Tag Archives: charities

£60,000 A Job – The Shocking Cost of the Work Programme For Sickness Benefit Claimants

a4e-poverty-pimpsDespite the alleged ‘payment by results’ model much hyped by Iain Duncan Smith, tax payers could have paid out up to £60,000 for every job gained by sickness or disability claimants on the Work Programme.

Whilst much of the attention this week has been focused on the appalling job entry rates for those on mainstream unemployment benefits, the performance figures for those on sickness or disability benefits has received less scrutiny.

Under the Work Programme, claimants on the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), are now forced to attend job search sessions or face losing benefits.  This group represent those who have been assessed as being able to work at some point in the future and therefore not eligible for full sickness or disability benefits.

In a damning admission the DWP this week showed that just 1000 people in this group had gained work out of a total of 79,000 people referred to the scheme.  Most of these claimants will have be sent to carry out job search with charities who are sub-contracted to deliver the Work Programme.

Charities share lucrative Work Programme pay outs with the prime contractors, the welfare-to-work parasites such as A4e and G4S who run the scheme.  Each referral to the programme for WRAG claimants comes with a £600 ‘attachment fee’ meaning that around £47.4 million pounds has been paid out so far.

On top of this the providers are paid a job entry fee after the participant has been in work for six months.  They are then paid further fees for up to two years as long as the job lasts.  The maximum that can be paid out for someone who stays in work for two years is £13,720 – the minimum for a job that lasts just six months is £1,200.

This means that between somewhere between £48.6 and £60 million pounds has been handed over to charities and their poverty pimp bosses.  With only 1000 people finding work this works out at a cost of a staggering job outcome cost of between £48,000 and £60,000 pounds each.

The total spend on Work Programme for sickness and disability benefits is around the same as the money saved by the Remploy closures.  Since a small amount of WRAG claimants would have been expected to find work without any help from the Work Programme, it seems this money has simply been flushed down the toilet.

Perhaps most galling of all, some of the money spent has been handed to the very same charities who supported the closure of Remploy such as Mencap.

Under ordinary circumstances this amount of money being spent on providing access to work for those who are disabled or unwell might be seen as a positive step.  Yet all of those in the WRAG group have been signed off work by their own GPs.  With long term unemployment soaring, all the Work Programme has represented is a programme of harassment and benefit sanctions for people unable to work due to illness or disability.  Money that could have Saved Remploy, or the Independent Living Fund, has been squandered by charities and private companies  involved in the Work Programme.

Work Programme charity Scope have been quick to condemn the dreadful Work Programme performance figures.  Yet they themselves are one of the largest charities to profit from the scheme.  Scope claim disabled people need more “tailored and targeted support to find a job and the Work Programme just doesn’t offer them this.”

If Scope haven’t been offering this support then it begs the question of what exactly have these tens of millions of pounds been spent on?  The Government has responded by giving charities the powers to force disabled people to attend full time unpaid workfare.  The very strategy which has been so disastrous for non-disabled unemployed people is now to be inflicted upon people who are unable to work due to sickness or disability.

Whilst some charities, including MIND, and Addaction have announced they will not co-operate with workfare for disabled people, the silence from @scope so far has been deafening.

On December 8th a National Week of Action Against Workfare Charities will take place with protests, pickets and actions already expected in Glasgow, Leeds, Birmingham, Brighton, London, Edinburgh and Liverpool.

Service users and supporters are waking up the true motivations of these organisations who have so willingly profited from the most inept and brutal welfare-to-work programme ever devised.  It’s time to hold so called charities to account for their involvement in a scheme that seems to do little more than punish claimants with workfare and benefit sanctions simply for being sick or disabled .

Drug Charity Addaction’s Actions Don’t Match Their Words

Drug and alcohol charities have reacted with fury to Iain Duncan Smith’s latest back of the envelope scheme to bully people dependent on drugs or alcohol off benefits.  IDS plans to use Jobcentre workers to assess (over a computer) whether someone has a drug and alcohol dependency and then send them to a non-existent treatment centre or face having benefits stopped.

Like Universal Credit, another of the Secretary of State’s crazy schemes, this won’t work and will no doubt unravel in it’s implementation – if it is ever actually implemented at all.

