Home > DWP > Mandatory Work Activity: extended sanction abuses

Mandatory Work Activity: extended sanction abuses

By now we have all heard about the series of articles in The Guardian about benefit sanction targets. The upcoming 4 week compulsory employment programme called the Mandatory Work Activity scheme is an extension to sanction powers of Jobcentre Plus Employment Officers. Ipswich Unemployed Action has already spoke about the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.

Not that Jobcentre Plus ever thought this underhand practice would be exposed: they created the Mandatory Work Activity scheme to make further “savings” to the “public purse”. This could now be forced to be prematurely scrapped as I explain to you what the Mandatory Work Activity is really about.

No surprises that it is really to screw you jobseekers over (including the new JSA claimants forced over from disability benefits).

Unlawful Sanctions describes it as “bribes for benefit savings”. DWP set up a tender with a unit cost benchmark of £800 per person – successful providers are those who get the cheapest cost per head. This is done by a contract value organised by how many starts (i.e. total value / starts = unit costs). Providers specify how many people they are willing to take as they calculate how much minimum they require. This payment is paid upfront regardless of a start or not.

When the Work Programme Network announced the “workfare providers” they branded this the “sham scheme”. It is of no coincidence how everything is so conveniently perfect for this (well almost, the Work Programme Network has already found a loophole in the law which will be published in May 2011).

The three main elements:

  • Eligibility solely on Jobcentre Plus adviser/Employment Officer discretion at any time in the claim
  • Sanctions raised from 2 weeks to 13 weeks for the first offence and appeal timescales are just 5 days
  • There is nothing stopping someone being repeatedly placed on Mandatory Work Activity (other than being on another employment programme such as the Work Programme)

This is undeniable proof of the intention of increasing benefit sanctions:-

  • The Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee thinks that due to the high proportion of Jobcentre Plus adviser sanction doubts overturned by Appeal Tribunals that adviser discretion should be limited not increased. (Of course the alternative option means such benefit sanction targets would have to be more open, perhaps written into regulations – this opens the scheme to too much scrutiny)
  • DWP have once again refused to set in stone what the “placements” should contain. They have been kept sketchy for some reason despite thousands of complaints on New Deal, Flexible New Deal and Community Task Force. (Of course they cannot state how meaningless it will be)
  • They favoured this over the Work for Your Benefit pilot scheme so they can evaluate such after the 4 years it runs for, instead of after the first year of a pilot scheme. (If they made it a pilot scheme it would be pulled)
  • The Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee asked if it would be possible for someone to be referred for the third or fourth time, with the answer of “yes” although they made assurance of it being unlikely. This means such person would have had at least 6 month of benefit sanctions at that point. They also asked for guidance of the scheme where none was provided claiming it wasn’t finalised.

So adding up the pieces… it is the providers who are to be deciding how many workfare placements there are in the first year. DWP set an initial budget of some £8m for 10,000 placements at £800 each. We anticipate the bids under half so the initial budget will create approx 20,000 placements – but I suspect the budget to be increased when benefit savings are made.

How are referrals made?  Whether Employment Officers are set targets like their benefit sanction targets of how many people to refer on to Mandatory Work Activity by Jobcentre Plus working out the number of placements or whether they will refer on the fly finding whether or not a place if available, is unknown.  The latter sounds too disorganised, creating concerns of targets of referrals and therefore benefit sanctions

What are the payment terms? Providers are paid per referral not taking account of whether they do 4 weeks, leave half way through or not start. Seems a big waste of money, of course it is not if it is a bribe for a benefit sanction.

Can vexatious or malicious referrals occur? Indeed they can – and will. Numerous referrals too.

Why can you not understand it is a work placement not a sanction scam? Well… if a sanction of 13 weeks is caused; such claimant who is deemed necessary to have such experience of work discipline is not asked to do “balance of time” and the provider keeps the full amount for the 4 weeks without any further service delivery to that person. However, second (etc.) sanctions are 26 weeks if within a year of the first sanction of 13 weeks. For a latter sanction to take place the person would have to be referred back to the scheme (i.e. after 3 months). If the need for that person to be referred to such scheme to meet such objectives is so significant then “balance of time” should be as mandatory as the scheme itself, especially that such claimant may receive hardship payments and the taxpayer should be getting value for money with such payment spread out over the 4 weeks paid on attendance.

