Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Workfare: Exploitative and cruel, especially for disabled people

Some disabled people are completely fit for work, but cannot find any, so claim Jobseekers' Allowance. This is particularly an issue because disabled people face many barriers to work, including inaccessible workplaces, employer prejudice and employers being ignorant of, or refusing to adhere to the Equalities Act in relation to reasonable accommodations.

Increasingly, however, disabled people who are not fit for work are finding themselves claiming Jobseekers' Allowance, when they are reassessed and fail to meet the limited criteria for ESA. The result of this is that more and more people are signing on, but also unable to work, for health reasons.

The Guardian has published a press release from the DWP, which states,
People who have been unemployed for more than two years and haven't secured sustainable employment could be referred onto compulsory community work placements under plans being considered by the government.

Under the proposals people who have been supported intensively through the Work Programme for two years yet have still not entered sustainable employment, may have to do community work or ultimately they could lose their benefit entitlement.

Ministers believe a minority of jobseekers struggle to engage with the system fully, are unable to hold down a job and therefore require a greater level of support.

The government is to test compulsory community work coupled with more intensive support through Jobcentre Plus in four key areas ahead of rolling out the scheme
nationwide in 2013.

This is fundamentally unfair. We are in a position as a country where unemployment rates are rising, and job opportunities are shrinking. If someone has failed to get a job in 2 years, it is most likely to be due to circumstances outside their control, and to then force them into unpaid labour, against the threat of losing their pittance of an income from JSA, is exploitative.

For disabled people, even moreso. People who are disabled but genuinely fit for work will still require adaptations, accommodations, and accessibility. These people are less likely to have found a job in 2 years because of the reasons I explained above. And will the people who are happy to take unpaid labour also be happy to accommodate people with complex needs and requirements?

And those who have been found fit for work but are, in fact, not at all fit for work, will be in the most trouble. All of the above, on top of not being well enough to do it. Will their regular sickness absences or inability to be reliable cause them to lose their benefit entitlement? I would imagine so, according to what the press release says.

Workfare is exploitative and unfair to everybody who is forced to do it. For disabled people it has added layers of unfairness, which have the potential to leave, yet again, the most vulnerable abandoned without financial support.

Cross-posted at incurable hippie blog. Thanks to @m_s_collins for prompting me to write this.

[The image is a black and white photograph taken at a protest in New Zealand against a Workfare programme. There are numerous people with placards saying, "The rich get rich at the expense of the poor" and "Real jobs not workfare". It was taken by SocialistWorkerNZ and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]


  1. There are real questions about the legality of schemes which are effectively forced labour - for this reason, I am optimistic that it can't happen. And of course, where does this work come from? If there's work that needs doing now and it's not being done, that's bad. But otherwise, you're taking away people's jobs in order to give unemployed people something to do (again, not legal).

    This is all about punishing people for their bad luck and nothing about trying to help people. During an economic phase like this, it is absolutely inevitable that thousands of people will be out of work for two years or more.

  2. oh, ffs. If there's work that needs doing for 30hrs/week for all these unemployed people to do, then employ them, pay them, and let them keep doing it. That gets them into work, off JSA and is better for everyone.

    Oh, except the big companies who're getting slave labour for nothing. And kudos for 'helping' the unemployed.

    The very very small majority who then get fired because they're late, lazy, whatever, fine. They get the usual punishment of not being able to sign back on for however long if you got fired and it was your own fault.

    But to punish the unemployed because you've screwed the economy is unspeakable. There again, I'm hardly surprised now.