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:

  • 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.




Blog, Disability, Disability discrimination, DLA, Politics, Welfare and Benefits

1 Comment

  • Barbara


    Regarding Jobcentre Plus and Work Agency the liaison with:
    Health problem with leg

    Told I still need to do these things as it would be seen as not wanting or looking for work and benefits would be stopped
    Sent me to Gingerbread ( Marks & Starts) placement I gave them Disclosure they Informed M&S

    I damaged both wrist and they still are telling me If I don’t look work they will stop my benefits I had ask Ginger bread for M&S details as I had to pursue compensation they have chosen not to communicate back with me and the DWP solicitor is behaving as he can not get the Details he requires regarding placement but they are prepared to look for reason against me what they don’t understand is the damage was done and they need to take responsibility. I was actually offered the job they led me on for 6wks but I found out that the new government system was coming in and they needed not to hire me for pay as they could have us for free or take on the Princes Trust volunteers and I would of loved to be able to do it but the pain just got worse until the Dr’s said I pulled both ligaments but they still expect me to do what they want me to do not caring that they are surly liable