Confusion reigns over work programme for the disabled

I took Mrs Mike up to the Job Centre on Friday, for an interview with her advisor on the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance.

Linda (Mrs Mike) has been in the WRAG since her work capability assessment in August. I won’t go into the details of that particular interview because those of you who have experienced it will know that, even in the best of circumstances, it can be harrowing for a disabled person.

This interview was a far cry from that; it helped a lot that Linda knew her advisor – they worked together on a previous job.

We went through Linda’s circumstances and the list of her disabilities, and it was explained that, at the end of her year on the WRA group, she will be assessed again (we’re not looking forward to that!) to decide whether she may be found fit for work or has to go back for another year in the WRAG. This was news to me; my impression was always that you had the year, then you got booted out onto Jobseekers’ Allowance.

It was explained that she could choose to work with her advisor or with work placement provider companies, to find employment for her that is suitable with regard to her disabilities; work placements will not be valid if they do not accommodate an individual’s sickness or disability (this is a fact – I looked it up on the government’s own documentation and they do have a duty to ensure the activity is “appropriate to the participants health condition or disability”).

Mandating – forcing a disabled person to participate in the work programme by making it a condition under which they continue to receive benefit – would only happen if a claimant failed to participate in the work-related activity scheme on any level. It’s what happens when people refuse to have anything to do with it, Linda was told.

I noted that this still means Linda has to take part in some form of activity, but here’s the thing: Mrs Mike does actually want a job. She wants to be a contributing member of society and she wants to be able to pay her way. She is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a scrounger.

what she does not want is to be forced into an exploitative situation where she is made to do work that is unsuitable for her, with no concern about whether it will worsen her condition. She spent months, after her illness began, trying to soldier on at her former job and getting worse every day. She won’t go through that again.

Imagine, then, my surprise on getting home to read an article in The Guardian, stating that, from tomorrow (Monday), the government will “allow private back-to-work companies and jobcentre case managers to force [Linda] and more than 300,000 sick and disabled welfare claimants into unpaid work experience for an unspecified length of time.

“Also from that day – the UN’s international day of persons with disabilities – if those in WRAG who have illnesses ranging from cancer to paralysis to mental health issues do not comply with such instructions, they can be stripped of up to 70 per cent of their benefits and forced to live on £28.15 a week.”

The paper showed that the scheme was already in disrepute. According to the rules (and, again, I’ve read them) providers must ensure that a work placement is of “community benefit”, but the article stated “since February the DWP has stopped answering freedom of information requests about where people are being sent to work – even when instructed to do so by the information commissioner – because it fears the [Mandatory Work Activity] scheme will collapse under the weight of public protest if details are released.

“The DWP has admitted that … private, profit-seeking companies can participate in the scheme.”

the paper added that, according to the latest figures, between 1 June 2011 and 31 May 2012 there were 11,130 conditionality sanctions applied to ESA WRAG claimants. The average length of such sanction is seven weeks.

Linda and I already know that neither the work programme nor the mandatory work activity scheme (Workfare) have any effect on increasing people’s chances of getting into a job. They are ways of funnelling taxpayers’ money to the bosses of the ‘work programme provider’ companies. “Why take part, then?” you might ask. The answer is threefold: Firstly, to show willing; second, to avoid sanctions; third, to get direct experience of how it works in practice.

All this, of course, takes place in an environment where organisations like the British Heart Foundation are pulling out of the programme. According to the newspaper, “the charity said it was offered cash incentives by private companies running the programme if it took on jobseekers. The BHF refused such payments, as it would have meant the charity being paid while its volunteers – in desperate need of a job – worked for no pay in return.

“The DWP said it was not troubled by this practice: ‘We pay providers to find us placements; it’s up to them what arrangement they make with organisations who will take someone on.'”

This is interesting, considering Iain Duncan Smith is adamant that no payment is made other than by results.

On the BBC he said: “Unlike previous work programmes that the last government did where they paid up to half the money just for taking the person on, we don’t do any of that. what we say is, the company concerned has to get them into work but just not into work; also into a job that is eventually, say, six months – that’s when we pay them.”

He also said that the six-month period of work that participants need to build up (presumably before these companies get paid) can be split between placements. We’ve never heard that before, and it seems a rough-and-ready reinterpretation of the rules, as most employment currently lasts no more than four months before people end up back on Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Employment minister Mark Hoban told the Guardian: ‘”People on sickness benefits who do all they can to improve their chances of moving back into a job have nothing to worry about.

‘”They will get their benefits and we will do all we can to help. But in the small number of cases where people refuse to stick to their part of the bargain, it’s only right there are consequences.”‘

What bargain? He seems to misunderstand the meaning of the word. A bargain is an agreement in which each party has obligations to the other.

