Chris Grayling is lying through his teeth again in the Daily Mail today leading to the ludicrous claim that half of unemployed people are secretly working.
This is based on the claim that 46% of people referred onto the Government’s Mandatory Work Activity scheme (MWA) – a system of community service for unemployed people – sign off before starting the scheme or fail to turn up and have benefits sanctioned.
MWA is used should a Jobcentre advisor decide someone isn’t trying hard enough to find work. It consists of 4 weeks unpaid work, similar to a medium level Community Payback sentence. Job Seekers are now being treated in the same way as those who may have committed burglary, Actual Bodily Harm, or sexual offences, the only difference being the unemployed don’t get the benefit of a trial.
Claimants are sent to work for charity shops and ‘community organisations’. Many of these charities are household names, such as the British Heart Foundation (@thebhf), who’s charity shops are fast becoming little more than punishment centres for the unemployed. Other charities have lied through their teeth about their involvement in forced labour. Charity SCOPE (@scope) are adamant that not one of the volunteers in their shops are there under threat of benefit sanctions. Yet in a recent press release on the DWP’s own website, a case study is outlined in which someone was sent on Mandatory Work Activity in a SCOPE charity shop. Failure to attend MWA can lead to benefits being sanctioned for three months.
The brutal testing regime for sickness benefits, carried out by French IT firm Atos, has led to hundreds of thousands of sick or disabled people being forced onto Job Seekers Allowance where they now face workfare. Many of these people have mental health conditions. The Social Service Advisory Committee warned that this group in particular may be vulnerable to sanctions if MWA went ahead.
It is quite possible that many of those who signed off after being sent on MWA, or failed to attend the scheme, represent people who are not well enough to work full time, or were not fully aware of the consequences. These are not people who have been working on the side, but people who have simply been forced out of the benefits system into poverty and quite possibly homelessness.
Grayling himself appears to admit that some of them signed back on when they thought the coast was clear. This is not the behaviour of someone committing fraud. Yet this hasn’t stopped the minister and his friends at the Daily Mail of attempting to smear almost a million unemployed people as criminals.
As ever in amongst Grayling’s slurs and spin he can’t resist an outright lie. Grayling claims in the Mail today that:
“‘I sat through an interview with a young man in a job centre who was working for a few hours a week, below the benefit threshold, at a local nightclub,’
The benefit threshold is £5 a week. Either Grayling doesn’t have a clue about the basics of how the benefit system actually works. Or he is making shit up again to please the braying hounds at the Daily Mail. Compulsive liar Grayling has moved so far from the truth it is impossible to believe anything that he, or the DWP, tell us anymore.
70,000 claimants are now to face MWA under changes announced yesterday. It now seems certain that those who refuse to attend workfare on the Work Programme, or Work Experience schemes, will be sent on MWA instead. When the workfare row blew up earlier in the year Grayling announced that sanctions would no longer be applied to young people who didn’t want to take part in Work Experience and face being sent to sleep under a bridge with no access to food or toilet facilities.
It is now clear that Grayling’s claims were a deliberate attempt to mislead the business community, charities and the public alike. Sanctions have been snuck back into the scheme under another guise as soon as the minister thinks the public have forgotten. If you refuse ‘voluntary’ workfare, then you will be sent on ‘mandatory’ workfare or face sanctions potentially lasting up three years.
The problem is the public haven’t forgotten. A week of action against workfare is planned to begin on Saturday 7th July. In Liverpool Solidarity Federation have been carrying out pickets and communication blockades on a weekly basis aimed at fraudulent bastards A4e and fake ethical company Holland & Barrett who plan to use workfare to recruit up to a quarter of their staff. Solidarity Federation will be continuing to target the company throughout the week of action. A recent national conference aimed at ending workfare has co-ordinated groups around the UK determined to stamp out the exploitative practice of unpaid work. Anger on the internet has swelled again with hundreds of people now threatening boycotts of workfare exploiters Argos and the British Heart Foundation.
The pressure needs to be maintained. There is little point directing protests at the DWP or Chris Grayling who can’t even be trusted to tell us the truth about what is going on in the benefits system. Workfare exploiters should be confronted directly. It matters little what crazy schemes Grayling comes up with next if companies and charities realise involvement in forced labour is far from profitable. If they exploit us, we will shut them down.