Is a mandated ‘WorkFAREhouse’ the Tories’ answer to the ‘bedroom tax’ court case?

Work camp: But is this a Nazi camp of the 1930s/40s, or a prediction of a British residential workfare scheme for the disabled in the 2010s?

Work camp: But is this a Nazi camp of the 1930s/40s, or a prediction of a British residential workfare scheme for the disabled in the 2010s?

Residential Workfare for the disabled. If that sentence hasn’t already set off at least three separate alarms in your head, then you haven’t been paying attention. What follows is a warning: Stay alert. Ask questions. Do not allow what this article predicts.

Workfare, for all those who still need enlightening after three years of this particular Tory-led nightmare, is a government-sponsored way of keeping unemployment high while pretending to be doing something about it. The idea is to send unemployed people to work for a period of several weeks – often for a large employer that is perfectly capable of taking on staff at a reasonable wage – and remove them from the unemployment figures for that time, even though they continue to be paid only in benefits. When the time period is served, the jobseeker returns to the dole queue and another is taken on, under the same terms. The employer pays nothing but reaps profit from the work that is carried out. The jobseeker gains nothing at all.

The disabled are, of course, the most persecuted sector of modern British society – far more vilified than hardened criminals or terrorists. Since the Coalition came into office by the back door in 2010, it has been government policy to close down employers taking on disabled people (Remploy factories), to spread propaganda against them, claiming they are scroungers or skivers, and the vast majority of disability benefit claims are fraudulent (this is true of only 0.4 per cent of such claims – a tiny minority). The bedroom tax, enforced nationally in April, has proven itself to be a means of driving disabled people out of homes that have been specially adapted to accommodate their needs. The Work Programme, which was extended to disabled people last December, has proven totally unsuited to the task of getting them into work, yet the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance continues to sign 70 per cent of claimants off the benefit as ‘fit for work’ (whether they are or not), and a further 17 or 18 per cent into a ‘work-related activity’ group where they must try to make themselves employable within 365 days.

The word ‘residential’ – applied to any sector of society at all, never mind whether they’re disabled or not – rightly sends shivers through the hearts of anyone in this country of good conscience. The terrible regime at the Winterbourne View home in Bristol is still recent, and nobody wants to see those crimes repeated – on anyone.

However, put these three words together and that seems the most likely consequence.

So why bother?

Here’s some pure speculation for you: The government knew that the bedroom tax was going to put the squeeze on the disabled, and it knew that disabled people would complain (although there was no way of knowing whether it would win a court case on the issue, as happened this week). It had already devised a solution and called it residential training for the disabled.

This is already running. It provides worthless Work Programme-style training to participants while filling their heads with the silly nonsense that the Skwawkbox blog showed up to such great effect earlier this year, encouraging them to ‘think new thoughts’.

The residential aspect means that participants currently get to stay in their own rooms, in relative comfort – but this could change, and very soon.

You see, this scheme is intended as a pilot study, and the plan has always been to expand this form of training, opening it up to the market, for private-sector parasites to run for profit after competing with each other to put in the lowest bid for the franchise.

Bye bye, individual rooms. Bye bye, dignity. Hello, communal dormitories. Hello… well, eventually it’ll just be hell.

And you can be sure mandation will follow, meaning anyone refusing to attend will lose benefit.

Gradually, disabled people will disappear from our communities, ending up in these residential ‘Workfarehouses’.

How long will it take before we start hearing stories about abuses taking place against people living in these places?

How long did it take before the stories came out of Winterbourne View?

Come to that, how long did it take before the world found out about places like Auschwitz or Dachau or Belsen?

I know what you’re thinking:

“It couldn’t happen here.”

Think again.

(The first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times, is available now in paperback or as an eBook, including a large ‘footnotes’ section in which you can actually connect to internet links containing supporting evidence – if you’re reading on a device that supports this kind of activity.)

50 thoughts on “Is a mandated ‘WorkFAREhouse’ the Tories’ answer to the ‘bedroom tax’ court case?

  1. Steven Goodman

    I’ve always thought “workfare” was wrong and I also find it distasteful that many charities with a remit to help in a global and national sense to support the poverty-stricken and sick people are willing to accept labor in their charity shops that is being forced to work for nothing….Can’t they see that this makes the disabled individual in the UK worth less than the child laborer in global brand sweatshops in India and Pakistan ?

  2. freeburnerr

    Mike, I’ve been following your blog for some time now, and it’s very informative. I had no idea about half of the stuff going on in the UK before coming here, especially the less-media-covered stuff like Workfare, and I am grateful for your reporting and reblogging.

