightback against rampant gentrification in the capital at Camden’s first ever Fuck Parade on Saturday July 11th.

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Streatham Jobcentre Besieged By Protesters Demanding No Forced Treatment

no-forced-treatmentAround 100 people marched on Streatham Jobcentre today in a fantastic start to the fight against forced psychological treatments for unemployed, sick and disabled claimants.

Protesters gathered in Streatham Memorial Gardens with many carrying banners showing the growing anger at the collaboration of mental health workers and charities with the DWP’s workfare and benefit sanctions regime.  At just after 2pm the protest took to the streets, taking over the busy road before fnally arriving outside the Jobcentre which now also contains much of Lambeth’s mental health services.

The ever present G4S security guards blocked campaigners from entering the Jobcentre, with one member of staff informing the amused crowd that there were no jobs available today.  What bungling Jobcentre workers didn’t realise is that several people were already inside the building where they proceeded to disrupt the opening party of the so-called Living Well Network Hub and hung a banner out of the window to large cheers from the crowd.

The message from those present was clear.  The threatened forced psychological treatments pledged in the Tory Manifesto will be fought every step of the way – and any charities or healthcare professionals who collaborate with this unethical practice will also be held to account.  The re-locating of vast swathes of local mental health services in the Jobcentre building was also the target of anger – a move carried out without any public consultation and which suggests a chilling future for mental health service delivery in Lambeth.

According to The Guardian, the DWP are now denying that Streatham will be one of the pilot areas for the upcoming scheme which will eventually see therapists stationed in 350 Jobcentres.  Apparently the department made a mistake when they said this would be the case.  South London and Maudsley NHS Trust are also spinning fast, claiming there are no plans for ‘formal’ links between the new Living Well Network Hub and the Jobcentre.

A press release by homelessness charity Thamesreach, who are part of the network of agencies running the project, reveals a very different story however.  According to them the Hub brings together voluntary sector providers, GPs, psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers with Streatham Jobcentre Plus staff.  The intention, according to the charity, is “specialist mental health services operating alongside Jobcentre Plus Staff” with the  “common goal of improving health and well-being and helping people to get back to, or stay in, work.”  And that is why the project was recently visited by not just Iain Duncan Smith, but the former DWP Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper.  They must think we are fucking idiots if they expect us to believe this is all just some big coincidence.

The protest was called by the Mental Health Resistance Network, whilst campaigners were also present from Kilburn Unemployed Workers, Boycott Workfare and Disabled People Against Cuts.  Those speaking at the protest warned this was just the beginning.  Forced treatment, of any kind, for anybody, will be ferociously resisted.  And therapists, charities and mental health workers should get the fuck out of Jobcentres and refuse to participate in DWP attempts to rebrand unemployment as a psychological defect.

Boycott Workfare will be back on the streets tomorrow for the day of action against workfare exploiters B&M Stores, check their website for details.

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Unemployment Is Not Caused By Unemployed People: Keep The Psychocrats Out Of Jobcentres

When I click my fingers you will wake up, and all your benefits will have been stopped.

When I click my fingers you will wake up, and all your benefits will have been stopped.

There are some things which need nipping in the bud.  Forced psychological treatment for unemployed people is one of them.  As is the attempt by the DWP to reframe unemployment as a psychological defect or the result of a ‘negative’ attitude.

Unemployment is caused by a lack of jobs.  According to the Office for National Statistics, there are currently 1.81 million unemployed people of working age.  In addition to this there are 2.34 million people who are economically inactive and want a job, but do not meet the strict definition of unemployed.  This just means they either haven’t actively looked for a job in the last four weeks or would be unable to start a job within two weeks.  There are also 1.44 million people who are working part time because they could not find a full time job.  That’s over five and a half million people who are under-employed or out of work completely.

Even this doesn’t tell the full story.  There is a growing number of people on sickness or disability benefits, as well as lone parents with children under 5, who are expected to prepare and look for work.  There are people over pensionable age who are looking for jobs, as well as college and even school students.  There are those who’ve dropped through the gaps altogether and neither feature in the counts of people claiming benefits or are likely to fill in the Labour Force Survey from which the unemployment figures are drawn.  There are 86,000 prisoners,  waiting to join the dole queue on their release.

