Yesterday’s Court of Appeal verdict has dealt a massive blow to Workfare, one of the Government’s flagship welfare reform policies.
The judgment on cases brought by Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson mean that all but one of the Government’s workfare schemes (Mandatory Work Activity) that force unemployed people to work unpaid or lose benefits have been deemed unlawful.
It also means that tens of thousands of unemployed people that had their benefits stripped whilst on the schemes should be due a refund.
DPAC knows of many people with mental health support needs found fit for work and forced onto workfare who have not been able to meet the conditions and have had their benefits stopped as a result. We hope that this judgment will end punitive schemes that drive down wages and benefit business while pushing disabled people off their benefits and stopping people from looking from appropriate employment.
Yet the message from the Government was that they would be pressing ahead regardless of today’s judgement.
Employment minister Mark Hoban said:
“The court has backed our right to require people to take part in programmes which will help get them into work…”
But workfare has not aided people into work.
His own department’s figures show that just over 2 out of 100 people are found jobs by the Work Programme, whereas 5 out of 100 people find work without assistance.
The real beneficiaries have been the likes of McDonalds, Poundland and Greggs that have made substantial savings on wages and notorious firms such as A4e, Serco and G4S that have delivered very little for the hundreds of millions of pounds they have received in Government contracts.
Such a blow to the Government can boost the fight against other attacks on welfare, such as cuts to council tax benefits, the bedroom tax and the end of disability living allowance amongst others.
Protests and occupations organised by Right To Work and Boycott Workfare have meant that Work and Pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith’s workfare schemes have been under pressure since the introduction of workfare.
Indeed Holland and Barrett cited anti-workfare protests as the reason they withdrew from workfare last summer.
The Campaign for Benefit Justice has called a summit event on 9 March in central London, bringing together tenants, disabled people, trade unions, the unpaid and the low paid as one national voice to end the war on the poor. All who support us should contact benefit justice via firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.