    However, if I might make one suggestion, you seem to be using a lot of mentions of “the war”. This was inevitable, of course, through Godwin’s Law, and I personally don’t have anything against it, but it might be more constructive if you used a bigger variety of lesser-used comparisons. Like Stalin. Or Pol Pot.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Godwin’s Law is as powerful as it undoubtedly is because no other cultural reference hits home as hard as that particular period of history. I do appreciate that you have a point, though – and as I wrote this one I was debating whether it was a good idea to use these references for precisely the reason you suggest. The problem with that, though, is the all-pervading impression that it really COULDN’T happen here… when it really might be happening already.

      1. workshyscrounger

        There are still people who say that Nazi concentration camps never happened. I wonder what atrocities will have to happen here before the public sets aside the scrounger myth.

      2. squire

        I agree with freeburnerr. the nazi camps are hte wrong model here and add a so-called ‘hysteria’ to the argument which might lead people to dismiss your very good points. what is being proposed is already bad enough in itself. Victorian workhouses would be a better model.

      3. kittysjones

        It’s about time Godwin’s law was repealed. It merely serves as a method of censorship.I don’t agree that the comparison with Nazi Germany is inappropriate. Genocide is genocide, and we have seen 11, 000 deaths of sick and disabled people so far via policy. By the withdrawal of their lifeline benefits. That isnt trivial,nor does that trivialise the Holocaust.It isn’t ‘hysterical’ to point out the parallels, although I do agree that the workhouse ideology is also aptly applied here. But we DO have an authoritarian Government.

        The propaganda techniques used by our government are remarkably similar to those used by the nazis. Our media using the word “worshy”- (see Aktion Arbeitsscheu Reich and the origins of this word, it’s now being used very frequently in the media to describe unemployed and disabled people.) and all of the other negative labels.

      4. Nightingale

        I think the comparison is totally valid. I don’t remember the dictators using a policy of vilifying disabled or ill people as a class, although undoubtedly Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin and many others used lethal work camps to rid themselves of dissent as a method of social and political control.

        Only the German National Socialists and the ConDems have declared the disabled as the socially inferior class, to be denounced as the “opposition”, to make them the outsiders, blamed for draining the state of money, your money that could better used by you and you and you.

        They both made it a national policy, and used propaganda to manipulate the majority to believe it is a socially normal view to support, so by association it became acceptable and desirable to allow this sub-human group to be treated badly and to “disappear”. The propaganda is used to remove inhibitions. The Labour party may wish to be seen as the proverbial good men doing nothing. I know they are doing nothing, but for Ed Milliband to be running scared of being called a supporter of the welfare state shows how far this rot has got, certainly they are now to be considered part of the problem.

        I feel sick having to not only witness this descent to neo-barbarism by what seems the whole of the political class and my fellow citizens, but being disabled I am very afraid. We cannot let this happen.


      5. joanna

        Mike could you please clear something up for me? I made a comment about the coalition closing remploy factories, only for someone to say that Labour started the closures, is this true? and why? when they started them, if they did?

      6. Mike Sivier

        Remploy management – not the Labour government – proposed closing 42 factories in 2007. The suggestion led to heated debates at TUC and Labour conferences, with then-Work and Pensions minister Peter Hain eventually ruling that any factory closures must have ministerial approval.
        As a result of this, 29 factories were closed in 2008.
        The simple fact is that Remploy was always meant to be a viable concern – break-even or profit-making – and managers called for the closures to stop the business making a loss.
        But you can see that Labour took exception at the proposals that were presented to the government and cut the number of closures considerably. It would be entirely wrong to suggest that Labour enthusiastically set about hacking Remploy to pieces. That didn’t happen until the Coalition took office.

  3. Stephen Bee

    Well the Greek have already started rounding up the sick, poor, disabled, drug addicts, gays, homeless people etc..and putting them in camps..just to get them off the streets and out of sight of the public eye….how long before this happens here? ‘sigh’

  4. watermelonbloke

    Could be some juicy contracts for the corporate welfare spongers in that idea.

    Perhaps they are paying to influence the policy as we speak, and we daren’t call it corrupt or we’ll end up in court.

  5. Eric Greenwood (4727)

    One of the problems of people using the term Godwins law is they can then use that to dismiss an obvious parallel and to stop people from learning from the horrors of the past and how all the small things any government can do can lead to a horrific echo of a terrible time. Thats why we need to be cautious and not to dismiss any parallel to those days.

