Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Not In My Name.

Yesterday I wrote about why Workfare is exploitative and unfair, especially for disabled people. Today I want to talk about something insidious and disturbing within the plans for rolling this system out, and this is the details of who stands to benefit.

Firstly, there are big companies who have signed up, unsurprisingly, to get people to work for them without a need to pay them, such as Poundland, Matalan, Tesco and Primark.

Secondly, there are public sector organisations who want to benefit from unpaid labour, such as the local councils of Barnsley, Blackpool, Bromley, Chester, Dudley, East Riding, Gateshead, Greenwich, Hartlepool, Islington, Kensington, Medway, Neath Port Talbot, Newham, North Lanarkshire, Northumberland, Portsmouth, Renfrewshire, Stoke-on-Trent; numerous further education colleges; and several NHS trusts.

And thirdly, and perhaps most disappointingly, is the depressingly large number of charities and third sector organisations who are seeking to benefit from people being forced to work without pay, at threat of loss of their benefits.

Just some of the organisations who the DWP state will be involved in delivering the Work Programme, are:

Action for Blind People
Autism West Midlands
Disability Information Bureau
Disability Works*
Hammersmith and Fulham MIND
Leonard Cheshire Disability
Papworth Trust
Rochdale and District MIND
Royal Mencap Society
Royal National College for the Blind
Scottish Association for Mental Health
Shaw Trust
The Mind Consortium (Hull and East Yorkshire MIND)
Warrington Disability Partnership

These are the organisations from the list that stood out to me as disability organisations. Organisations ostensibly to represent and fight for the rights of disabled people.

Last year I wrote about Disability Works, a "collaboration of national third sector disability organisations including Leonard Cheshire, Mencap, Scope, Mind, Action for Blind People, United Response, Pure Innovations, Advance UK and Pluss". I argued in May that the Hardest Hit organisers could not represent me or fight for my rights when they also stood to benefit from the proposed changes in welfare reform.

Now Disability Works are amongst all of the above voluntary sector disability organisations who are seeking to benefit from workfare. Along with all the other charities above, and with all the problems Workfare will cause for disabled and non-disabled people, we simply cannot trust these organisations to have our best interests at heart. They, along with Primark and Tesco, aim to profit from labour which is unpaid, unfair, and is carried out against a threat of a loss of benefits.

These big disability charities do not represent me, they do not have my interests in mind, and they do not speak for me.

Not in my name.


  1. Many many disability charities already have disabled people working for them both paid and unpaid.
    Perhaps that fact puts them in an even better position to both support and represent the needs of the disabled person and their carer.
    As soon as my health improves I intend a return to voluntary work supporting disabled people and I'm in the ESA support group!

  2. couldnt agree more!

  3. @Anonymous number 1:

    I volunteer for a charity. I know incurable hippie does too.

    The key word in that sentence is volunteer: To do something of your own free will.

    This programme is not about unpaid voluntary work; it's about unpaid forced work. Big difference.

  4. Like community service, Lisa?

  5. Who is there to represent up in the political arena? Nobody at all is the answer to that one. Disabled people represent 20% of the population in the UK and how many disabled MPs are there. Politics is something that is done to us and we are being politically disenfranchised. Decisions are being made by people with millions on pounds in the bank. Our politicians, decision makers will never have to wait for treatment on the NHS because they all go private. They will never have to make a choice between heating or eating. They will never have to claim benefits. They will never have to face the results of their decisions to cut benefits, close support units and cuts to NHS budgets. Unless we start becoming politically savy the dights of disabled people will be thrown back to the survival of the fittest , now richest, stone age. We need our own political party fighting for our right to live with dignity in a fair society.

  6. I think there are some good ideas in this plan IF they made it not compulsory. Also, having people work for for-profit companies seems like a really horrible idea that will end up costing the government more money. But more opportunities for unemployed people to gain skills could be great.

  7. One of the _Tory_ think tanks recently suggested the Work Programme may get fewer people back into work than no programme whatsoever....

