Written Evidence |
1. Letter to the Chair, from Mr A. Fisher, of
17 October 2010
I am writing to you with a concern I have over the
current proposals within the 2010 Welfare Bill; namely that the
Coalition government are looking to encompass an element of a
United Sates style 'Welfare to Work' programme and its likely
impact upon Human Rights.
In particular I am very concerned that should an
individual find themselves without work for an extended period
(through no fault of their own other than economic conditions
outside their control) and claiming one of current main benefits
i.e. Job Seekers Allowance and/or Housing Benefits, they will
be forced to undertake community type activities in order to continue
to receive benefits.
As I am sure you are aware Article 4 (ii)Servitude
of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protects European
citizens from the effects of Forced Labour; namely where people
are forced to work against their will by the threat of destitution,
detention, violence or other extreme hardship to themselves or
their family. Clearly to make a so-called 'work for your dole'
programme effective there has to be an element of compulsion.
Therefore if an individual refuses to participate and the Department
of Work & Pensions (DWP) threatens to reduce or stop any or
all parts of their benefits; then the DWP has broken ECHR legislation.
The simple threat of stopping benefits for not participating in
the programme would in my understanding be enough to have invalidated
Article 4 (ii).
There are a number of exemptions to Article 4 (ii)
namely, during a state of emergency, work enacted in lieu of a
custodial sentence, military conscription and work, which is part
of normal civic duty. The Coalition government may try and claim
that any such programme would sit within the final of the four
exemptions. However no 'reasonable person' could argue that this
is the case, given you do not see the elderly or teenagers scrubbing
graffiti off town centre buildings up and down the land. Alternatively
perhaps the government intends to change the law to criminalize
the unemployed, by making it a criminal offence to be out of work!
My concern is that rather than putting in place significant
programmes of retraining or re-skilling of the long-term jobless,
it will be seen as politically expedient and cheaper to just leave
them in a suspended state of permanent 'feudal serfdom' to the
British tax payers. Any such 'work for your dole' programme clearly
has to be voluntary and not compulsory. Any Welfare Act moving
forward which forces the unemployed to undertake community type,
street cleaning, tidying of parks and or graffiti removal for
a period of say 30-40 hrs per week in return for their JSA or
Housing Benefit would be illegal under not only the minimum wage
legislation, but more significantly Article 4 (ii) of the ECHR.
17 October 2010