Speaking in the Guardian yesterday, Simon Antrobus, the chief executive of Addaction , one of the largest specialist drug and alcohol treatment charities, condemned the plans saying:

“Those that Addaction help on a daily basis will tell you how coming off drugs or alcohol is extremely difficult, and how deciding to access treatment took them a very long time. Remove financial stability during that time, and you can severely damage someone’s chances of beating an addiction and recovering.

“The jobcentre could prove to be an excellent referral to that kind of support, without resorting to measures that could only add to a person’s problems.”

These are fine words and it’s about time that charities tasked with dealing with some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society finally spoke up for their users.  Unfortunately it also reveals Addaction to be breath-taking hypocrites.

Addaction are one of the sub-contractors on the Government’s Work Programme which is currently failing miserably at getting the long term unemployed into work.  Addaction have been brought in to work with those with drug or alcohol dependencies and seem very proud of their involvement.

After a love in at last year’s Tory Party Conference where Addaction hosted a fringe event, the charity said on their website:

“That’s why we need to show primary contractors in the Work Programme that organisations like Addaction are very much part of the solution.”

Drug and alcohol users who are referred to Work Programme face benefit sanctions for non-attendance.  They can be mandated to do almost anything, including attend treatment or counselling for substance misuse.  Both unemployed people and most of those on sickness and disability benefits are subject to this regime.  If the claimant fails to turn up it is Addaction’s contractual duty to raise a ‘compliance doubt’ with the prime contractors who will then process a benefit sanction.  Addaction are as complicit in sanctioning those with drug and alcohol problems as any Jobcentre worker will be should Iain Duncan’s Smith latest plans come to fruition.

Perhaps Addaction only object to benefit sanctions for those with drug and alcohol problems when they aren’t making a buck out of it.

Above cartoon from: http://www.crippencartoons.co.uk/

Vulnerable People Forced To Beg and Steal Due to Work Programme Claims Charity

A major homeless charity has slammed the Government’s flagship Work Programme claiming the brutal sanctions regime pushes “individuals further into poverty with little option other than to beg, steal or work for cash in hand in order to find the means to survive.”

SHP (formerly the The Single Homeless Project) have joined the growing number of charities who have pulled out of the Work Programme, although they are the first to directly condemn the sanctions regime.   Benefit claimants face sanctions if they fail to carry out any ‘mandated activity’.  This can include training courses, job search activity and very often workfare.  Chris Grayling lied to the Work and Pensions Committee in Parliament when he said there was no evidence of Work Programme participants being forced to work for private companies.  In fact  people on Work Programme have been forced to work at firms like Holiday Inn,  Poundstretcher and ASDA for no pay.

SHP were one of the charities brought in by the largely private sector contractors of the Work Programme to provide support for those hardest to place in employment.  A whole host of charities  have allowed themselves to be used in this way including St Mungos, Salvation Army, Addaction and the members of the Disability Works Consortium which includes Mencap, MIND and Scope.

The Disability Works charities have vehemently denied being involved in imposing sanctions.  The statement from SHP shows they are being disingenuous, if not dishonest, when they claim they don’t sanction people, they get the DWP to do it for them.  Every single one of these charities should hang their heads in shame for conspiring with the Government to harm the most vulnerable of their service users in this way.

It is well documented (and somewhat obvious) that people with mental health conditions, serious disabilities or health conditions, drug and alcohol dependencies or those living in chaotic and insecure conditions are far more likely to face benefit sanctions.  These could be for simply missing an appointment or not being able to attend full time workfare.  Charities participating in the Work Programme connive with the DWP to have benefits sanctioned by raising Compliance Doubts should someone fail to complete mandated activity.  This can include Housing Benefits being stopped , which means it has to be re-applied for.  For those in insecure housing or with rent arrears, the delays involved in this could mean homelessness.

Of course the main reason that SHP have pulled out is that they aren’t making enough money.  They complain that the Work Programme does not adequately fund the intensive work needed to support the most vulnerable into the workplace.

A surprising number of street homeless people are on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and therefore likely to be referred to the Work Programme.  With far stricter eligibility for health related benefits now introduced, this group includes long term drinkers, people with heroin or other drug problems and those with mental health conditions.

The first priority for helping someone into work is to get them off the streets.  Even this can prove difficult as hostels are increasingly over crowded, have strict entry criteria or are deemed unsafe by many street homeless people who may have had a bad experience of hostel life in the past.

