The End of Decency: Tories to Make Disabled People Work Unpaid for Their Benefits

What is wrong with the people of Britain? For two and a half years now, the Tory-led coalition government has been waging war on the most vulnerable members of society — the disabled — and hardly anyone seems to care. In order to cut the welfare bill, the government is paying a fortune to Atos Healthcare, a French-based multinational company, to conduct reviews of disabled people in order to find them fit for work, whether they are or not.

This process, which necessitates cruelty and indifference on the part of the assessors, is hugely stressful for the people subjected to the reviews, and has contributed to hundreds of deaths since it was first introduced (also see here and here for links to some harrowing stories).

I have been campaigning against it for the last two years — see, for example, my articles, Today the Tories Took £100 A Week from Some of the UK’s Most Disabled People: How Can This Be Right?, RIP Karen Sherlock, Another Victim of the Tories’ Brutal, Heartless Disability Reforms, Doctors Urge Government to Scrap Callous Disability Tests, Where is the Shame and Anger as the UK Government’s Unbridled Assault on the Disabled Continues? and Call Time on This Wretched Government and Its Assault on the Disabled. Read the rest of this entry »

Slave Labour During the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Congratulations to the Guardian for exposing the workfare scandal that took place during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations — and, specifically, the £12m river pageant that took place on Sunday, when, in torrential rain, a flotilla of boats, including one carrying the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, travelled along the River Thames from Hammersmith to Tower Bridge. For my previous take on workfare, see The Tories’ Vile Workfare Project, and How It Has Now Infiltrated the NHS.

I was alerted to the Guardian‘s article yesterday evening, by a friend on Facebook, and, before I report on it and analyse it, I’m posting below the first three paragraphs of the article, as they perfectly capture the spirit of self-righteous exploitation that typifies the current government, and that stands in such stark contrast to the supposed celebration of the Jubilee, in which — as with the artificial age of austerity implemented by the Tories for ideological reasons, to destroy the state and privatise the whole of the UK — we are all supposed to be in it together:

A group of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed into London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations and told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.

Up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages were taken to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth as part of the government’s Work Programme.

Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits, said they had to camp under London Bridge the night before the pageant. They told the Guardian they had to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tories’ Vile Workfare Project, and How It Has Now Infiltrated the NHS

Forcing people into jobs they don’t want, just to claim their benefit, might be defensible if there was pretty swiftly a real job available to those who were capable and wanted it, but as the Tory-led government has pushed its workfare scheme, the alarming truth is that it has created a forced working underclass of claimants working for their dole — at £1.78 to £2.25 an hour for a 30-hour week, in other words — who have not been gaining essential skills of preparing for a full-time job, but have instead, found themselves being exploited by huge companies happy to take on cheap labour to be dumped at the end of a trial period.

Writing about this in the Guardian last August, John Harris noted that workfare’s origins were in Labour’s “Flexible New Deal,” and that “one of the central ideas of Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme is ‘mandatory work activity‘: up to 30 weekly hours of faux-employment spread over 28 days, during which people have to do work ‘of benefit to the community’ in return for their jobseeker’s allowance of £67.50 a week [and just £53.45 a week for those aged between 18 and 24]. If they decline the offer of “experience” … or fail to make a go of it, their benefit can be stopped — for a minimum of three months, and six months if the transgression is repeated.”

However, although a campaigning website, Boycott Workfare, was established in 2010 to publicise the Workfare scandal, and the story resurfaced in January this year, when an enterprising young woman named Cait Reilly “launched judicial review proceedings in the high court,” as “a challenge to regulations that require up to 50,000 jobseekers to carry out unpaid work at major corporations,” it was not until February this year that the story unexpectedly broke into the mainstream, when a Tesco job advert in East Anglia — for night shift workers to be paid “JSA plus expenses” — was publicised and went viral, that public opinion swung in favour of those being exploited. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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