The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) plans to make disabled people work for no pay for charities, corporations and other firms, said Disabled People Against Cuts yesterday.
DPAC warned: ‘Disabled people and other targeted claimant groups are being forced to work for 30 hours a week for their benefits, that is for £2.25 an hour.’
If they refuse ‘they face their benefits being cut off for up to 13 weeks and possibly up to three years if Ian Duncan Smith has his way, leaving them in dire poverty and destitution.’
DPAC are holding demonstrations outside Tesco, 311 Oxford Street, London W1, and Tesco, next to Portcullis House, near Westminster tube station at 10am today under the slogan ‘Stop Tesco cashing in on unpaid labour’.
The group said: ‘Supermarket giant Tesco must know no shame.
‘As unemployment blights the lives of millions, Britain’s biggest private sector employer is taking on staff — for free.
‘This is part of the scandal of “workfare” — making people work unpaid or face being thrown off benefits.
‘Tesco reports that over the past four months some 1,400 people have worked for them without pay. Only 300 got a job with the company.
‘The Tory government is slashing jobs and then punishing the jobless. And to add insult to injury, they are forcing people to work for free to boost profits for big business.
‘That’s why this Saturday we will be demanding that workfare be scrapped immediately.
Liz Sayce, chief executive, Disability Rights UK, told News Line: ‘Disabled people want jobs and want work experience that leads to real paid work.
‘It has to be good work experience – which means real development and training opportunities, a serious chance of paid work through doing it, and strict time limits on any unpaid work experience.
‘Requiring long-term unpaid work is not fair.
‘Also, government must act to offer access to work support, for technology, interpreters etc, so disabled people can actually do internships and all kinds of work experience.
‘At the moment they are often excluded.’
In its response to the work-for-no-pay scheme, the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned: ‘The College has concerns about the impact of these proposals on people with mental health problems as they are often the most vulnerable members of society.
‘Without the government carefully considering these proposals before implementation, benefit claimants with mental disorders may experience uncertainty, stress, anxiety and a sense of unfairness.
‘We are already receiving reports from people distressed about their reassessment for ESA.
‘This is a matter of great concern for the College and service users because it not only impacts on their quality of life and hope for a better future, but can also lead to worsening mental health and increased contact with mental health services.’