Yesterday the Government introduced a new workfare bill to retroactively change workfare legislation judged unlawful by the High Court, so that it has always complied with the court ruling, even though for two years it did not. Its aim? To avoid paying back the JSA money it unlawfully stopped when people were ‘sanctioned’ on its workfare schemes. That the government would try to avoid paying was expected. What no one expected was how it plans to do so.
In its arguments to justify withholding social security people are due – an average of about £500 per person, £130 million pounds in total – the DWP has stated that:
“If the Department cannot make these retrospective changes, then further reductions in benefits might be required in order to find the money to repay the sanctions”
In short, if the government is made to obey the high court’s ruling, it will inflict collective punishment on those who can least afford it by finding £130 million pounds more in new cuts from the welfare
budget. Shockingly this is supported by Labour. Yet again the poorest will be made to pay for the mistakes of the powerful.
Iain Duncan Smith wants to ride rough shod over the law to continue his reign of incompetence, arrogance and punitive policies at the DWP. In a move which can only be interpreted as a desperate attempt to circumvent law and democracy, the second reading; committee stage; and third reading are all scheduled for one day: this Tuesday. Rather than face the consequences for his failing and unlawful schemes, he wants to rob £130m from people who should never have been sanctioned to start with.
The DWP argue that:
“A retrospective transfer of public money to this group of claimants would represent poor value to the taxpayer and will not help those unemployed enter employment… It is vital that in the present context of austerity measures the public purse is protected from such claims which could cost up to £130 million…”
This means that as of today YMCA, the Salvation Army and others are not only involved in profiting from workfare, they are now involved in implementing a policy in which the government threatens the poorest with collective punishment on a vast scale. Workfare is being used as an excuse to potentially introduce £130 million of additional benefits cuts by the back door. Those involved are propping up a government policy which clearly states that it will use collective punishment by lowering benefit payments to everyone.
Those sanctioned were on placements at the likes of the Salvation Army and the YMCA. Let them and other workfare providers know what you think.