Some interesting quotes….

4.5.2 Sanction periods

If a customer is deemed to have acted in a way that could give rise to a benefit sanction as defined in 4.5.1, a referral to a Decision Maker would be made for a decision as to whether or not a sanction should be applied to the customer’s Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Sanctions will increase in length for second or subsequent breaches.

The sanctions will be of the following duration:

(a) thirteen weeks removal of Jobseeker’s Allowance for a first act or omission;

(b) twenty-six weeks removal for a second transgression leading to a failure determination which is made within 12 months of the first Mandatory Work Activity sanction starting to run.

and

4.9 Requirement to complete Mandatory Work Activity

Once a customer has been sanctioned for actions relating to Mandatory Work Activity, they will not be required to complete the balance of four weeks on the placement.
The scheme has been designed in this way to reinforce to customers that they should take the opportunity to participate in Mandatory Work Activity seriously, and cannot disengage and re-engage as it suits them.

To get a 26 week sanction its clear that such person must be referred back in 3 months time after the first sanction has ended.

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  1. April 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I love the way they call people ‘customers’ who can then get ‘sanctioned’.

    Do you suppose Sainsbury’s will be sanctioning people and putting them on mandatory work activity if they get stroppy about the baked beans?

    • George Orwell
      April 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm

      Got to agree, the word “customer” is a bit Orwellian. Outside of DWP-world a customer is someone who purchases goods from another, this implies free choice. In DWP-world it would be perfectly OK for Sainsbury’s to drag a “customer” from off the street and force them to “choose” to buy baked beans from Sainsbury’s under threat of sanction.

      • April 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm

        Yes, but jobseekers etc. are customers in a 100% dominated market by Jobcentre Plus.

        They have every “choice” to decide:

        * whether to turn up to an appointment
        * whether to sign off
        * whether to get a job (just like as if you can fill in a form and get one in 2 mins)
        * whether to play ball
        * whether to appeal a sanction

        It would be funny next time someone signs on to ask for another person to sign them on as “free choice” being a “customer” and all.

      • Jules
        April 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm

        You mean, Work Programme, that I could send me nan into do my signing on for me, being a “customer” and all :-)

      • Down and Out in Ipswich
        April 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm

        The “choice” to sign off?! Then what? Starve to to death in some back alley? Is that really a “choice”?

      • April 18, 2011 at 9:20 am

        Indeed – there is a choice for everything. I assume Work Programme meant she/he would turn to a life or crime as a alternative. Sounds a good “choice” to make come to think of it! :D

      • April 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

        hehe Jules, love the suggestion!

        I agree “signing off” isn’t a choice without any income for the poor who is decent and not liking to steal or defraud for income.

    • April 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm

      There will be flashmob protests outside any “employer” who takes on workfare “employees”. These might include narrowing the entrance to supermarkets etc. pissing off their customers.

      The “customer” title pisses me off!! haha

      • April 17, 2011 at 8:00 pm

        Almost missed your comment Work Programme about flashmob protests. I don’t know if you were being serious but I like the sound of it. Anything to disrupt their business is welcome plus the embarrassment it will cause them!

      • April 18, 2011 at 11:05 am

        Totally serious. The current lets-advertise-a-protest-for-a-month-or-twos-time attitude fails as police are all too prepared.

        It needs to be planned as soon as… element of surprise! Not everyone will be able to make it but we can ensure there will be many of them in the future.

        The main part is peaceful protest is a right… not giving the police a heads up, not only saves the taxpayer money (i.e. less units deployed) but it prevents the pre-thought (yes prejudice) that such action is about violence or people wanting to cause “trouble” … its not.

