The Daily Malice, better known as the Daily Mail, ran an interesting story yesterday. According to the newspaper the Government have released figures that show that half of those who are on unemployment benefit who are referred for 'mandatory work activity' by the Jobcentre, prefer to stop claiming benefits rather than be dragooned into undertaking forced unpaid labour.
Government figures show that 20% of claimants referred for 'mandatory work activity' cease claiming unemployment benefit immediately and another 30%, have their benefits stopped when they fail to turn up. So impresssed is the Government with the results that it is extending 'mandatory work activity' nationwide, so as to catch a further 50,000 unemployed. A source quoted by the newspaper said that the results so far had been 'extraordinary' and added:
"This has started on a relatively small scale, to see how it would work, but nobody expected the results we are seeing...for the majority it is proving to be a push that gets them off benefits. What this demonstrates is that there really is a hardcore of claimants who have absolutely no intention of working come what may."
Although the government presents these work-for-dole schemes as offering training and work experience for the unemployed, the figures only confirm what has been known for some time, that these schemes are about forcing people off benefits in order to reduce the benefits bill. People working on the schemes are exempted from minimum wage legislation and are effectively being compelled to undertake forced labour in order to retain their unemployment benefit.
Last November, we wrote that solicitors from 'Public Interest Lawyers' in Birmingham, were acting on behalf of two clients involved in the 'mandatory work activity' programme and were seeking a judicial review of the scheme on the grounds that their clients were forced to work against their will which amounted to a breach of their human rights under article 4(2) of the Human Rights Act, which states:
"No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour."
Northern Voices blog has frequently published articles about these work-for-dole schemes (see our posting "Motivating the Workshy - New Deal Bum Deal" September 2009) which in our view amount to an appalling abuse of human rights. No one should be forced into undertaking forced labour, a practice which is more commonly associated, with totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany.