REVEALED: The High Street firms that used benifit claimants for free labour

Government fought in the courts for four years to keep the companies’ identities a secret, saying it would damage their ‘commercial interests’

The Mandatory Work Activity required 120,000 people to work a 30-hour week unpaid to receive their £73 benefit

The names of hundreds of major companies and leading British charities who used a benefits scheme to employ people without paying them have been revealed after the government lost a four-year legal battle to protect their identities.

Well-known high street firms were among more than 500 organisations who used the free labour of welfare claimants, after they were forced to take unpaid work under rules brought in by David Cameron’s Coalition Government.

Their names were revealed after the Court of Appeal ruled against the Department for Work and Pension’s attempt to keep them a secret – at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees.

Read more List of organisations who used benefits claimants as unpaid labour

The list of 534 organisations, which can be read in full here, includes firms such as Tesco, Nando’s, Boots, Superdrug, Morrisons, Asda, Co-op, WHSmith, Poundstretcher, Cash Converter, DHL and a host of other major corporations.

And it also includes charities such as the British Red Cross, Age UK, Cancer Research, Marie Curie, the National Trust, Oxfam, the RSPB, the Salvation Army and Shelter.

Local councils who participated included Essex, Whitby, Leicester, Scarborough, Fenland, Thurrock, Hartlepool and Rochford.

They made use of free labour under the scheme for a six-month period between July 2011 and January 2012.

Campaigers said the list of companies should be shared far and wide and that the schemes did not help people find jobs.

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“Workfare provides free labour for businesses and charities, enforced by the threat of destitution through benefit sanctions, and paid for by the public – including people on workfare. Workfare doesn’t help people find jobs: it’s just an excuse for sanctions,” a spokesperson for the Boycott Workfare group told the Independent.

“The organisations that benefit by exploiting the forced, unpaid work of claimants have been shielded by the DWP’s secrecy for far too long. The DWP have been using this case to deny other requests for similar information.

“Now that the DWP has at last complied with the law and released the information that was requested in 2012, we should be able to get further details about where workfare it is taking place today.

“We encourage everyone who wants to see an end to workfare and punitive welfare policies to use and share this information, and to work together to press all the organisations involved in workfare to pull out immediately, as so many already have. ”

A spokesperson for Tesco – the only organisation out of more than a dozen on the list The Independent tried to contact that have actually provided a comment – said: “Prior to deciding the scheme wasn’t right for us, we had offered to pay those who were doing placements with us.

“As a business we remain committed to providing employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed.”

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said the scheme demonstrated the Conservative Government’s “skewed view of the world”.

“First they thought it was acceptable to force people into unpaid, poor quality work and couldn’t see why there was an outcry against the scheme,” she told the Mirror.

“To then use public money to try and keep the list of companies taking advantage of this a secret is beyond the pale.”

Under the Mandatory Work Activity, about 120,000 jobseekers had to work for free for 30 hours per week or they would have lost their £73-a-week benefit payment.

The scheme was criticised by the Work and Pensions Select Committee when it was introduced in 2011 and was scrapped by the government in 2015.

However the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refused to let the names of the companies who participated in the scheme be known.

DWP officials argued that revealing their identities would “hurt their commercial interests” because protesters might boycott them, despite the Information Commissioner ruling just a year into the scheme that the public should have access to the list.

After holding out for four years, the DWP was overruled by three judges at the Court of Appeal by a vote of two to one.

A DWP spokesman said: “Employment programmes help thousands of people every year gain new skills and experience to get into work.”

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Britain’s Conservative Party has set out plans to escalate the government’s assault on welfare

English: Iain Duncan Smith-London March 2010

Channel Islands Alternative Media Page

UK government set on deeper cuts to welfare

By Julie Hyland

20 July 2013

Earlier this week, Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said unemployed parents should only receive benefit for their first two children, meaning entitlement to child benefit and/or income support and other financial aid could potentially be removed for any children above that number.

Shapps claimed that the plan would place the unemployed on an “equal” footing with working parents. Unemployed parents who decide to have more than two children should “know that welfare is not going to fund that choice,” he said.

He suggested further restricting entitlement to housing benefit by barring all unemployed under-25-year-olds from access to the rent subsidy. Again, Shapps claimed that welfare benefit provided an “incentive” for unemployment. The proposal would affect some 380,000 jobless under-25-year-olds, forcing them to live with parents/friends or face homelessness.

Shapps’s comments came as the government’s cap on the amount of welfare benefits claimed by any household was rolled out across the country.

