DWP: “Workfare does not exist”
As part of an article I am writing for a disability magazine, I contacted the DWP press office to get their take on the various work programmes which are floating about.
I didn’t want to present an article that could be accused of ‘reporter bias’, so speaking to them to directly was important. (Although I realise that by writing this blog will inevitably lead me to be accused of such).
When I rang, the press officer – let’s call her Helen – was very helpful. I almost didn’t want her to be. She sent me some general information about the different back-to-work schemes the DWP are operating (via various companies) and said she’d be happy to respond to my questions via email.
Maybe she wasn’t expecting my questions to be so probing, but the reply I received was verging on the defensive.
Here it is reproduced in full. I thought it important to publish the DWP’s stance in black and white. Note she insists that the mandatory work placements are not unlimited and are strictly community-based….
FROM: “Helen” DWP Press Office
TO: Annie Makoff
Date: 9 August 2012
Workfare does not exist. There is a scheme called Mandatory Work Activity which people can be asked to undertake at the discretion of their Jobcentre Personal Adviser. Only people on JSA would be asked to undertake this scheme and it is certainly not for everyone.
If someone has been found fit for work they can sign on for JSA, some do not, and would be subject to a job seeking agreement. They will work with a personal adviser to set out their job goals and how they can work towards employment.
I think you maybe slightly misunderstand the scheme, a press release we put out recently that may explain more http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2012/jun-2012/dwp061-12.shtml
These schemes are not slave labour, that is simply wrong and this week there was a judicial review judgment stating just that. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2012/aug-2012/dwp089-12.shtml
With mandatory work, they are community based placements and it is in the guidance that they must not be paid places.
With work experience the short timescale of having someone in your organisation for a few weeks means they will not be up to speed enough to take the place of a paid employee.
In my reply, I asked “Helen” to clarify a few points:
- Chris Grayling himself said a few months ago that disabled people would be subjected to “unlimited” mandatory work placements, yet she seems to be saying it will be for a short time only
- She mentions “community-based” placements but there have already been several examples of people being placed with corporates as part of the unpaid work schemes.
In “Helen’s” reply, she failed to respond to my questions and declined to comment on the Guardian article I had sent her.
What concerns me is the contradictory statements which the DWP and government ministers are sending out. Is the “Mandatory Work Activity” unlimited or not? DWP claim it isn’t, but the documents seen by the Guardian suggest otherwise.