Even if charities are able to house someone in a hostel, they are far from the most ideal environments in which to look for work.  In some hostels people may be forced to share a room.  There may be strict rules on access to the accommodation, meaning residents are not permitted in the hostel in the day time.    Hostels can be noisy and even dangerous at night.  Residents may be required to attend ‘key working sessions’, counselling, and resettlement meetings in working hours as part of a condition of their stay.  Alcohol is often banned, as are guests and predictably drugs.  Any breach of the rules can result in immediate eviction.  If someone is attempting to kick a long term drink or drugs habit and they relapse they can find themselves back on the street.

On top of this hostels charge eye-watering rents, which are covered by Housing Benefit payments.  This removes any incentive to work, and means that many hostels actively discourage, if not formally but in practice, hostel residents from trying to find a job.

Homeless people can find themselves in hostel accommodation for anything from 12 months to five years before being moved onto more permanent accommodation.  Even then some people may require intensive support after entering independent accommodation such as a Housing Association property.  Many vulnerable people end up back on the streets even with that support.

Should someone have a dependency on booze or drugs the situation is even more complex.  No matter how many outraged Daily Mail headlines the Government incites, no-one is going to give a job to a 24 hour a day drinker, or someone dependent on crack, heroin or both.

For some people just becoming reasonably stable, attending counselling, starting a methadone script, or moderating their drinking may be the best that can be hoped for, even after intensive support.  Many of these people have suffered hugely traumatic abuse in their lives.  A shocking number are ex-armed forces whilst many younger homeless people grew up in the care system or faced physical, sexual or emotional abuse as children.

These are the people who have fallen through the gaps in society.  Despite lurid claims about a life of riley on benefit, no-one would aspire to the lives they lead.  The Work Programme appears to have been introduced with barely a thought given to the most vulnerable.  Employment Minister and compulsive liar Chris Grayling has dismissed any criticism of the Work Programme claiming that charities have “got people for two years, and they should be able to succeed in that time”.

Once again the toff Government are hugely out of touch with the reality of many people’s lives.  Grayling has said that charities are simply incompetent if they can’t make money out of his flawed scheme.  He recently claimed that “I will be very surprised if we do not see a significant number of organisations fall away (as work programme providers) because they are not good enough at what they do.

Charities receive barely any funding for Work Programme participants unless they manage to get them into work.  Few charities have the reserves to fund intensive two year programmes in the hope someone might get a job out of it.  The private companies who run the show are already creaming off the most ‘job ready’ participants to claim fat fees themselves for doing virtually nothing.  There is no real money in the Work Programme for charities.

The likes of St Mungos, Salvation Army and Disability Works have sold out their most vulnerable users for a pittance and yet they still remain on board.  It is truly a pathetic sight.  The Government does little more than insult them if they complain, whilst private sector sharks cream off the money and use charities as a PR front for their shady and often fraudulent operations.  Yet still grasping charity bosses cling onto these contracts, in the hope one day a few pounds may trickle down into their sweaty palms.  They continue to suck up to a Government that clearly holds them in contempt, in the hope of an OBE or lunch with the Queen one day.  They jump through endless moral hoops to justify their activities when actually they are nothing more than cowards, afraid to rock the boat in case the Government is horrid to them.  Their users and their workers alike know this whole set up stinks.  Cossetted charity bosses are far more concerned with their own dirty little ambitions than they are with the people who’s lives are being torn apart by this Government.

None of the private sector companies involved in the Work Programme have any interest in working with homeless people, disabled people or those who are hardest to place into employment.  They know there’s no money to be made there.  The charitable sector is propping up this brutal regime, where benefit sanctions and homelessness are more likely outcomes for participants than ever actually finding work.  Charities could bring the whole scheme crashing down any time they choose.  That they haven’t shows where their true priorities lie.

Tell them what you think: @salvationarmyuk @stmungos @addactionuk @broadwaycharity @scope @mindcharity @mencap_charity @LCDisability @action4blind @plussaddtolife @unitedresponse

The Fake Charities That Are No Better Than A4e and G4S

The Guardian has finally picked up on the charities involved in workfare and benefit sanctions with a piece entitled ‘Why did large charities embrace the government’s work schemes?’.

Buried in the community section of the website, this is probably the best that can be expected from a newspaper that depends on charity recruitment ads to stay in business.  Unlike workfare, at least most of those jobs carry a salary.