Equally importantly there is now a European wide labour market.  This does not necessarily decrease the overall supply of jobs – immigration also creates jobs, you only need to step into a Polish supermarket to see that.  But it does mean that the millions of people in the UK looking for jobs are joined by many more from overseas.  There is ample evidence of greedy employers only advertising jobs in Eastern Europe as they know they can get away with offering lower wages.  Despite triumphant Tory claims that there are more people in work than ever before, the number of people born in the UK with jobs actually fell slightly in the latest quarter.

All of these people, millions in the UK alone, are chasing just 734,000 vacancies – and the number of  jobs available also fell during the last period.  Of course people in work, who are looking to change jobs, are also chasing those vacancies.  To suggest, when work is so scarce, that unemployment is caused by unemployed people, is offensive and absurd.  The truth is that the tiny minority who don’t want a job, who may be carers, volunteers, artists or just too ill to work, are doing everyone else a favour.  If you don’t agree then why not give up your own job so someone unemployed can take it.

On Friday a demonstration is due to be held in Streatham where mental health workers are to be brought into the Jobcentre.  The Government aplans to introduce Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) therapists into 350 Jobcentres as well providing online Cognitive Behavior Therapy to unemployed, sick and disabled people.  They announced before the election that they soon intend to force some claimants to undergo psychological treatment or their benefits will be stopped.  This will require significant changes in the law and a Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech.  This is not a done deal, there is still time to fight it, and that fight begins on Friday.

Please help spread the word about this protest and come if you can.  Already happy-clappy DWP managers are turning Jobcentres into cults, wittering on endlessly about being positive whilst actually making everyone feel like shit.  Behind the scenes shadowy ‘behavioral insight’ teams are dreaming up yet more harassment of unemployed people based on the flimsiest of evidence.  The rise of the Psychocrat, using psychological therapies to control, not cure, must be halted.  A defiant and well attended demonstration this Friday is vital, to show the DWP that this is a line we will not let them cross.

The facebook page for Fridays protest is at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1632671646970164/  Please share, tweet, blog and make sures everyone knows this is taking place and why.

An important paper by Dr Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn has also recently been published which explores the role of coercion and psychology in welfare-to-work and workfare schemes, you can read it at: http://mh.bmj.com/content/41/1/40.full

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Priti Patel Hands Award To Poverty Pay Employer That Pays Just £2.68 An Hour

priti-deathThe DWP’s new Minister of Death Priti Patel last night handed out an award to a company who pays just 11 pence an hour more than the minium wage to staff in a supervisory role whilst retail staff on Apprenticeships earn just £2.68 per hour.

Patel was the main speaker at the annual awards ceremony held by the Employment Related Service Association (ERSA), the trade body established to lie of behalf of the welfare to work sector.  Every year the likes of G4S and A4e gather for a slap up meal at a luxury London venue to celebrate another year of fleecing the tax payer and dole out awards to employers who have helped them gain ‘job outcome’ payments.

This year’s Large Employer of the Year award went to Poundbakery, a not very large employer who run a chain of bakery shops.  Accrding to ERSA, this was for demonstrating “exceptional commitment in creating opportunities for disadvantaged and long term unemployed jobseekers.”

Some of those ‘”fantastic and rare” opportunities involved working in one of their shops on the Apprenticeship scheme for as little as £2.68 p/hr for 24 hours a week.  These apprenticeships could last for up to two years, reflecting the length of time it takes to train people to sell loaves of bread rather than just being an excuse for the company to dodge minimum wage laws.  Or at least that’s what grasping employers claim to ensure this grotesque exploitation remains legal.

Other vacancies for the company ask for people with “ideally some retail management experience” to work as supervisors for the princely sum of £6.61 an hour, just 11 pence more than the minimum wage.

You might have thought that the welfare-to-work industry would want to give awards to ethical employers, who pay at least the Living Wage, but sadly this is far from the case. Previously the Large Employer award has gone to companies involved in unpaid schemes such Greggs and B&M Stores who will be the target of workfare protests later this month.  It is unclear whether Poundbakery also making use of Jobcentre programmes providing free labour, but with their retail assistants working for the pittance of £64 a week, they hardly fucking have to.

