#FOI Watch: 243 pages of 11393 Jobbridge #workfare exploiters named and shamed in Ireland

Whilst the UK’s DWP, has for years, refused to disclose the names of #workfare exploiters, 243 pages of 11393 workfare exploiters has just been published in Ireland.

The #WorkMustPay Campaign is made up of a small network of young activists who take part in a series of actions to directly challenge the acceptability of employers taking on unpaid JobBridge interns instead of providing even the basic respect of a minimum wage for workers.

UK: Name & Shame #workfare exploiters

DWP loses another 3 FOI tribunal hearings, must release names of workfare exploiters


Workfare schemes: What information do you need?

Below is a suggested list of information that is needed for every workfare scheme in the  UK, which could help map the extent of UK workfare, enable people to secure and know their rights better, pursue complaints from an informed point of view and facilitate more informed advice and guidance provision to people conscripted into workfare. As well as enable advocacy organisations and activists develop more informed strategies and goals.

Provisional list of information needed, in an accessible format and location, for each and every workfare scheme, like Mandatory Work Activity:

  • Jobcentre guidance to it’s staff, including template letters, documents and forms
  • DWP produced Provider/Contractor guidance
  • Names of all DWP Providers contracted or subcontracted to set up workfare placements and jobsearch facilities
  • Complaint procedures, forms and policies, for:
    – All DWP Providers and subcontractors
    – Jobcentre Plus
    – Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
    – DWP’s Independent Case Examiner (ICE)
  • Benefit Sanctions
    – DWP Decision Maker guidance, tribunal and court decisions
    – self advocacy info, such as via JSSA, AskCPAG and Appeal Tips @ http://refuted.org.uk/2014/08/06/sanctionstips/
    – sources of immediate welfare assistance and food banks
  • Information on how to challenge and appeal against any scheme or it’s specific conditions
  • Details of advice and guidance organisations and law centres
  • Newspaper and online media coverage
  • Freedom of Information requests, disclosures, tribunal and court cases.
  • Local Authority (Council) policies, debates and decisions. (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales)
  • Trade union policies
  • Debates, Questions, Answers and Inquries in the parliament’s of England and Scotland and the Assemblies of Northern Ireland and Wales
  • DWP Data Protection/Security
    – All DWP contractors and subcontractors Data Protection/Security policies, forms and leaflets relating to the sharing and obtaining of claimants personal data.
    – DWP policies on Data Protection/Security
  • Digital services, consent to use and permission based means of communication with claimants
    – DWP and contractor/subcontractor policies and guidance
  • Freedom of Information
    – All DWP and it’s contractors policies of each others mutual Freedom of Information Act duties
  • All DWP contract tenders and specification documents
  • Contact and named person details for:
    – Every DWP contractor and subcontractor, including website, social media, email addresses and  street addresses for local branches and head office’s
  • Claimant forms, letters and documents
    – Specimen copies of every contractor and subcontractors template letters, actions plans, mandatory activity noticies and forms that have an option for a claimant to sign
  • Links to relevant regulations, legislation and case law

If you have any suggestions to add to above list, or comments, please send them to: email@refuted.org.uk in complete confidence.

Some of this information is already published by Boycott Workfare: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=1820

Securing all of the information would be a significant undertaking, require continual updating and maintenance, but as the UK has become more of a workfare state than a welfare one, could lead to workfare getting more exposure and acting as a
resource to challenge this pernicious form of State sponsored punishment on a more UK wide strategic basis.

refuted has developed similar advocacy and information resources such as those listed above, but this project would need resources beyond it’s present capacity.

DWP publishes official list of it’s unpaid Workfare schemes

Below is an official DWP list of it’s workfare schemes, that involve people claiming benefits being provided to employers as free labour, including what is referred to as ‘internships’. The DWP’s first response to it’s own FOI Act disclosure made today, copy below, after this post was published, was to delete a webpage cited in it’s disclosure letter and hence deny public access to the documents and information therein, forgetting that search engines keep archives/caches of web pages and documents deleted. [ DWP deleted webpage and document therein ]

The DWP letter below neglects to mention unpaid Traineeships.

“Our reference: VTR 205

  20 January 2015

Dear Anne Dwyer,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 16 January
2015. You asked:

Can you provide me with the names of the schemes you run that can include
a work placement 
or work experience? So a JSA or ESA claimant does not
lose any benefits if they take part and whether this applies to self organised
internships on these benefits?

As regards the first part of your request, the schemes we run that can include
a work placement [1] or work experience [2] are as follows:

Mandatory Work Activity
Work Programme
Sector based work academy
Work Experience
Community Work Placement
Derbyshire Mandatory Youth Activity Programme

[Detailed info on above schemes http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=1820]

Information about these schemes can be found by following the link below:

work-schemes [archive copy and document referred to]

As regards the second part of your request, none of the schemes listed above
can incorporate an internship. Indeed, neither within our schemes nor our
policies do we recognise an internship as a separate entity.

In terms of benefit eligibility and payment, if a self organised internship was
paid, we would treat it in the same way as we would any other paid
employment. If the internship was unpaid we would treat it in the same way as
we would any other voluntary work. DWP publishes a leaflet on volunteering
which contains information on benefit impacts; a link to that leaflet is provided
below:   https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/
264508/dwp1023.pdf [archive copy]

At this point, to both put the format of this response into context and for your
future reference, I think it important to explain a little about the Freedom of
Information Act. The Act provides people with a right of access to recorded
information held by public authorities such as DWP (Section 84 of the Act
refers). Importantly, the Act does not require that we generate answers to
questions raised or scenarios posed on a particular subject. 

