THE NEW WORKER

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 27th October 2017


DWP forced to name workfare bosses

THE DEPARTMENT for Work and Pensions (DWP) last week lost a four-year legal battle to keep the names of employers using unpaid benefit claimants secret under the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme, otherwise known as workfare.

The employers concerned include many well-known high street retail chains and charities. Claimants are threatened with losing their benefits of they refuse these unpaid work placements that are supposed to give them work experience making it more likely for them to find a proper job.

But the reality is that the employers benefit from the free labour that the DWP arranged for them so that they do not have to employ so many paid workers — leading to fewer real jobs being available.

Many of the claimants concerned have long records of genuine work experience. In some cases people who have been made redundant have found themselves assigned to MWA with their former employer — doing the same job they used to do but with no wages, sickness benefit, holidays and so on.

Boycott Workfare, campaigners against this system that forces benefit claimants to do unpaid work, have won a significant legal victory.

The DWP told the Upper Tribunal: “Put simply, disclosure of the information in relation to the MWA scheme would have been likely to have led to the collapse of the MWA scheme” — because the employers concerned would be publicly shamed and boycotted for using what is effectively slave labour.

Upper Tribunal Judge Wikeley reaffirmed the First Tier Tribunal decision, saying: “It is to be expected that some charities find it difficult if not impossible to defend themselves against the actions of Boycott Workfare.”

dismissive

The Upper Tribunal judgement was dismissive of the DWP’s arguments, making it clear that the DWP is just playing a delaying game — anything to slow down the release of the list of all the businesses and organisations profiting from the use of workfare.

But there are still a few more delaying tactics available with further avenues for appeal that the DWP might use.

Frank Zola, one of the people who put in the original requests for the names of workfare placement providers, said: “The decision of the DWP forced to name workfare bosses Upper Tribunal, on the names of MWA hosts, has taken two and half years and throughout this period the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued three similar decision notices that the DWP should disclose the names of MWA workfare hosts and the Work Programme.

“It seems clear to me that the DWP has been using these appeals to frustrate the public’s right to know who hosts workfare placements, more as an affront to the right-to-know principles of the Freedom of Information Act and the rights of campaigners, bloggers and members of the public to free speech and legitimate democratic protest.”

“Luckily, we don’t have to wait for the Government to name and shame workfare exploiters. Everyday people forced onto workfare schemes are exposing who is profiting. The list is growing. Have a look, pick a few and let them know why they’ve made the wrong decision. This information is a tool to take workfare apart with.”

The DWP has been forced to disclose a list of around 500 WCA employers and also the full list of Jobcentres that are organising zero-wage forced-labour workfare for young people aged 18 to 21 on its Youth Obligation benefit sanctions scheme.