Poundbakery are on twitter (and facebook) if you want to ask them to pay their workers properly: @poundbakery

Bakers everywhere can fight for better wages by contacting the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union

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The Biggest Attack On Wages Yet, Sectors With High Vacancies To Get Thousands Of Workfare Workers

Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th.

Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th.

The Government is claiming that up to 100,000 unpaid jobs are set to be created over the next year in a hand out to the corporate sector worth up to a billion pounds.  Astonishing some of these work experience positions will be targeted in areas which already have high numbers job vacancies making a mockery of the claim that these schemes are intended to reduce unemployment.

According to a recently updated document, produced to explain the various workfare schemes to the first victims of Universal Credit, the DWP are claiming that “An extra 100,000 work experience and sector-based work academy places have been made available between April 2015 and March 2016 for 18 to 24 year old jobseekers.” 

These are the corporate workfare schemes which have already seen almost half a million young people bullied into working for the pittance of benefits often for large national employers. This huge extension of the two schemes is being carried out at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling and this shows the real motivation for the extension of unpaid work.

In 2011 lying bastard Chris Grayling, then the Minister for Employment, launched Sector Based Work Academies, saying that they would be targeted at “sectors with high volumes of current local vacancies”.  You read that right.  Not areas of high unemployment, but the opposite, places where there are already lots of jobs.  Sector Based Work Academies can involve up to six weeks full time unpaid work and do not come with a guarantee of a job on completion.  So in sectors that are doing well, and that can afford to employ staff, the Government is encouraging employers to take on workers for free instead.  Workers that are funded by the tax payer and expected to survive on the pittance of benefits, just £57.90 a week for under 25s.

There has rarely been a more transparent measure to force down wages.  If greedy employers were expected to live by the same free-market principles inflicted on everyone else, then when demand for workers went up, they would have to provide better training and higher wages.  But the government are saying save your money, have a load of tax-payer funded free workers instead.  Britain’s biggest benefit scroungers are not the poor, but high street names like ASDA and Poundland.

Unpaid work for private companies is officially voluntary, and even illegal under minimum wage laws unless organised by the DWP.  But those who refuse corporate workfare face being sent on other mandatory forced work schemes for so-called community organisations.

It is unclear where these 100,000 new placements will come from, particularly as plans are being drawn up to force everyone under 21 into permanent workfare if they have been unemployed for over six months.  Many of the UK’s largest companies have withdrawn from unpaid work schemes completely after their carefully crafted corporate reputations disintegrated following protests from Boycott Workfare and others appalled at this grotesque exploitation of young workers.

Those protests are set to continue, with a day of action called against B&M Stores who in 2013 were even named workfare exploiter of the year by the vile welfare-to-work industry.  For more details visit (and share) Boycott Workfare’s website.

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How The Benefit Lies Begin. Ludicrous Claims By Job’s Website Reported As Facts In Tory Press

malcolm-xIt is astonishing how quickly an outright lie told as part of a shoddy marketing campaign can turn into real proper news when it suits the political objectives of the Tory press.

Both the Daily Mail and The Express have run the same triumphant story today claiming that the number of job vacancies has now outstripped the number of unemployed people.  According to the Daily Mail there are now over one million job vacancies and just under 800,000 jobseekers.  Even for the Mail this is a staggering untruth.

The latest Labour Force Survey, conducted by the Officie for National Statistics (ONS), revealed that there are currently 1.83 million officially unemployed people, over double the amount reported by the Daily Mail.  In addition to this there are over 2 million people who are ‘economically inactive’ and want a job but do not meet the strict definition of unemployment set by the ONS.  The true number of unemployed people in the UK is over 4 million.

The ONS also collect data for the number of job vacancies which is produced from a widespsread survey of employers.  This shows that there are currently 733,000 job vacancies, meaning there are almost six people chasing every job.

The reason the Daily Mail are claming unemployment is so low is that they are only counting current claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance, the main unemployment benefit.  Eligibility conditions for this benefit are now so tough that the number claming only accounts for a fraction of the total number of people who report that they are unemployed. Nobody, including even the DWP pretends anything otherwise.  Well nobody except the right wing press.

