Sun, 19/05/2013 - 17:42

Workfare: Who's the one being intimidating here?

Some developments over the last few days are worth flagging up for anyone interested in or affected by Workfare - which show pretty comprehensively exactly who's being a bully and who's not.

Freeing the data

Most important is that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has lost its appeal to hide the names of companies and charities which are involved in using unemployed people as a source of free labour.

It had tried to block freedom of information requests after telling all and sundry that campaigners picketing shops and explaining why to their customers amounted to "intimidating" behaviour, meaning commercial companies should be protected from being outed as participants.

In their ruling on May 17th however judges gave a humiliating verdict, telling government lawyers their case was based on very little evidence:

The existence and facts surrounding the case studies described earlier in this section show that no prejudice of any substance has been experienced.

And coming down very much in favour of putting the spotlight on government shenanigans:

The schemes each and all involve a considerable amount of public money... it is of importance for the public to see and examine how the schemes and those who participate in them

So basically, as far as the legal system goes campaigners definitely aren't "targeting charities and subjecting them to intimidation and abuse" as the DWP suggested - no doubt we'll get a fulsome apology from them in the mail soon? And keep an eye out for the data getting released...

Your guide to sanctions

By contrast, bullying behaviour is rife in the DWP's guidelines for sanctioning people who don't co-operate with the Workfare programme. We knew about a lot of this already but the department has only recently released its latest official overview of the regime which has been in place since October, and it makes scary reading.

For the worst offenders (ie. people who actively refuse to back down after being sanctioned for saying they won't work for free) they authorise a three-year sanction on benefits. Effectively this is saying to someone who could have been paying National Insurance their whole adult life "you're not entitled to the safety net you paid for" for long enough that, if they can't find a job, they'll quite literally starve to death. Notably, it doesn't even matter if people then buckle and offer to do what's been demanded of them, the sanction stays in place.

Provider harassment

Finally, a warning from Ipswich Unemployed Action - if you get a job, Workfare companies may well start hounding you and even your family so they can grab thousands of pounds off the taxpayer for finding you a job - even if they had nothing to do with it.

They get to do this because as long as you have been in their system, they can claim you as a "success" if you get work. Which makes a mockery of any future government claims that Workfare is doing a good job.