  2. Crystal Balls
    April 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    “Under Part 4 of the draft Regulations, customers who receive a sanction for acts or omissions relating to Mandatory Work Activity will have access to the existing hardship arrangements, in accordance with the provisions of Part 9 of the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996 or Part 9A in the case of a joint-claim couple.”

    http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/pdf/mandatory-work-activity.pdf

    • April 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      Nice, what part of “I want all of my benefit which the law says is how much I need to live on” do these people not understand?

      MWA is highly discretion based. There is also no guarantee that a person who has got a sanction can get hardship payments as again this is another decision that you have to apply for.

  3. April 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Be nice to hear some suggestions from visitors of how we can fight this?

    I’m going to compile a blacklist of employers in my area who get involved in MWA and put it on YouTube as well as leafleting calling for a boycott of the business

    • Crystal Balls
      April 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      Hopefully, their won’t be enough placements to make this workable…

      • April 17, 2011 at 10:21 pm

        Good point, Crystal Balls. JHP couldn’t find enough placements for those on FND who’d be sent to them for 3 months from Ingeus. So I, and many others completed FND without ever having do the 4 week unpaid work placement.

        Low and behold, and who has got the contract to run MWA in my area – none other than JHP!

      • April 18, 2011 at 9:18 am

        You couldn’t make it up!

      • April 18, 2011 at 10:58 am

        JHP.. founded in 1983… still advertising their 25th Anniversary. I make that 2008 as their anniversary year… it is now 2011…

        Let it go ffs! :D

    • April 18, 2011 at 11:00 am

      The Work Programme Network is publishing a nationwide list of employers who get involved.

      I will probably allow “fair play” which is removing names of employers whom over a proper placement of meaningful work actually takes on the placement candidate as an employee – I doubt this will happen :D

      • Crystal Balls
        April 18, 2011 at 11:06 am

        I can’t see why any employer would want angry, embittered Workfare slaves wreaking havoc in their organisations…

      • April 18, 2011 at 11:22 am

        http://mandatoryworkactivity.co.uk/why-mwa-not-wfyb.html

        workfare slaves will not be limited to the long-term unemployed. This increases the likelihood of new claimants going through this hurdle who are more likely to accept it.

        It is all about control and intimidation. This is why workfare will always result (in regards to placements in the workplace; just like what happened under New Deal etc) in being the muppet where the paid member of staff delegates all the crap stuff for you to do.

        It is just like insurance with “risk”… you pay premiums in case something may happen and if it doesn’t you lose the money you have paid.

        You delegate tedious jobs to workfare slaves such as writing out envelopes, data inputting, cleaning etc. and there is a chance that someone will mess up costing your organisation money. For example, someone deliberately putting wrong addresses on envelopes for say 500 envelopes. More of an inconvenience than anything as the cost is just about £3 plus cost of printing the letters out again. Say £10 tops. Always some other workfare slaves willing to do it correctly next time.

        But community placements under MWA could be litter picking in parks and emptying doggie poo bins… – something I don’t mind doing but PAID and with gloves etc. – the sanction aspects will be strong enforced.

  4. John Short
    April 19, 2011 at 1:23 am

    So the firm that uses you as a source of unpaid labour for a month gets paid £800 for you? I thought the owner paid for his slave not got paid to use the slave. Anyway that aside. I hope anyone with half a brain in the position of been forced to work gratis for these employers will quietly suggest to the employer if they might have an under-the-counter payment/off the books payment. Unlikely but it might just shame the greedy bastards and if every claimant forced to be there repeats the request for an under the counter payment/off the books payment as a gesture of good will then the greedy employer might just get the message and make the offer without been asked! case in point-claimant sent to food wholesale firm for a month. The retailer supplied supermarkets. Has anyone noticed the rocketed cost of food in supermarkets. The wholesailer didn’t even offer the claimant some wholesale food. Heartless and greedy. Of course the claimant didn’t seem bright enough to ask. You’ll nought from these fkrs unless you/we all ask/demand even!They’ll just continue to treat you like dog dirt on their shoe-if you allow them to. So ask-any chance of a bung gov’nor? £10 or £20 can make a lot of difference to someone stuggling to survive on the dwindling amount of dole they receive. And the dole is worth a lot less now than it was say 3 years ago. More like £35 I would say than £65.

    • April 19, 2011 at 9:16 am

      It is supply and demand though!

      Why have 5 slaves to get paid £800 each, when you can have 10 slaves and get paid £400 each?

      (Yes exactly, owner buys the slaves, not paid to use the slaves… but I guess the jobseekers are a) owned by JCP and b) in debt because of it)

      There is no indication of it yet however, in WfYB scheme providers were allowed to SELL people to employers. This hasn’t been asked as far as I am aware.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some sort of financial incentive to providers from employers… remember there will be “cherry picked” and “parked” people on workfare as under Mandatory Work Activity there is not a restriction to the person other than anyone who has the means to scrape by unemployed without claiming JSA.

      Its likely you will have the “common muck” (that is everyone else) shipped by minibus to employers like a chicken or meat factory…. while Jobcentre Plus decides along with the provider the “premium clients” of whom are deemed better skilled and work ready, who are able to be sold to an agency or employer for say £50 or £80 per week – which is approx up to £100 saving per week for the employer.

      So the high volume solution (paid less for more people) can pay dividends if the employer is willing to pay to have people working there. Of course, this would be kept quiet from JCP and the participant in most cases.

    • April 19, 2011 at 9:31 am

      As for supermarkets… its best to understand that there is no such thing as wholesalers as they are wholesalers in their own right. The only increase to costs would be VAT increase (most food (non-luxury) has not got VAT on it) although employers were allowed relief for the switch over period and fuel costs…

      When it starts to cost Tesco more for products as of fuel, their profit margins remain almost constant (in basic terms, they will vary if people cannot afford to buy the food) as they will go to the manufacturer saying they are willing only to pay £x for the product. Supermarkets elsewhere will follow suit. Manufacturers don’t have much choice but to take big price cuts at huge financial loss as the alternative is no one stocking the volume of your goods and loss of jobs, cant afford to pay for plant costs etc.

      So the supermarkets are relying on fear of the financial crisis and jumping on the Government bandwagon of cuts playing the “prices are as cheap as we can afford them” card. Tescos for example has billions of profits per year, they could make prices more reasonable by cutting their profit margins.

      After all Tesco and other supermarkets don’t buy stock like the bottom retailer, they then add their retail price, the stock they get are on 7/14/30/60 day payment terms (depending on the deal with each manufacturer) so in most cases… its like the supermarket gets free food, customers take them off the shelves the same day, Tescos pick up all the money, then during the payment term cycle pays a fraction (the cost per unit from manufacturer) of that to the manufacturer.

      As for benefit payments, I would say £35-40 is about right as everything is far too expensive!! probably £25 when including sanction risks.

      As for why providers will be paid to USE slaves… its a BRIBE in return for saving £1000 by sanctions (that is after paying the bribe)

  5. April 19, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I expect the likes of ASDA, Tesco, Poundland, The Range, etc. to be accepting workfare “employees”.

    Poundland is notorious for taking on unpaid staff. You must realise how big this business is… it takes over a million quid in the tills per day. It is a single price point retailer… some things were a bargain, the rest of stuff are 50p, 60p, 70p and 80p items priced at £1.

    I popped in there yesterday funny enough, apart from the potential “bargains” like reject rugs and albums for £1 (the bin man from X Factor lol!) items of stationery are overpriced at £1. The recession I think have done them over, it used to be packed, now moving into a big store, there were only 6 (potential) customers plus me, with 2 members of staff at the till bored out of their heads… no longer do people get a basket then start filling it up only to find out later at home, you could have got the same items for half the price.

  6. Neil Young
    September 20, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Can anyone tell me if you can refuse to give your address details to the employer you’ve been sent to on MWA? Surely then no employer would take you on if you didn’t tell him your personal details.

    • September 21, 2011 at 11:06 am

      Neil Y: Are they asking for it? Then don’t tell them if you don’t want to.