The claim that there are a million jobs available figure comes from private company Adzuna and is equally bogus.  Adzuna are the latest online jobs vacancy site that harvests advertised jobs from across the internet and attempts to put them all in one place.  According to the company the number of vacancies on their website has now hit over one million so they have launched a gushing press onslaught claiming that there are now more job available than people out of work..

Yet even the briefest scan of their website shows that when they say job vacancy, what they actually often mean is a couple of hours work at little more than the minimum wage. Many of the vacancies are so-called micro-jobs – one wants someone to write three paragraphs of advertising copy for twenty quid, another is asking for someone to deliver 2000 leaflets.  Many more job advertisements on the site are duplicates and some are even illegally advertising for unpaid internships and work experience positions.  Others are flaky sales companies wanting commission only staff. or franchise opportunities and catalogue distribution jobs which require money to be invested upfront.

This entire story is nothing more than a fucking advert for Adzuna who by pandering to the prejudices of the Daily Mail have managed to leverage some free marketing in the national press.  And of course it suits the party line of the Tory newspapers perfectly, if unemployment is caused by a ‘skills shortage’ then that means unemployed people themselves are to blame for being out of work.  If this so-called skills shortage is affecting the economy, which they pretend it is, then unemployed people are even to blame for slow economic growth.

The sad thing is it will be unemployed, sick and disabled people who pay for this free advertising splurge concocted by Adzuna.  This story has not just featured in the Tory press, but throughout business publications and some local newspapers.  Very soon it will emerge in pubs and workplaces as someone authoritively declares that they heard there are more jobs than there are unemployed people.  There aren’t, it’s not even close.  But it said so in the papers so it must be true.

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Mustn’t Embarrass The Queen: DWP Blank Out Statistics Rather Than Admit To The Failure Of Workfare

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In the Queen’s speech this morning power crazed Elizabeth Windsor announced that her Government – her fucking Government – would introduce a new mass workfare scheme for those under 21.

She also claimed that new measures would lead to full employment, but what she really means is that people will be forced to work for the pittance of benefits.  Who’d have thought it?  The Queen of fucking England demanding her subjects labour full time for barely enough money to even eat.  Nothing changes, unless we make it change.

What she probably doesn’t know, although David Cameron does, is that workfare schemes are on the brink of collapse.  Most decent charities don’t want to be involved with workfare anymore after realising the horrifying impact of benefit sanctions inflicted on those who don’t want to work for free.  According to the latest Labour Market Statistics there were less people on unpaid work schemes in the latest recorded period than there were at the end of Labour’s administration five years ago.  Community Work Placements – which comprise of six months forced work – have now been in place over a year yet the DWP has been too scared to release any statistics at all concerning how many people have actually been on the scheme, and crucially, got a job at the end of it.

Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) – the four week short sharp shock of forced work which people can be sent on from the first day of their claim – has been a dismal failure.  So dismal that the DWP, who were due to release statistics on MWA today, decided to leave the table blank (pdf) in the part of the statistical release which would have told us how many people have started on the scheme in each of the latest six months.

No doubt the DWP will say this was all a terrible mistake, after all they are nothing if not incompetent. But it was a very convenient error, coming on the day the Government announced new workfare measures.  Luckily we can actually work out the total number of people who started on MWA in the six months between August 2014 and February 2015 by looking at the previously release and comparing the total.  It comes to 13,010, or 2,170 people a month, by far the lowest figures over a six month period so far.  And now they claim they are going to find hundreds of thousands of new workfare positions for young people.  They are living in a fucking dream world.  The pressure on workfare exploiters must be kept up.  But the fact they are so desperate to hide the truth about workfare shows that we are winning.

UPDATE (as spotted by @refuted): The DWP have now corrected the statistics and the figures are available.  They confirm the collapse of MWA with just 1,470 starts on the scheme in December 2014, the lowest figure so far and down from over 4000 a month at the start of 2013.

Come to the Welfare Action Gathering this Saturday 30th May hosted by Boycott Workfare.

UK Uncut are also out on the streets this weekend, keep an eye on their website for full details.

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