In a somewhat sick twist of irony that seems typical of this government after the ATOS paralympics sponsorsip, Ian Duncan-Smith’s workfare schemes are to be extended to disabled people who have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group (wrag) by ATOS, where they are expected to be able to find some kind of work and already have some conditionality attached to their benefits. Those with the most serious disabilities who are next expected to look for work are placed in the Support Group.
These placements – unlike workfare for unemployed people – will not have a time limit, and in theory disabled people could be forced to work forever, and if they say no then they’ll lose 70% of their benefits for an unlimited period – leaving someone with just £28/week. There are already stories of disabled people being sent on placements that are unsuitable for their health.
Paddy Murphy from Disabled People Against Cuts said
Disabled people will be forced to work (under threat of sanctions) for free for the very charities and public bodies who claim to represent them and their interests. meanwhile, nothing is being done to address the barriers to employment, including accessible transport, inaccessible workplace environments and employers attitudes.
Benefits claimants, including disabled people and young people are being used as free labour to plug the gaps made by cuts to public services and the voluntary sector. at the same time, countless multinational companies aviod paying their fair share of taxes, which if collected as they should be, would fund these services fully.
With so many challenges to the decisions to place people in the WRAG being overturned, disabled people with be forced into work when clearly they shouldnt be there. this is potentially harmful, and without justification.
ATOS’ shocking record on getting their assessments right – nearly half of their decisions are appealed with 40% of appeals being successful, a number that rises when advocates or solicitors get involved to at least 70% – many people who are placed in the wrag should be in the support group (where there is no conditionality to look for work), but they could find themselves forced to undertake a job that will cause their condition to worsen. The British Medical Association has called for the test to be scrapped.
The news that workfare is to be extended has seen Cancer Research UK withdraw from the schemes, the prospect of cancer patients being sent to work in their stores was perhaps too much for them to stomach. British Heart Foundation have already taken steps away from workfare, and this may see them withdraw entirely. Scope have said they are urgently reviewing their involvement with the schemes. It is highly likely that more charities will withdraw as the schemes they take part in start to affect the people they are supposed to help. The Boycott Workfare week of action that starts on 8th December is focused on charities involvement in these schemes.
The schemes that disabled people will be forced onto are the Work Programme and Mandatory Work Activity. Results from the work programme’s first 14 months are shocking. Participation in the scheme actually reduces your chance of finding work. Without any action, it was expected that around 5% of people would find work for 6 months or more. With the “help” of the work programme, just 2.5% managed to. 24% of people found some work, but without any “help” this would have been 28%.
For disabled people the results from the Work Programme have been even worse, with only 1,000 people finding work for more than 3 months, just 1% of referrals to the scheme. Yet despite this, it is the work programme most ESA claimants will find themselves forced to participate in.
Steve Harry, an employment adviser and a board member of Disability Cornwall, who has 15 years’ experience of helping disabled people into work, said he was not surprised by the poor results. He said he believed the Work Programme was doomed to fail disabled people and other job-seekers.
Harry said the payment-by-results model meant providers focused on how cheaply they could deliver support and “getting results and getting job outcomes as quickly as possible”.
The Work Programme does an awful lot if what you need is a CV and how to apply for jobs. If you need more than that it doesn’t really meet your needs.
It is not really a serious attempt to help people with significant disabilities back into work.
Mandatory Work Activity has had similarly poor results, showing no effect on employment levels but worryingly increasing the level of disability benefit claims, suggesting that some people with an illness or disability who ATOS deemed fit for work had their conditions worsened by the forced participation in the scheme.
With just 35 out of 1,000 sacked remploy workers back in a job, it is clear that disabled people will have a particularly hard time finding a job at the moment. To force people to work unpaid is shocking anyway, to do so with the pretense that this will help them to find work is just cruel.
Join us on Saturday 8th December to demonstrate against workfare and the failing work programme. Meet at 2pm outside the new Poundland on Corporation Street. If we decide to visit other shops participating in workfare, we will decide on the day and any route will take into account accessibility needs. Birmingham City Centre is step free and there are a number of workfare profiteers within a few hundred yards of poundland.