Forced-labour workfare guaranteed for sick and disabled people

Related: Work and Health Programme: Workfare Rules, All Provider Guidance, Specifications etc and Work and Health Programme: Who can be referred, for how long and when?

This is a short reminder that forced- labour workfare for sick and disabled people, with ‘limited capability for work’, was introduced as a form of ‘work related activity’ under Section 55 of the Welfare Reform Act (WRA) of 2012.

“Work experience etc…
Section 55 amends section 13 of WRA 2007 to make clear that a claimant with limited capability for work may be required to undertake work experience or a work placement. Any requirement imposed under this provision will need to be reasonable in the claimant’s circumstances.” (emphasis added)
Source: Welfare Reform Act 2012 – Explanatory Notes

Background

In Welfare Reform Act (WRA) 2007 Labour  made provision for the employment and support allowance (ESA) to replace incapacity benefit and income support on grounds of incapacity for work or disability.

Explanatory notes goes on to say:

“The matters to be determined are:

whether the claimant’s capability for work is limited by his physical or mental condition to the extent that it is not reasonable to require him to work; and

whether the claimant’s capability for work is limited to the extent that it is not reasonable to require him to engage in work-related activity. The Act provides for regulations to define the test as to whether a claimant has limited capability for work-related activity.”

Section 13 of WRA 2007 goes on to say work-related activity “in relation to a person, means activity which makes it more likely that the person will obtain or remain in work or be able to do so”

Explanatory notes to the WRA 2012 “amends section 13 of WRA 2007 to make clear that a claimant with limited capability for work may be required to undertake work experience or a work placement. Any requirement imposed under this provision will need to be reasonable in the claimant’s circumstances”

As part of making a claim for ESA a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has to be undertaken, after which claimants can then be placed in two groups:

  • work-related activity group
  • support group, where you don’t have interviews

Disability rights campaigners are also highlighting* that work and work-related activity [inc workfare] can also be required, under Universal Credit, when waiting for a WCA and a claimant has given the DWP a ‘fit-note‘ concerning fitness to work.

*It is again puzzling that campaigners make no reference to the forced unpaid labour (workfare) outlined above. Just like the Youth Obligation that also explicitly includes forced-labour, use of the term workfare has again been sent down a memory hole and still does not get mentioned, even after this omission has been explicitly pointed out to the authors/campaigns…

To be clear the term workfare in use here is referring to – “Work for your benefit” – as defined in the 2009 Welfare Reform Act and now included in Section 16 (3)(e) of the Welfare Reform Act of 2012 and under it’s Section 55 for sick and disabled people, or people with ‘limited capability for work’, the State preferred term.

Work and Health Programme and Workfare?

There is little doubt claimants referred to the Work and Health Programme (WHP) will be conscripted into zero wage workfare under Section 55. WHP provider guidance includes details of powers providers have to mandate workfare and report claimants for sanctions if they refuse.

“A DWP PowerPoint presentation to charities late last year explained that unpaid work experience without any statutory time limit would be a “supportive measure” where suitable to “personal circumstances”.

Following that meeting, the government passed clause 55 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 to legally permit officials to make the sick and disabled in the Wrag group do work experience as a condition of their benefit claim.”
Source: Guardian ‘Disabled benefits claimants face £71 a week fines for breaching work plan‘ – 3rd September 2012

On a final note, neither Labour or the Liberal Democrats 2017 manifestos seek to repeal workfare (“Work for your benefit”) legislation.

Join Boycott Workfare‘s campaign against forced-unpaid labour and sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary.
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