Also, the interpretation of any information supplied is left to the requestor. The
Freedom of Information Act does not require that we provide interpretation,
explanation, comment or clarification in relation to information supplied. Once
DWP has supplied information relevant to a request, it has met its obligations
under the Act.

With the above in mind, and outwith our obligations under Freedom of
Information legislation, I would suggest if you have questions about how a
particular internship might impact a claim to a particular benefit that you
consult your Jobcentre Plus Work Coach in the first instance.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the
reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team”

[1] The term “Work Placement”, is used by the DWP when referring to forced unpaid labour, which is undertaken on a no choice mandatory basis or face loss of benefits through a Benefit Sanctions, which can last up to 3 years.

[2] The term “Work Experience” (WE) is used by the DWP when referring to unpaid work that that are undertaken on a quasi voluntary basis. They are not voluntary as Benefit  Sanctions can be applied for apparent misconduct and if the Jobcentre considers a lack of WE is a barrier to paid employment and true voluntary work or a WE is declined, then a catch 22 Work Placement can be imposed.

Source: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/248661/response/607502/attach/html/3/205%20reply.pdf.html

DWP loses another 3 FOI tribunal hearings, must release names of workfare exploiters

The DWP has lost 3* first tier FOI tribunal appeal hearings on disclosure of the names of Mandatory Work Activity (MWA), Work Programme and Day One Support for Young People Trailblazer workfare exploiters. The tribunal’s decision was “unanimous” and found the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) disclosure exemptions claimed by the DWP on The economy s.29; – Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs s.36(2)(c); – Commercial interests/trade secrets s.43 unfounded and “should therefore fail”. Therefore the DWP must disclose the withheld information, or seek an appeal. All of the 3 requesters Sheldon, Sheenan and Chance used WhatDoTheyKnow.com to make these FOI requests, alongside the cited case of Zola, with regards naming MWA workfare exploiters throughout the UK.

“Each of the appeals therefore fails and the DWP should respond to each of
the information requests in the manner indicated in the relevant decision
notice*” View full tribunal decision onlinedownload (pdf)

*Original FOI requests
Sheldon – : Groundworks and work programme placementsICO notice (FS50517872)
Sheenan – : Divine Rescue MWAICO notice (FS50515872)
Chance – : Day One Support for young People TrailblazerICO notice (FS50520380)
Case cited: ZolaSuccessful bidders (MWA), with historical links and full text of decisions.
Your Freedom of Information Act: Making requests, tips and ideas for Campaigns, Media exposure and to know your rights

Hat tip: @FOIkid

New regulations for mandatory JSA youth (18-21) #workfare, training, maths and English skills

The Jobseeker’s Allowance (18-21 Work Skills Pilot Scheme) Regulations 2014
“The 18-21 Work Skills Pilot Scheme
3. —(1) The 18-21 Work Skills Pilot Scheme is prescribed for the purposes of section 17A(1) (schemes for assisting persons to obtain employment : “work for your benefit” [workfare] schemes etc) of the Act. ” [emphasis added] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/3117/contents/made

Explanatory memo
“Claimants in the two treatment groups” [emphasis added]
Phase One “…skills training in English or Maths (or both) for up to 16 hours per week for a cumulative period of up to 6 months”
Phase Two “work-related activity or skills training (or both) for up to 30 hours per week for a cumulative period of up to 6 months”
The regulations reaffirm that if a conscript does not agree to ‘voluntary’ work/fare [Traineeships and sector-based work academies]  experience  they can be referred for Mandatory Work Activity placements. The scheme is due to start in late November/December 2014

“It is expected that the Work Experience scheme – which is voluntary – will be the most appropriate option in the majority of cases but other options available under Phase
Two will include:

  • Traineeships
  • sector-based work academies
  • Skills training placements
  • Mandatory Work Activity scheme placements

The adviser will then make a referral to the most appropriate option. Some of these options are (and will remain) voluntary, but participation in some form of provision
will be mandatory.” [emphasis added]

Benefit cuts for the young – secret agreement

TUC informs Union Reps it supports workfare, because it is not “exploitative”

Boycott Workfare and Johnny Void have been pointing out that the TUC along with the CBI are now supporting unpaid workfare (*traineeships) after demands that they should be paid, whilst continuing to purse a rights campaign for interns to be paid. On August 4th the TUC issued Guidance for Union Reps on workfare, within this is a curious formulation of words:

The TUC and affiliated unions are firmly against exploitative workfare”  (emphasis added)

this implies that not all workfare is “exploitative” and seems very similar to the Labour Party stance on Zero Hour contracts. Most people thought Labour’s policy was for the complete abolishment of Zero Hour contracts, but in fact all they offered was a “plan to tackle the exploitation of zero-hours contracts” (emphasis added)  which is just another way of saying that not all zero-hour contracts are exploitative.

“Tuc is wrong workfare and traineeships are slave labour schemes we oppose there support for them”
Ian Hodson @IanBFAWU

The TUC is seeking an ideological shift to reframe use of the word workfare to imply that it is not always exploitative, to reinforce it’s own pro workfare agenda.

*Traineeships: “The TUC encourages employers to pay travel and meal expenses” but not a wage.