The scheme, first piloted in four London boroughs—Haringey, Enfield, Croydon and Bromley—means that no jobless household can receive more than £26,000 a year in benefit and other entitlements. It is part of a further £11.5 billion of cuts unveiled by the government in June. This comes on top of the £155 billion austerity measures already passed by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition since its election in 2010. The government’s Spending Round in June for the first time covered a single financial year—2015/2016. It therefore tied any future government (the general election is due in 2015) to the reduction.

Shapps’s statements were once again justified on the grounds that cutting welfare is motivated by “fairness” to taxpayers, as it ensures that no jobless household will receive more than the national average wage, regardless of its family size or circumstances.

The pilot cap has already caused great hardship. Haringey Council reported that 740 families lost income during the trial, with just 34 people finding employment. The government’s own figures calculated that up to 56,000 families will be hit, losing an average of £93 a week, while in London, some 7,000 households will lose more than £100.

London and the south are especially affected by the cap due to high housing and living costs. Families are being forced out of the capital and into accommodation in northern England where rents are cheaper.

Amid reports that Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has requested additional time to legislate for further changes to welfare for next year’s parliamentary session, the government is said to be intending to reduce the benefit cap still further. Conservative MPs are reportedly demanding it should be cut to £20,000. In addition, the Forty Group of Conservative MPs—so-called because they represent constituencies with the slimmest majorities—is demanding benefits be withdrawn from teenage mothers and a host of other measures.

Teenage single mothers should no longer be automatically entitled to help with their housing costs, or be considered a priority for social housing, they argue. They propose deducting fines for school truancy from the child benefit paid to mothers, while restricting access to “repeat” abortions.

Those most affected by the cap—and the additional measures now being proposed—are children. According to the Children’s Society, children are seven times more likely than adults to face hardship as a result of the measures. Matthew Reed said 140,000 children, compared with 60,000 adults, “will pay the price as parents have less to spend on food, clothing and rent.”

The amount of money supposedly “saved” by such measures is paltry. Teenage single mothers account for just 2 percent of all single parents. Similarly, the benefit cap is estimated to reduce social security spending by just £110 million this year and £185 million in 2014, because the vast majority of people already receive far below the cap. Only in May, Duncan Smith was publicly reprimanded by the UK Statistic Authority for publishing misleading figures as the supposed success of the pilot benefit cap. In an open letter on behalf of the authority, Andrew Dilnot said Duncan Smith’s claims on the numbers finding work was “unsupported by…official statistics.”

The Tories’ moves are clearly punitive. They are aimed at stigmatising and punishing the unemployed, while legitimising a broader offensive against social rights—from welfare to education and health care.

Rolled out under the heading “Rewarding Work”, Duncan Smith once again sought to set “working” families, “paying their taxes”, against the jobless, arguing, “The days of blank cheque benefits and people milking the system are over.”

The measures have the wholehearted support of the media, which routinely demonises the unemployed and promotes propaganda blaming welfare costs for the squeeze on spending, enabling the Conservatives to claim that their plans are in response to “public” pressure.

Not a word is said about the criminal activities of the major banks and financial institutions, which are responsible for the biggest economic crisis in 70 years. Billions have been and continue to be paid out to the banks and super-rich, while the majority of the population are put on rations.

Unemployment is nearly 3 million, including more than 1 million out of work and not claiming benefits. Employment is scarce, with much of that available temporary and low-paid. That is why the majority of those on benefits are the “working poor”, those whose pay is so low they need additional state subsidies to survive. Even this bare minimum—which acts as a subsidy to employers—is now being scrapped as the ruling elite seek to overturn all the social gains made by the working class.

A central role is played by the Labour Party, which is committed to maintaining the coalition’s benefit cuts and introducing more of its own. It has jettisoned its verbal opposition to the benefit cap, arguing that it should be determined three years in advance and have a regional component.

This week, Labour attacked Conservative plans from the right, arguing that they were too soft on welfare. Labour’s Liam Byrne denounced the cap for not being hard enough because it would not affect those with very large families and would do nothing to prevent those “living a life on welfare.”

A single-tier “universal credit” comes into effect later this year, which will streamline existing benefits into one, with the obvious aim of further slashing welfare payments. Labour claims that design flaws will mean that single jobless households with seven or more children will “slip through the cap.”

Meanwhile, the Trussell Trust reported that the numbers of people being referred for food parcels increased in the three months since the government’s welfare measures began by 200 percent. The voluntary food aid network reported that more than half of the 150,000 people referred for emergency food aid between April and June were affected by benefit cuts and delays, and financial problems caused by changes to housing.

“The reality is that there is a clear link between benefit delays or changes and people turning to food banks, and that the situation has got worse in the last three months,” said Executive Chairman Chris Mould.

DSD FUNDS £40k REPORT ON LOYALIST PARADING ‘BENEFITS’ !

