Today is the UN’s International Day of Persons With Disabilities. The theme is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.” Our government are celebrating the day by preparing to send sick and disabled people on unlimited unpaid “work experience”. In a way this is removing barriers – now sick and disabled people can be subject to the same punitive measures that unemployed able-bodied people are – but I don’t think this is what was meant.
The DWP press release has made an effort to deny that this is mandatory or punitive, but just a few words later explains that anyone who refuses to go on such unpaid work experience (or is unable to but ignored) will be subject to Mandatory Work Activity instead and failing that, will lose the majority of their ESA benefit. It would be nice to think that MWA is only used in extreme cases but in practice anyone and everyone can be sent for this mandatory labour without cause. My own brother is one such example.
This measure applies only to people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and those in the Support Group are safe for now but people in the WRAG are NOT fit for work, even ignoring the fact that so many people are wrongly assigned to the WRAG when they should be in the Support Group. They are expected to be able to return to work, with help, at some unspecified point in the future. This new policy of forcing them on to The Work Programme, work experience and Mandatory Work Activity (Unpaid labour) completely ignores this and will cause harm, suffering and even death.