The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) confirmed proposals to make claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of employment and support allowance (ESA) undertake unlimited and compulsory unpaid work experience.

The Guardian reports the DWP revealed the details of the new policy at a meeting with disability groups. A DWP spokesperson confirmed “​Placements would normally be short-term, but there is currently no set duration...”​ The DWP appears to have no intention of placing a time limit on work experience for claimants in WRAG. The DWP also confirmed that sanctions will be applied to benefit where a claimant fails to undertake work experience, and explained that “​...Ministers feel sanctions are an incentive for people to comply with their responsib​ility.”​

The Guardian highlights the disparity in the rules between those claiming jobseeker’​s allowance (JSA) whose requirement to complete work experience is limited and that of sick and disabled people who will be required to do unlimited work experience.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated one of its main concerns being around “​the capacity of relevant members of staff in Jobcentre Plus and work programme providers to make appropriate decisions about what type of work-related activity is suitable for claimants with mental health problems”​ and Neil Bateman of the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers referred to the “​completely inadequate legal and medical safeguard​s...”​

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at Mind, raised the issue that many claimants are incorrectly placed in WRAG when they should in fact be in the Support Group and expressed her concern that “​...If these people are then given a mandatory work placement this could be very damaging to their mental health, pushing them further away from the prospect of paid employmen​t.”​

The Guardian report can be found here


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