What sanctions are imposed on the DWP if it fails to provide the service – as stated – to claimants? None, that I can see.

Be assured I will keep you posted on future developments.

PS For everyone about to embark on this new adventure in disability benefits, I think it is important that you read this website – Securing your rights on Welfare to Work(fare). It provides important information on protecting your rights, which may be eroded if you sign certain documents presented to you as part of this programme.

10 thoughts on “Confusion reigns over work programme for the disabled

  1. DavidG

    “my impression was always that you had the year, then you got booted out onto Jobseekers’ Allowance.”

    After a year (aka time limiting), ESA eligibility is based on household income or assets. If you are on Contributions-Related ESA and have assets over £16k or someone in house earning over £5300/yr (need to check that figure, but it is significantly less than full time at minimum wage) you get NI stamp paid only, less than that you are eligible for Income-Related ESA, but if assets are over £6k rate will be capped pro-rata.

  2. sallyb41

    From what you are saying it looks like right hands don’t know what left hands are doing and it is being made up as they go along

  3. Albert

    I thought the “bargin” was we’d pay NI while we were in work and if we became sick or disabled we would be looked after.

  4. Silver

    We are getting worse than America now.At what point will they get rid of sick pay,or whatever you want to call it forever.

    I can see in the future,if we continue down this road,that being sick will be a sackable offence.

    I am glad I am getting old,but fear for my children and grandchildren,as well as whatever time I may have left.

    The Rich really are taking the piss.I feel confrontation,is being perpetuated by the Elite.Probably want to watch the Police bash the poor’s heads in with truncheons.

    But when no one listens,people will find a outlet.But one thing the Toff’s may have misunderstood this time,is that the Police themselves are not happy with them.The ones on the beat anyway.Police moral has never been lower.So perhaps they will have bitten of more than they can chew if they carry on down this road.

    1. Albert

      I with you. I would have retired in 5 years but the Toffs have more than doubled the time I must wait, but at least I am near the end of my working life(or would be if i wasn’t so ill). I am very worried for my children who are half way through their working life and grandchildren who have just started. God help them if they ever get sick or lose their jobs.

  5. soiniciulacht

    “since February the DWP has stopped answering freedom of information requests about where people are being sent to work – even when instructed to do so by the information commissioner – because it fears the [Mandatory Work Activity] scheme will collapse under the weight of public protest if details are released.

    Then I would suggest that we get as many people as possible to send in an FOI to the DWp with 2 questions:

    1/ What are the names of the companies involved in providing these work placements under all mandatory schemes?
    2/ Is fear of legitimate protest a recognised ground for refusing to respond?

    Then if they continue to refuse to answer an EN MASSE appeal to the Information Commissioner

  6. simmo2012

    LORD FREUD THE FRAUD Freud’s latest plan along with the DWP is to open to tender a contract to anyone with a programme for a budgeting plan for people in receipt of Universal Credit (Oct 2013)and paid on a monthly basis .There will be £145 million available for the contract ,which is expected to involve amongst other con tricks a method of ring fencing your benefit for bills ,meaning you will not be in control of your own benefit and after a trial period have to pay for the privilege of being signed up to this method of protecting utility companies whist you go without food .Freud is apparently unpaid in the work he does for the DWP ,he says it’s because he is bored since he retired – he’s an ex banker ,he’s probably missing the buzz they get from ripping the public off ,his great grandfather was the basis of modern psychology ,and what is psychology – finding peoples vulnerabilities and exploiting them ,where are his ancestors from Germany – I rest my case –

  7. simmo2012

    What is the difference between Cameron’s Britain and Hitler’s Germany as both are known as Dictatorial ,Hitler created infrastructure and employment .In today’s ‘modern’ Britain what do the general populace have to show for Government Policy – Unemployment ,a policy of Eugenics ,control of what we eat ,control of what we see and read ,control on where we live ,control over whether we smoke and/or drink .Education (indoctrination) we were all and still are taught Hitler was a despotic madman .Cameron is doing the same in this Country what Hitler did in Germany ,what is the Liverpool Care Pathway but Eugenics pure and simple advocated by the Royal Family .These things take a lot of digesting because of the years of lies and deceit ,very unpalatable but still raw facts ,individuals will come to realise this when in 2013 the full force of all the Welfare measures are in place and as well as Bedroom Tax a proportion of Council Tax will be demanded from benefits .FACT.

  8. Frank

    Lord Freud has two mansions, and is yet another multi-millionaire snob lording over the poorest in the UK. Both himself, and that Iain Duncan Smith are vulgar in their bullying harassment, and cruel tactics towards very ill people. How would they feel if they were skint, ill and then relentlessly bullied?

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