Protestors target ‘welfare to work’ industry event

Protestors target ‘welfare to work’ industry event

Ministers attending a summit of welfare-to-work providers had to get past a line of protesters today, as campaigners targeted an industry event at the University of London.

Anti-workfare campaigners and student activists targeted the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) as it met at Senate House in Bloomsbury, central London, this afternoon.

"The entire industry is based on coercion and bullying, it forces people to work unpaid for their benefits and drives down wages for those in paid work," said London student Holly Brooks.

"I'm disgusted that the University of London are hosting this event but it comes as no surprise.

"The University of London is very much complicit in practices of exacerbating poverty having outsourced Senate house support staff."

Employment minister Esther McVey, work and pensions minister Stephen Timms and Taxpayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Sinclair all attended today's event.

Iain Duncan Smith's 'workfare' programme was branded illegal in October, when he lost an appeal against a court judgement which said the department had failed to give welfare claimants sufficient information about what would happen if they refused to take part in free work for high street companies.

Cait Reilly, a 24-year-old who brought the case, had been volunteering at a museum where she hoped to find paid work when her welfare provider demanded she work for free for Poundland or face losing her benefits.

The court judgement was a hammer blow for the DWP programme and the literature around today's summit acknowledges the "challenges" faced by the industry in 2014.

A report released last year found Duncan Smith's work programme was worse at getting people into a job than if they had no intervention at all.

Figures for the first year of the programme showed that just two in every 100 people who enrolled in the scheme were employed for six months or more.