Even then it largely let’s the Disability Works members off the hook.  Many big name disability charities, including Mencap, MIND and Scope, have all joined forces to deliver sub-contracts for the Government’s mandatory Work Programme.  Sick and disabled claimants, along with unemployed people can be mandated to work related activity or face benefit sanctions.  As yet claimants on the health related benefit ESA cannot be forced into workfare, however the Government has pledged to change that as soon as possible, with Minister Chris Grayling pushing for charities to be at the heart of the scheme.

Unemployed people can be forced onto up to six months full time workfare, often for private companies including ASDA and Poundstretcher.  Failure to attend leads to loss of benefits.

The Guardian reports that charities claim that they ‘will not play a role in imposing sanctions’.  This appears to be the party line having been spouted by several major charities over the last couple of weeks.

This is an utter distortion of the truth and reveals the contempt charities feel for both users and donors alike.  That they think this let’s them off the hook just shows that they think we are fucking stupid.  Tesco played a far lesser role in imposing benefit sanctions, yet even corporate bastards like them didn’t stoop to this level of misinformation.

The way it works is like this.  Big companies, mostly utter scum like A4e, have the main contracts to deliver Work Programme.  They are ultimately responsible for raising ‘Compliance Doubts’ with the DWP.  A Compliance Doubt means that a claimant has failed to attend or complete mandated activity.  This activity could be a training course,  or interview skills workshop, or it could mean six months workfare.  When the DWP receive a Compliance Doubt they then administer a benefit sanction.

Many charities have sub-contracts to deliver Work Programme, including the members of Disability Works and major anti-poverty charities such as the Salvation Army and St Mungos.  As sub-contractors charities are legally obliged to report any Compliance Doubts to the main contractor who will then pass this information onto the DWP who will arrange the sanction.  This is unlike the role of companies who have workfare placements, who just ring up the charity or organisation who arranged the placement and tell them if someone didn’t turn up.  The DWP recently restated that charity subcontractors on the Work Programme are required to report claimants for sanctions.  Charities are far more involved in the sanctions regime than Tesco and Sainsburys ever were.

Bizarrely the piece in the Guardian then claims that the Hardest Hit campaign represents marginalised groups standing up for themselves as an alternative to the cash and contract obsessed big charities.  The Hardest Hit campaign is actually largely a mouthpiece for many of the charities, including Mencap and Mind, who have been so quick to profit from Work Programme.

When the Hardest Hit campaign began they had to be virtually shamed into even mentioning benefit cuts at all.  The focus initially was on cuts to services, many of which are provided by the charities backing the campaign.  Whilst some of these services are indeed vital, the campaign once again represented charities putting their own needs before those of their service users.  On last year’s Hardest Hit march, disabled people and supporters were patronised and in some cases even pushed around by stewards for not getting back to their charity organised coaches and clearing the streets fast enough.  Several grassroots Disabled People’s Organisations boycotted the event due to the involvement of the big charities.

Boycott Workfare, Disabled People Against Cuts and the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign are some of the marginalised groups which have been standing up for the rights of claimants.  They haven’t received a whisper of support from the big disability and anti-poverty charities, who believe they know better than their users what their needs are.

The truth is that when charities become involved in exploitative and in some cases downright cruel Government schemes aimed at cutting the benefits bill they become anything but charitable.  They are little more than unaccountable private sector parasites, much like A4e and G4s, but without the wit to make a profit.

This shouldn’t bother charity Chief Executives though, many of whom earn more in a fortnight than claimants have to exist on in a year.  Many people have already pledged to no longer donate to these organisations until they completely reject workfare schemes and sanctions altogether.  That none of the big charities seem to care is testament to how they genuinely feel about their supporters.  They probably make more money from Work Programme than they do individual donations these days so who can blame them.  After all, they aren’t charities, at least not in any sense of the word most people understand.

Above cartoon from: http://www.crippencartoons.co.uk/

Contact details, twitter feeds etc for the big disability charities involved in workfare and sanctions can be found at: https://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/disability-works-admit-their-role-in-sanctioning-disabled-peoples-benefits/

Details of homelessness charities involved are at: https://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/the-homeless-charities-involved-in-workfare-and-benefit-sanctions/

Grayling Lines Up Charities to Replace Tesco in Workfare Schemes

It’s not just benefit claimants who’ve spotted that Tesco seem to have a more ethical approach to sanctions than many major charities.  Chris Grayling’s new strategy seems to be aimed at putting charities at the heart of any future forced labour schemes.

The Mandatory Work Activity scheme is set to be vastly expanded whilst the new Compulsory Community Work, which is currently being trialled, will see some unemployed people forced to work for six months with no pay.  These placements could be at private companies, but it is stipulated in the guidelines that any forced labour must be for the benefit of the community (although this could include ‘working toward the profit of the host organisation’).

A now disappeared Freedom of Information request to the DWP revealed that many people on the Mandatory Work scheme had been forced to work in charity shops.

With the private sector running to the hills due to the outburst of protests aimed at workfare, all Grayling has left to save him is the charitable sector.  A piece in the Mail over the weekend describes Chris Grayling as impressively robust.  This means that even the Mail can’t believe the cunt hasn’t been sacked yet.  His career is hanging by a thread and he’s desperate for some charitable assistance himself.

The Mail suggests Grayling has identified the possibility of workfare slaves telling customers they are unpaid labour (or spitting in the food) could have been the ‘Achilles Heel’ which led to so many High Street names pulling out of the Work Experience programme.  He doesn’t appear to care if the same thing happens to charities.

Essentially Grayling seems to be asking charities whose side are you on?  Funnily enough this is the very same question hundreds of people have been also been asking organisations like the Salvation Army, Barnardos and the Disability Works consortium over the last two weeks.

Charities are now falling over themselves to say that benefit sanctions are a bad thing.  This hasn’t led to a single one of them handing back their lucrative contracts for the ‘Work Programme’ scheme which has sanctions at it’s very heart.  Their excuses, that they don’t sanction people the Jobcentre do, or that they have to be involved in this programme to help ‘shape and influence’  it, grow flimsier by the day.

Most front line staff of these organisation despise the sanctions regime as much as the people they work to support.  Many are furious and bewildered at their employer’s continued kowtowing to ever more abusive government schemes targeted at vulnerable people.

The problem comes from those at the very top of the charity sector.  Many charity chief executives run the organisations like personal fiefdoms.  Without even share holders to keep them in line, their personal power can dwarf that of their equivalents in the private sector.  Unions are notoriously weak in the third sector.  Boards of Trustees are stuffed with cronies, toffs and minor celebrities who if they manage to make one meeting a year consider themselves Mother fucking Teresa (who was a vicious old cow, just by the way).  Charity Presidents and Patrons, with little real power are elected for PR purposes only.  Take Stephen Fry’s recent appointment as  President of MIND, a role which allows him to think he’s doing something to help people with mental health conditions, whilst simultaneously doing precisely fuck all.

Charity bosses often don’t do that much either, unless you count attending hugely expensive seminars, eating lunch and making the occasional speech as work. This doesn’t stop them taking huge salaries with the top 100 charity bosses now earning in excess of £166,000 a year.

They justify this by reminding themselves how much more money they’d have if only they weren’t so wonderful and went to work in business instead.   The truth is most of them wouldn’t last five minutes in the private sectors.  The shoddy response to the workfare row has demonstrated that.  Where private companies took swift and decisive action, forcing the Government to negotiate, charities have dithered and attempted to hide their role in the Work Programme and benefit sanctions.

Charity bosses tell themselves they have to take tough decisions, that they have more worthy considerations than their lowly service users or workers.  Usually these tough decisions involve fucking over their users in the name of picking up a fat Government contract.  The continued existence and growth of the organisation (and their salary) is far more important than the aims and activities the charity was established to carry out.  They convince themselves that if it wasn’t their organisation involved in workfare then it would only be someone much more horrible.  Like liberal concentration camp guards, they think that they might somehow modify or influence ever more abusive measures aimed at their service users.  They even manage to convince themselves that attacks on the people they were established to support might actually be a good thing really.  They think they might be displaying ‘tough love’, the same paternal horseshit fake philanthropists have inflicted on the working class since Victorian times.

Ever ready to take their thirty pieces of silver, they comfort themselves with all the good work they will be able to do with the money, like printing leaflets, or having lunch with the Queen.  And should the troublesome users of their services complain they smile patronisingly, safe in the knowledge that sometimes the poor souls just don’t know what’s good for them.  How could they, many of them didn’t even go to university.

And like all self-serving elites they prop each other up at their swanky 500 quid a day conferences.  Ever ready to pat each other on the back, they lament that no-one understands just how difficult life is for charity executives and the terrible weight they carry.  Then they have another vol-au-vent.

Few, if any of these charity bosses have any concept of the poverty their users face on a daily basis.  It is unlikely any of them have any experience of the benefits system.  Almost none of the heads of disability charities are disabled themselves.  Homelessness charity bosses have never experienced homelessness.  That doesn’t stop any of them acting as self-appointed experts on things they can’t understand.  And because they don’t understand they continue to work hand in glove with successive government’s to attack and destroy the lives of vulnerable people.

There are rare exceptions.  Oxfam and Shelter both appear to have made strong statements attacking workfare and are refusing to involve themselves in any DWP schemes which utilise benefit sanctions.  Whilst neither of these organisations are perfect, it shows it can be done.  The sky would not fall if the big charities rejected Grayling’s frantic pleas to rescue workfare.  In fact, for their users at least, the world would be a slightly better place.

So for all those charities involved in Work Programme, Mandatory Work Activity, Community Work, and any schemes involving forced labour and sanctions, the questions remain.  Are you on the side of your service users?  Or are you on the side of Chris Grayling and the Government?

Charities and Workfare: The Sad Truth

Many charities are still some of the biggest exploiters of the government’s workfare scheme despite the public outcry over the last couple of weeks.  Whilst several, most notably Oxfam and Marie Curie, have made clear statements that they will no longer be involved in forced labour of any kind, many more are being typically evasive.  Barnardos (@barnardos),   Cancer Research (@CR_UK) and the British Heart Foundation (@theBHF) have chosen simply to ignore the hundreds of people who have contacted them expressing outrage at their use of forced labour.  Others, such as the Salvation Army and Age UK have wobbled, but are still using workfare.

Far more concerning is the number of charities still happy to profit directly from workfare as contractors of the government’s Work Programme scheme.  According to Chris Grayling the Work Programme is the largest Welfare to Work scheme seen since the 1930s.  Figures just announced show that since June last year 370,000 Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants have been referred onto the Work Programme scheme and around 20,000 claimants on Employment Support Allowance (ESA, the replacement for Incapacity Benefit).

The Work Programme is a mandatory scheme under which unemployed and sick or disabled claimants can be forced to undertake ‘Work Related Activity’ for up to two years.  In the case of JSA claimants this could include a period of six months workfare, often with a private sector employer.  Despite the lies told by ministers Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith, a now apparently censored document reveals that claimants have been forced to work at Pizza Hut, ASDA, Wilkinsons and many other household names from the private sector.

As ever, the ‘Work Programme’ scheme was contracted out largely to the private sector.  40 prime contracts in 18 regions were selected to manage the programme, and despite Cameron’s claims that the voluntary sector would be at the heart of the Work Programme, just one of these contracts was awarded to a charity, the Careers Development Group.  The rest have been awarded to profit making companies such as much maligned fraudsters A4e.  The contracts have been estimated to be worth 3-5 billions pounds.  To place this sum in context, George Osborne’s cuts have wiped £11 billion from welfare benefits, including savage cuts to housing benefit which have already led to many families losing their homes.  Yet he is happy to dish out almost half of that sum to private companies, for a scheme so apparently flawed that they daren’t even tell us if anyone has actually found work due to Work Programme.

Some of that cash is intended to flow down to the 289 sub-contracters who have been brought in to provide ‘specialist support’, often for the most vulnerable claimants.  The vast bulk of these are charities including household names such as MIND, SCOPE and Action for Blind People.  However all is not well on the Work Programme gravy train.  Some charities have pulled out, many are claiming a lack of referrals has made the scheme uneconomic, others are concerned that the payment after results system means they do not have the capital to develop workfare provision.

Shamefully not one charity has pulled out over concerns that some people are being bullied into forced labour in supermarkets under the scheme.  Neither have any raised concerns that many people, including sick and disabled claimants, have had benefits sanctioned  and been condemned to poverty and possible homelessness as a result.  Whilst some charities, including MIND and SCOPE have issued statements that they will no longer use forced labour in their shops, they appear unrepentant about profiting from a scheme that involves forced labour on an industrial scale.

Disability Works is a consortium of disability and mental health charities which was formed to maximise income from the Work Programme.  After facing heavy criticism when the workfare row first blew up, a statement was issued by mental health charity MIND, which attempted to clarify their position:

“Mind is a member of Disability Works UK, a not-for-profit consortium of eight disability charities that have come together to provide tailored support to people who are ready to enter the workplace.

Through Disability Works UK, our local Minds may be involved in offering specialist support to people with mental health problems helping to improve their skills and boost their confidence. 

Well-structured and meaningful volunteering can be an excellent way to prepare people for paid work.

However, we believe that forcing people to volunteer is not the best way forward.

Disability Works UK will not play a role in imposing sanctions and will only seek contracts with providers whose values are compatible with our own.”

This is disingenuous to say the least, in fact it might best be described as a deliberate distortion of the truth.  Benefit sanctions are at the heart of the Work Programme and all of the prime contracters and sub-contracters are aware of this.  Disability Works may not play a role in imposing sanctions, they don’t play a role in paying out benefits either.  Only the DWP can sanction someone’s benefit’s (obviously).  Member’s of Disability Works however are contractually obliged to report any ‘Compliance Doubts’ to the prime contractors who in turn send them onto the DWP, who are the ones who  administer a benefit sanction.  A ‘compliance doubt’ may mean that a claimant has refused to go and work in Poundland for no pay, or has failed to turn up for an Interview Skills workshop, short training course, or other activity.  If Disability Works do not follow this procedure and refuse to report compliance breaches,  then they are in breach of contract with their contractors and ultimately the DWP.

The Work Programme Provider’s Guidance* (PDF) clearly states that:  “Sanctions are a tool to encourage participants to actively engage with support offered. Where a participant has failed to comply with a mandated activity, you are required to follow a process for raising a compliance doubt.

Whilst it is true that providers can appeal that in some circumstances a claimant (on ESA only)  is vulnerable, the end decision will be made by the DWP.  Sick and disabled people are not exempt from benefit sanctions as is clear:  “If one of these participants fails to undertake WRA (Work Related Activity) without good cause, a sanction will apply. The Work Related Activity Component (WRAC) will be reduced whilst the ESA participant is sanctioned.”

All of the charities involved in Work Programme, including Disability Works have signed up to this, and indeed are profiting from it.

The big disability charities are attempting to treat both their users and the general public as fools.  Whilst corporate slime like Tesco and Burger King have at least attempted to be honest about their role in workfare, the big charities are using weasel words to completely misrepresent their involvement in the scheme.  The likelihood is that the members of Disability Works will make far more money out of workfare than Tesco ever did.

The nature of the Work Programme makes it very difficult to know for sure exactly what is going on at grassroots level.  Providers have been given free reign to mandate claimants to all kinds of activities, with many of their programmes kept confidential under the handy smokescreen of commercial confidentitality rules.  Some charities may only be partaking a small role, such as provide housing advice to homeless participants, others may manage the full spectrum of a person’s activity on Work Programme.

Were Disability Works to publish a full outline of their Work Programme provision then this may go some way towards developing some much needed transparency in the scheme.  As it stands the statement from MIND suggests that they may well be involved in mandating people to forced labour.

Under current rules, claimants on ESA cannot be mandated to workfare, although they can be  mandated to up to 15 hours of training a week amongst other activities.  For those claimants on JSA the situation is very different and they could face forced labour for six months.  Thousands of people with disabilities and mental health conditions have been bullied onto Job Seeker’s Allowance by the flawed Work Capability Assessment, many of them will no doubt have been mandated to workfare.

Those on ESA, many of whom have fluctuating conditions, are just if not more vulnerable to benefit sanctions.   Should a mandatory appointment or training scheme with one of the charitable providers happen to fall on a ‘bad day’, and the claimant is unable to attend, they are very likely to face sanctions.  All of the charities have been happy to go along with this as long as it kept lining their pockets.

The members of Disability Works, (who can be found here) should be ashamed for colluding in this attack on the most vulnerable in society.  That they allowed themselves to put aside the needs of their users in favour of juicy government contracts is a disgrace.  That they are still participating, and profiting from the scheme which is bringing misery to thousands, shows they do not deserve the support of those appalled by forced labour.   Until they clearly, and unambiguously reject the Work Programme they should be condemned along with Primark and McDonalds and all other organisations happy to profit from workfare.  Anything other than an absolute condemnation of the Work Programme, workfare and benefit sanctions will be seen as yet another gross betrayal of the very people these charities were established to support.

*Disclaimer: this document may change at any time to cover up for government lies.

A full list of charities and other organisations with Work Programme sub-contracts can be found (for now) at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wp-supply-chains.pdf

Above pic from: http://crippencartoons.wordpress.com/