      Or, better still, just ask the employer you’ve been sent to why he wants this information. Just say the provider already has this information.

      But be careful, don’t go in bolshy otherwise you risk getting your JSA suspended – and the suspensions on MWA are brutal!

  7. allan johnson
    July 3, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    my idiot advisor tried to put me onto the mwa but when he phoned the provider who sets up the placement he was told that a local furniture charity which takes mwa placements couldnt be guaranteed
    he then got me to go and see them to do voluntary work with them the next time i saw him he filled in a form (which i asked to read before signing and he had put down on the form that i will put voluntary work on my cv yeah right like new deal helped me get work 89 employers when asked didnt like new deal participants applying for jobs with them hence the reason i got 89 rejection letters!
    idiot advisor also forced me with benefit sanction threat to agree to working 8am to 6pm seven days a week and also to consider jobs in dundee when i pointed out that during high winds the road bridge(the only way back into fife from dundee by road) is closed during high winds and would be stranded there his reply was “its not my problem”
    ive worked locally all my working life when i could get work and am 54 now and damned if am working outwith the town where i live at my age
    only job ive been offered recently was doing two paper rounds for £40 per week now if it had been three rounds paying £60 per week i think i would have been very tempted to sign off and do them at least i wouldnt have to cowtow to these rules some chinless wonder in whitehall has thought up to victimise the unemployed
    yet i know someone who has signed on without a break since 1981 never worked or applied for jobs in that time apart from doing compulsory goverment schemes yet he seems to get away with not finding work with no threats of benefit sanctions or anything else yet the rest of us who want to work and are claiming benefit through no fault of our own
    i do jobsearch on the jcp site 5 times a day i check the local daily paper every day and the weekly local paper once a week but does doing this keep these employment advisors happy does it heck
    its the same crap jobs repeat advertised every other week as an example a car valeter place in glenrothes has been trying to fill a vacancy for over a year so its either a crap job or anyone taking the job doesnt like it and has left the job hence repeat advertising of this job
    cleaners carers and hotel staff including kitchen porters seem regular transient vacancies i cant do heavy lifting due to arthritis yet another idiot advisor forced me to apply for a factory labouring job in glenrothes despite it being temporary(2 weeks) and you had to have a cbflc and h&s cert when i phoned i was told the vacancy was filled and that you had to have a flc and h&s cert and that heavy lifting was involved i pointed out it might be an idea to put this in the job description that these certs and heavy lifting was required must be physically fit
    it was readvertised three weeks later!

    • allan johnson
      July 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm

      correction to above the 8am to 6pm was forced on me for my jobseekers agreement and i only do two hours per week voluntary at the furniture charity presently being shown how to safety test electrical goods like toasters kettles tvs vcr dvd players hi fi etc either that or trying to do as little as possible during the two hours !
      as long as i do something while am there it keeps them happy but still hasnt got my idiot advisor off my back yet though

  8. JSA
    September 30, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    So George Osborne thinks that people on Jobseeker’s Allowance should have to “earn” their benefits by cleaning up litter and the like?

    What he fails to mention is that private sector companies like SEETEC will be paid up to £800 for each person partaking in this new scheme.

    If the Chancellor truly wants to help find unemployed people work, then might I suggest giving them a job and using the £800 to pay them a liveable wage. This would actually have the effect of reducing the cost to the taxpayer, instead of spending millions more with little, if any, reduction in the numbers claiming unemployment benefits.

  9. allan lowden
    April 16, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I just looked at some details for MWA and it states going on a placement will be tailored to meet your needs. I was looking for experience in Business Admin having completed my Btech level2 and have ended up humping donation bags up and down 2 flights of stairs even though I have some health problems. I have just been to JC+ and been told no details of problems on the system so I can do any job, will not be moved to a new placement and it was tough….. It is just creating ill will. I do not mind work experience / placement if it is of some benefit.

    • Andrew Coates
      April 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      “Tailored to your needs” indeed.

      The MWA is not a bespoke tailors, more like a sweat-shop.

  1. March 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm

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