Government taps sick and disabled people as source of free labour

Chris Grayling holds chemo pills - "Repave my driveway and I might give them back"
Chris Grayling holds chemo pills - "Repave my driveway and I might give them back"
Image by @dochackenbush

In an astonishing revelation today we find that the Welfare Reform Bill will apply the “Claimant Commitment” that must be agreed to by job seekers to people in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment Support Allowance. Sanctions will apply for failure to keep to the agreement.

Let me explain: people who are too sick or disabled to work can claim ESA. After a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) they will be placed in either the Support Group or the Work Related Activity Group. (WRAG.) People in the support group are considered completely unable to work, at least until the next assessment, while those placed in the WRAG are considered to be unable to work now but potentially able to work within the next few years, with the right help to do so. (One designer of ESA has said that the intention was within two to five years.) People in this group are required to  attend regular work focussed interviews with an advisor at the Job Centre to discuss ways in which they might expect to return to work despite their illness or disability.

It is frightening to discover, therefore, that under the new Universal Credit people who are placed in the WRAG will be subject to the same agreement and conditions as those who are unemployed. This will include the same work experience and work placement schemes, run by the same private commercial providers, and with the same sanctions for refusing to take part. Given the likelihood of dropping out due to sickness and the inability of job centre advisers to be flexible about such things it is highly likely that sanctions will be applied to people merely because they are too sick to do what is asked of them.

What this means is that sick and disabled people who may be completely unable to work at this time can be sent to work for one of the various charities or companies taking part, without pay. The placements are intended to last for eight weeks but unlike for job seekers, there is no time limit for disabled people. People could be sent to work without pay for an unlimited time on the whim of the job centre advisor or the commercial contractor who the person has been sent to.

This is made even worse because the WCA, run by Atos,  is notoriously inaccurate, with many people being incorrectly placed in the WRAG or declared fit to work, but later overturning the decision on appeal. There are lots of examples of people who have been judged fit for work by Atos being sent to the Job Centre to claim Job Seekers Allowance only to be refused help and turned away because the job centre staff can clearly see that they are unable to work. These are people who are supposedly more capable than those in the WRAG.

This clause of the welfare reform bill has remained undiscovered until now but now that it is out in the open we must make a fuss, we must protest. This is too far and the government must be stopped by any means necessary.

Please sign the petition to stop and review the Welfare Reform Bill and the petition to abolish work for benefit schemes.

Disabled people face unlimited unpaid work or cuts in benefit [Guardian]

Government work placement schemes little more than slave labour [A Latent Existence]

Who benefits from The Work Programme?  [A Latent Existence]

Author: Ellavescent

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

  • hindle-a

    I am afraid I am unsurprised.When The WRB ,in particular UC was first consulted on “conditionality”was opened ended,it still remains flexible “as personal circumstances allow”-is the get out clause.The “benefit cap” included people many people not expected to work(which does not mean they do not-Carers for example).As a receiver of CA I am very aware of the trajectory,Miller’s only utterances are that Carers will earn more UC.I will fight against any moves in conditionality for either myself or my wife.It is reprehensible to me that people in that situation should even be considered to have any.

  • crookwatcher

    So we are to have disabled and terminally ill people stacking shelves for well under the minimum wage? It is clear the government gives back handers to rich friends and associates whilst smashing the poor and needy into the ground. No doubt they’ll be conscripting our lost youth into a war with Iran next, it is truly despicable and I can’t believe any Scot’s Guard would have taken IDS seriously. I can’t imagine old one nation Conservatives like Macmillan condoning the systematic abuse of the UK’s most vulnerable. What next? sending toddlers from sink estates up chimneys?

  • Louise

    I’m afraid this is not news.  In my area people in the WRAG group ae already working full day’s for a charity and required to do some work too, some are lucky and are paid and they then have to declare it, others are sent to the workfare work for free camps. 

  • Thank you, Stephen, for expressing so clearly and succinctly the implications of Clause 54 in this terminally flawed Welfare Reform Bill

  • Oh Great, just the news I needed. ATOS found me completely fit for work 26 days before a Legal Medico Expert found me 60% disabled for life and that it was highly doubtful I will ever return to work after an Industrial Accident. Even the DWP Industrial Injuries Board give me a pension for my disability as it was an accident at work. So even if I win the appeal and go up one level there still going to try and make me work but now for free.

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