‘ It is the very first time that we have got firm independent information on on the contrinformationt the loyal orders and the bands make to society in the North of Ireland – Nelson McCausland.

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SOCIAL development minister Nelson McCausland. aas defended a £40,000 report funded by his department into the economic benefits of loyal order and band parades. Compiled by accountants RSM McClure Waters, the report claimed that the loyal orders and bands generate almost £55 million in economic and social benefits for the North each year.

However, the ‘report on the Socio-econmic impact of the traditional Protestant parading sector in Northern Ireland‘, published yesterday, did not include the cost of policing these parades, which last year ran into millions of pounds. Speaking to The Irish NewsMr McCausland, a member of the Orange Order, defended the independence of the research. “The report was produced by an independent consultancy firm – a very well and highly regarded firm,” he said. “There was input from the Institute of Irish studies at Queen’s. niversity. “That shows the validity and the strength of the information. “This is solid, credible information and I sincerely hope that in the media it will receive the same levels of coverage that some newspapers might give to other events.” The £55m figure includes an estimated £39m contribution per annum through the provision of facilities – around 750 Orange Halls – the undertaking of community and volunteer work and fundraising.

English: Nelson McCausland (on right), Ministe...

Researchers claim parades boost the economy by another £15m a year through spending on goods and services, including regalia, uniforms, instruments and bus hire. The potential tourism revenue generated by those travelling to the North to watch or take part in the marching season, was not factored in the research. Mr McCausland described the research as “significant”. “It is the very first time that we have got firm independent information on the contribution that the loyal orders and the bands make to society in Northern Ireland,” he said. Drew Nelson, the grand secretary said : “The loyal orders and bands are an integral part of the fabric and make-up of the Protestant community and it is appropriate that their social and economic contribution to the wider society is now highlighted,” he said. SDLP assembly member Patsy McGlone said the economic benefits of parades should be balanced against the cost of policing them. He added there should be a report into the economic and social benefits of the GAA. While not equating the two I beleive a similar study into the economic and social impact of the GAA across the North must be commissioned by the DSD as well as the cultural benifits fully factored in through the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure.”

With many thanks to : Connia Young, Irish News.

I COULD LIVE ON £53 A WEEK CLAIMS UK CABINET MINISTER

” If I had to I would ” – Iain Duncan Smith.

Iain Duncan Smith’s minister’s salary is equivalent to about £1,600 a week after tax.

IAIN Duncan Smith yesterday dismissed claims that he was ” slashing ” welfare – and insisted that he could live on £53 a week. The UK’s work and pensions secretary said he was making the system fairer and giving people a chance to ” break free ” of benifits.

Ministers launched a fightback as 660,000 social housing tenents deemed to have a spare room begain to lose an average £14 a week in what critics have dubbed a ” bedroom tax “. It is part of a package of significant welfare and tax changes coming into force this month, which opponents say will hit poor familes and disabled people particularly hard. Changes to council tax benifits will see bills rise for an estimated 2.4 millon households in Britain rise an average £138 a year, with two million paying for the first time, an anti poverty group said. The system was yesterday hand-ed to town halls to operate but with 10 per cent less founding. On Saturday working-age benifits and tax-credits will be cut in real terms with the first of three years of maximum one per cent raises – well below the present rate of inflation. Two days later disabilty living allowence begains to be replaced by the personal independance payment which charites say will remove support from many people in real need. Later in the month trails begain in four London boroughs of a £500-a-week cap on any household’s benifits, and a new universal credit system. Piolt schemes for the flagship scheme have been scaled back amid reports -denied by welfare officials – that IT problems have derailed preparations for its rollout from October.

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Labour claims the impact of the measures and other coalition polices have left the average family almost £900 a year worse off. Market trader David Bennett told BBC Radio 4’s Today programe yesterday morning that he earned around £2,700 last year from working between 50 and 70 hours a week. He said his housing benifit had been cut even though his children stayed with him several days a week and his overall income was about £53 a week. It was not clear why Mr Bennett was not receiving tax credits. Mr Duncan Smith, whose ministerial salary is equivalent to about £1,600 a week after tax, stressed that he did not know Mr Bennett’s individual circumstances. However, asked whether he could live on £53 a week, the former army officer, who married into a wealthy family, replied : ” If I had I would.” During the course of the day more than 21,000 people signed a petition on  the change.org website calling for Mr Duncan Smith to “prove ” he could survive on £53 a week. The text urged him to ” live on his budget for at least one year “. He said the government was only trying to get welfare ” back in order “. ” We inherited a problem where we simply do not have the money to spend on all the things people would like us to do. ” What I am trying to do is get this so we don’t spend money on things that are unfair.” He urged critics to get the issue ” in perspective “.

With many thanks to : James Tapsfield, Irish News.