  6. Linda Bruce

    It’s said History will always repeat itself. The people thinking of doing this are sick.

  7. Dave.

    Well said Mike. I’ve seen alot of people commenting about not comparing these so called austerity measures and labelling of the disabled to that of the Holocaust, get over the denial barrier and you may get through to people, It can’t happen in these times, often repeated and was some eighty years ago.
    Many younger people that I’ve spoken with say….Auschwitz, Dachau, Sobibor? Where and what are these places and what is the Holocaust? Scary times!

  8. skwalker1964

    Reblogged this on The SKWAWKBOX Blog and commented:
    I’ve always avoided comparisons between the current Tory-led government and the Nazis, lest it seem hysterical. But they appear to be trying really, really hard to make the comparison perfectly mundane.
    This excellent article by Mike Sivier, and the one it links to by Johnny Void, show the government’s thinking: let’s put the disabled and unemployed into ‘residential workfare’, or a work camp as the rest of us would call it. Iain (Duncan) Smith actually once said ‘work makes you free’, a direct translation of ‘Arbeit macht Frei’. It gets more and more obvious that wasn’t a slip of the tongue.

    1. squire

      true, they are using scape-goating nazi tactics. what gays are to putin’s russia, the disabled and the unemployed are to tory britain. deaths by gay-bashing there, deaths from suicide and neglect here. state murder, anyway you cut it.

  9. Jeff

    Some Tory politicians are talking about changing the law to allow voluntary euthanasia …. Aktion T4 is closer than you think

  10. denise clendinning

    well i can say now my son is not going anywhere and i say this with hand on heart.

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  12. darkestangel

    There is also the NCS (National Citizen Service) for 16 year olds. Voluntary youth camps, run by the Tories. My kids won’t be going. This after cuts ripped youth services apart across the country.

  13. Samwise Gamgee

    Why stop at the disabled? The government also likes to vilify the able-bodied poor, particularly the long-term unemployed, and I can easily imagine any future “residential retraining” scheme being extended to the long-term unemployed too. It could be like the New Poor Law introduced in 1834, with receipt of benefits being made conditional on moving into a “residential work-focussed training facility” (they wouldn’t call it a workhouse obviously).

    I agree this sounds pretty fanciful, but after reading what I’ve read here, and learning that the current scheme for the disabled could be put out to tender, and judging by this government’s previous rhetoric about “broken communities”, “problem families”, and the cost of “funding the lifestyle choices of the feckless” nothing would surprise me…

      1. Samwise Gamgee

        Oh no really? I can only wonder if long term unemployed people will be mandated to attend, like I said by making receipt of benefits conditional on agreeing to live in one of these workhouses, sorry residential facilities…

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  16. Mike Sivier

    I’ve just been reminded, on Twitter, that I should not be referring to this as a Tory policy when the Liberal Democrats are in government as well.

    This is absolutely correct – if the proposed expansion happens, if the mandating of people into residential workfare happens, then it will be because Liberal Democrats support it.

    We shouldn’t let them off the hook.

  17. Mike Sivier

    Someone on Facebook has challenged this article, claiming that it is overdramatizing and that the only conclusion of the report to the government is that there should be residential training for the disabled.

    Here are the relevant recommendations (as far as I can see):

    Recommendation 10
    DWP should encourage RT providers to seek and sustain partnerships with a greater range of relevant stakeholders, including local mainstream learning providers, employers, support agencies and others.

    Recommendation 12
    DWP should encourage Residential Training providers to align themselves with other employment provision such as Work Choice and The Work Programme [private sector companies]… the onus is for RT providers to sell their products and expertise to providers, who will buy them in if they believe there is value for them and it makes commercial sense.

    In other words: “Opening it up to the market, for private-sector parasites to run for profit after competing with each other to put in the lowest bid for the franchise.”

    Oh, and here’s something I didn’t get into the article:

    Recommendation 14: DWP should extend the provision to some long term unemployed non disabled people.

    In other words, all the people the government has decided are workshy get put in the same place. That would be a concentration camp, in the true (original) sense of the term.

    The report is at

  18. Liverpool Lou

    In years to come will ATOS and our jobcentre ‘advisors’ be treated like the nazi youth and war criminals, as they are allowing these sanctions on a vulnerable part of society to happen – in order to keep their jobs. I say to these people think about what will happen if you or your family become disabled. Will you change your views then? There but for the grace of God! It is a sign of how selfish most of society has become that there is not mass OUTRAGE at what is happening to our vulnerable people here in this country. Still if you send your charity donations to third world countries I suppose that salves your conscience. Think about the real people under your nose that you probably cross the road to avoid because you have no understanding of their struggle. Go give your money and thoughts to the pandas and tigers! The same people who shed tears on telly documentaries about past atrocities are turning as blind eye to what is going on in 21st century ‘civilised’ Britain.

  19. squid

    so if the disable people don’t work, that means the state has to keep them in there luxury lifestyle, when the state has no money. I go to work, try to make ends meet it is so hard, I would love to live of the state I properly be better off, so if I have no choice but to work then I think everyone should work.

    1. Mike Sivier

      What luxury lifestyle is that, then? Disabled people on benefits absolutely do NOT live in luxury!

      Also the state has plenty of money when it wants to – for example, to fund projects that enrich friends of the Coalition government! You seem to have swallowed the Coalition narrative hook, line and sinker.

      1. squid

        no I haven’t swallowed the Coalition narrative hook, line and sinker.
        I wish they wasn’t in power, I would like a government that would close the borders has our country is full, plus if we didn’t have all the immigrants coming in we properly have more money to fund the badly disabled. the problem is that there are to many disabled people who properly could work, but have being claiming state for so long now they don’t now what work is. I have a friend disabled with bad eye sight who could work but doesn’t wont to work.

      2. Mike Sivier

        The country isn’t full; however an argument can be made that there is no demand for further immigration into the UK at the moment, when the job market is so badly depressed due to Conservative/Coalition policies. If you read my ‘Xenophobia’ article you would know that immigrants are a much smaller burden on the state than the Home Office is pretending. Go and read that article now, if you need reminding – it’s the part I quoted from Scriptonite Daily. As for there being too many disabled who could work – you clearly haven’t been following the news. Disabled people who have been placed in the work-related activity group of ESA, and from there onto the Work Programme, are now notoriously difficult to get into work. This isn’t because they are capable but unwilling; it is because they have been wrongly classified by state employees with targets to meet. Only around 1.7 per cent of ESA claimants are finding jobs this way.

        Although I can’t vouch for the Scriptonite information, mine comes from official – Government – sources. Where did yours come from?

    2. Liverpool Lou

      You clearly have absolutely no experience of disability. Not every disabled person is on the top rates you hear bandied about. Most are on the breadline.or even worse in poverty. The state has enough money to keep the Royal Family and all their hangers on, plus don’t forget the M.P. recent pay rises – not to mention all the world wide travelling for Cameron and entourage in chauffeur driven limousines and first class transport. They have ooddles of money when it suits them. Wake up and Thank God you do not have a disability when there are mean spirited people like you in the country.

      1. squid

        Hi Lou, I’m not anti or against the disabled people, and yes I do agree that the state waste money on royals and traveling. One thing i do agree with the PM is that you should never be better off on benefits against someone that works. if that upsets you I’m sorry. I don’t have the answers to make everyone happy. All I know is I work very hard and still struggle to make ends meet, and that is why I get angry or upset with people moaning about benefits.

      2. squid

        Mike for starters my wife works for the council and does visits to these people, comes home and tell me of all the nice things they have in there property. The disabled people with blue badges that drive cars always have new cars, or 1 year old. Mike what would be your answer to all the disability benefits.

      3. Mike Sivier

        My answer to you is that I am a carer for a person who has been on sickness/disability benefits for a long time. I have also been doing part-time work and, if not for that, we would not have been able to make ends meet.

        Mrs Mike has a blue badge; our car is 10 years old.

        Does your wife know how “these people” came to have the “nice things” she tells you are in their property? Without that piece of knowledge, she should not be making any value judgements about them or their benefits.

        My “answer to all the disability benefits”, as you put it, has not changed: prevention is better than cure. Government ensures that fewer people are born with congenital health problems through better healthcare, research and development of cures; and government ensures that fewer people are invalided out of work because of preventable problems that are caused by firms failing to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act, with more stringent regulation including surprise checks that aren’t arranged weeks in advance.

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  22. joanna

    Squid if I were your wife’s boss, I would be taking disciplinary action against her for breach of confidentiality! How dare she tell you what people own in their so-called private place where they live! What does it possibly have to do with you what people own!
    The main problem is, as you would have read many times is poor wages, perhaps if you were paid better. the disabled wouldn’t be an issue. The disabled have nothing to do with the policies they have to live under, It Isn’t Their Fault!!! they are just trying to get by the best that they can, we all are!!!

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