    Charities report they are being approached by Work Programme providers who want them to help clients with specialist needs, but aren't willing to pay them for the service, while other charities that have sub-contracted to provide these services (at the cost of their independence) aren't being passed the clients they should be working with/being paid for.

    The concept is morally reprehensible, but it seems the providers have found a way to make it worse still.

  8. I think you may be interested in this press release from UNITE on the subject:

    Subject: Press Release - Council With Biggest Job Cuts In London Uses "Workfare" To Pay Workers Nothing

    A survey conducted by the GMB trade union has found that in London there were around 10,000 local government and schools jobs lost from 2010 to 2011. The same survey put Greenwich Council top of the league with a reduction in jobs figure of 2652 between the first quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011.

    The borough that tops the league for job losses wants to take advantage of the governments workfare programme, where the unemployed, including disabled people, will be forced to work without pay or face the threat of losing benefits.

    The Unite trade union has heard reports that the Council has already used the scheme and is demanding that the Council comes clean.

    Greenwich Unite Branch secretary Onay Kasab stated:

    "We now have a Labour Council, implementing cuts at the behest of a ConDem government while also taking advantage of an appalling Government policy whereby the unemployed are to be used as unpaid labour. This is taking place in a borough where the evidence is clear that there are not enough jobs, so lets not have any nonsense about it being good for the unemployed - this is exploitation, pure and simple"

    "The figure for the loss of jobs is an inditement. You can talk about the Olympics and Royal Borough status all you like. But this can not hide the fact that as a net figure, there are 2652 fewer jobs on the Council. This comes at the same time as the Council is preparing to get rid of services such as Libraries, Youth Services, Adventure and Play Services and the Welfare Rights Service. Once these services are transferred out they will be even more vulnerable. Just look at what has happened at GSPlus, where we are looking at compulsory redundancies for Christmas. Yet this company was set up by the Council with the promise of protecting jobs, pay and services. Now having transferred out dinner ladies and cleaners to a company about to make cuts, the Council has publicly stated it is not responsible when questioneed about the cuts - conveniently forgetting it owns the company"

    "We issue a challenge to the Council. First of all, are they using unpaid labour from the work programme? We have had reports that they are - if this is the case and it is an area that has cut jobs, the Council will have serious questions to answer. Secondly, the Council must halt this disastrous programme of job cuts. The economics is quite simple. Fewer people in work means less money spent which in turn means fewer goods sold. This hits the local economy, hits local business, hits jobs and a vicious cycle develops. Instead, the Council must take the government on. Rather than make cuts it can create jobs by building houses, keeping services in-house and demanding that rather than cut funding to Councils, the government must crackdown on tax havens, tax evasion and tax avoidance. The banks, swimming in profit as they are, must be forced to pay for the economic mess they created, not the people of Greenwich"

    "Greenwich Council has £133 million in reserve it is saving for a rainy day. In case they had not noticed, it is raining cats and dogs. Use the reserves now, save jobs and services and join with other Councils to take on this government of the rich"

  9. Very good post, and press release from Unite is useful. Bromley Council are apparently using unpaid labour I have contacted Labour councillors in the borough to investigate, to what extent it is happening, to challenge and condemn the practice. I think it is important, especially with councils, to for anti-cuts orgs, Labour Party constituencies and trade unions to lobby councillors as this is a wholesale attack on claimants and workers as Workfare drives down pay and conditions.

  10. I applaud efforts to mitigate the damage that being unable to get a job causes. So if there are no paying jobs available for them I am all for encouraging people to find voluntary work.

    I would consider it untypically competent if the government were to organise volunteers to do the administrative work required.

    But the current policy of making our public debt worse by funding a commercial organisation to put volunteers into what would otherwise be paid jobs is counterproductive at every single stage. It adds to each and every problem it purports to address, and sadly reflects the typical incompetence of those who are hoping to mend a broken Britain.