Welfare claimants who have been placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) under the Work Programme could be forced to work without pay and be stripped of benefits under a scheme starting on Monday 3rd December. Thousands of people with various disabilities believe they have been unfairly and without physical or mental health examination placed in WRAG and feel they could not cope with the work. The stress of this must be appalling for some.
From Monday those in WRAG could have their benefit cut by 70% if they do not comply to this instruction unless they have “good cause”. Claimants who participate are expected to complete work placements which are of benefit to the community, including helping charities or environmental projects. There is a feeling however, that this work profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights.
The British Heart foundation, said that it was pulling out of the programme. The charity said it was offered cash incentives by private companies running the programme if it took on jobseekers. The BHF refused such payments, as it would have meant the charity being paid while its volunteers – in desperate need of a job – worked for no pay in return.
The disability charity Scope, which has taken on unemployed people on mandatory placements under a set of internal practices, is now urgently reviewing its involvement and may also pull out.
Mencap who supported the closure of Remploy have also received money through these schemes.
Only 3.5% of people referred to the Work Programme find long-term jobs. Also, none of welfare-to-work scheme’s 18 contractors reached the target of getting 5.5% of clients a job for at least six months.
This is another case of flawed, unfair and quite often disgraceful treatment of many honest and needy able bodied and disabled people. It would be lovely if there was something on the horizon that won’t be doom and gloom for us to talk about.