Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Mandatory Work Activity: Social Security Advisory Committee Root-And-Branch Criticisms.

with 3 comments

Welfare Reform Deals with Feckless Chavs.

‘Reform’ of the benefits system, that is turning the clock back, is ‘controversial’.

Controversy always takes place within narrow limits.

Ed Miliband’s shadow Minister for Work and pensions, Liam Byrne has criticised aspects of the changes – defending those he thinks the public like, and laying into those they will not have much sympathy with .

So, while attacking the latest measures’  impact on the disabled, and the use of the notorious ATOS outsourcer,  he has accepted the proposition that there is an underlying problem with the system.

That is, he agrees with the idea that there are those ‘taking advantage’ of the ‘something for nothing’  benefit ‘culture’. 

Byrne has concentrated on the need for “responsibility” in the Welfare State. In this vein he sees his his job as defending the “squeezed” middle (Here).

Politicians, and people in authority, since the days of the Pyramids,  have had little time for the feckless and irresponsible. There’s always been some ready to toady to the bosses in this respect.

Unfortunately not everyone is a member of a conscientious hard-working family .

Most are labelled as work-shy when they’re not. Some many indeed be incorrigible.

Punishing them is an attractive option –  for those short of scapegoats and real jobs to offer.

The Coalition plans to deal with one group of these people. 

For those claiming benefits Mandatory Work Activity (MWA)   is designed to tackle  the problem of chavs and the ne’er do wells. This is a punishment for those deemed not activity seeking work. up to 30 hours per week over a period of four consecutive weeks  

This will men  unpaid labour – usually manual work. In all probability this period will be extended. Those who don’t comply, or do their job badly, will be further punished by benefit sanctions. Some risk being denied all benefits for a period of three years. There is little idea of what will happen to the homeless, without money, who find themselves in this position

The thin-end of the wedge to a full-blown workfare programme, which threatens to replace salaried employment with state enforced benefits-only labour,  MWA was looked at by the Social Security Advisory Committee.  to Here.

These Extracts from their Original Report (end of May)  illustrate the fundamentally flawed nature of the Mandatory Work Programme.(available here):

May 2011.

We had a number of concerns as discussed below.

‘workfare’ type activity improving outcomes for people who are out of work. The Department’s research indicates that “there is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work”

“As we discuss below, there is evidence to suggest that by limiting the time available for job search, activities such mandatory work activity can in fact reduce the participants’ chances of finding employment.

“claimants who are satisfying the conditionality rules (otherwise they would be subject to a sanction) but who, in the view of a Personal Adviser appear to display what is deemed to be the ‘wrong attitude’”

“We are concerned that these regulations are appearing to amend the body of case law which defines what ‘actively seeking work’ means and that people will be sanctioned by being sent to mandatory work activity even though they are doing what the law requires. Although detailed guidance may be developed by the Department at this stage it seems that referral is to be based purely on the views and opinions of the Personal Adviser. Claimants can be fully engaged with the conditionality requirements but in effect a claimant can still be mandated to do more.”

“activity as a beneficial change, people will not be permitted to volunteer to take part. This seems to us to signal that being mandated to mandatory work activity is regarded as a punishment rather than an opportunity to learn and develop new behaviours and skills.”

“Employers are unlikely to value references that come from forced work schemes, as they will not perceive such a reference as evidence that the participant has the skills to undertake an actual job and are more likely to see mandatory participation as a negative sign of participants’ work readiness and willingness to work.”

The “minimum to satisfy JSA conditionality, there is a risk that the presence of mandatory work activity on a jobseeker’s CV could stigmatise a jobseeker when applying for a job in the future, indicating as it does, a Departmental view that the person exhibits an inappropriate attitude to work. There is the potential for an employer to confuse this activity with ‘community payback’ further stigmatising the jobseeker.”


“We recommend that there is robust monitoring of placements to ensure that:Participants are treated properly and appropriately; The placement is of the required quality – including providing access to training and provision of good quality work activity; and Employers are not using the participant, employers are not using the participant/s to replace waged workers or solely for their own financial gain.

We recommend that detailed guidance be given to employers about the type of work participants can be asked to undertake and what they will be expected to provide for the participant, including their legal responsibilities (such as health and safety law).

We recommend that as part of the agreement to take on participants employers should be required to provide a reference for the participant after completing the placement.”

The Social Security Advisory Committee is clearly made up of people who understand the way the world works.


MWA will be, as they suggest, a form of punishment, inflicted arbitrarily by ‘advisers’.

  • It resembles Community Payback – that is a criminal sentence.
  • It is open to a wide range abuses, stemming from the lack of rights for those undergoing it.
  • The potential for employers and the contracting bodies, including companies, from the ‘Unemployment Biznis’, like Seetec (more here) to exploit MWA for financial gain is great.
  • The system will stigmatise people.
  • It will not help increase genuine employment.

We wonder why these eminently sensible voices have not been heard by any politician?

For the moment we can, and should,  back the Boycot Workfare campaign – here.

(This is expanded from an original post on Ipswich Unemployed Action.)

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2011 at 11:10 am

3 Responses

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  1. “As we discuss below, there is evidence to suggest that by limiting the time available for job search, activities such mandatory work activity can in fact reduce the participants’ chances of finding employment.

    I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.


    June 28, 2011 at 9:58 pm

  2. […] such as mandatory activity as a ‘volunteer’… Shame it’s been shown to be fundamentally flawed by a Parliamentary Select Committee…Also on benefit ‘reform’, the first ESA appeals were received in January 2009. […]

  3. Thanks for this, I’ve only just found out about this legislation/practice, and I’m quite shocked. I intuitively felt queasy at the thought of unpaid placements, but have been lacking the facts until tonight. Mandatory Work Activity sounds terrible, and I really feel for people who are subject to it.


    February 24, 2012 at 11:53 pm

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