DWP, I Don’t Think You Have The Right

There was a partial victory when out of the government’s three slavery programmes, one had its policy rewritten one Friday so that it would drop mentions of how it skirted around Minimum Wage Legislation.  That wasn’t enough, though, and it was dropped within a couple of days.

The 16-24 year olds of this country could breathe easier – their first taste of work would not be slavery at a quarter of the going rate or losing that paltry quarter if they didn’t take it.

The 25s and upwards didn’t have the same luxury and remarkably, the disabled people of this country, that massive minority of people who are less likely to be in gainful employment, who work for less on average when they do and whose promotion prospects are less likely, they got to wear not the 8-week programme that the over-25s still had and the under-24s were out of, no.  They got to wear INDEFINITE slavery for what are ironically termed “benefit” (there is no benefit in being a pauper).

Now it is one thing to get these policies overturned but let’s move into the policy for a second.  Walk a mile in the shoes of someone who may not be well enough to walk that mile.  Let’s pretend we are one such “claimant” or “customer” or whatever the DWP calls “the great unwashed” these days.

You are mandated to work, you get sent to Workhouse A.  So does the thirty-year old non-disabled person next to you.

When you go there, you have a right, an inalienable right, to reasonable adjustments in the workplace.  Reasonable adjustments mean that an employer has a duty, with precious little by way of justification to be exempt, to ensure that the Spoonie (see previous blog post) is able to work with the same opportunity as a non-disabled worker or in this case, slave sent alongside him.  Any obstacle or disadvantage that can be offset and isn’t lends itself to a claim of discrimination on the grounds of disability that could end up at a disability tribunal.  There is no ceiling to what such a tribunal could award.

Now, the issue of reasonable adjustments only apply when you are aware that a worker has a disability.  If of course a worker has a disability and chooses not to disclose it, or disclose it in a limited fashion, then that is their prerogative.  Confused?  It’s a minefield, I know.  Here’s the example’s nub, though.

The DWP’s own internal policies will work on the premise that if you disclose to the DWP, it cannot extend nor pass on that disclosure without your permission.  The Data Protection Act of 1998 prevents public bodies from hawking sensitive information about you around.  There is no tacit disclosure, it is not something the body can assume; the disclosure is yours and yours only to make and you can choose as wide or as narrow as you see fit.  You need give no justification.  In terms of “sensitive information” it doesn’t come more sensitive than disability.  Furthermore, Article 4 and Article 8 of the Human Rights Act of 1998 may also come into play.

Article 4 relates to slavery and forced labour.  In the forced labour element, you cannot be forced to work under the threat of punishment that you have not agreed to accept.  I think sanctioning someone for declining the misery of unending workfare fits that bill.  Now, let’s add Article 8.

Article 8 is the right to private and family life.  Essentially you have the right to carry on your life privately without government interference.  That can be interpreted to encompass race, religion, sexuality but above all (yes, there is an overarching obligation) disability.  Your disability is yours.  The government doesn’t have a right to intervene in it, talk about it to its neighbours or pass it on to an employer determined to work you into the ground forever for pennies.  See the crossover with Article 4?

Now, Workfare.  The non-disabled 30-year-old can be sent on a finite scheme and suffer no sanction at the end.  At the same company, the disabled person can be sent on the same scheme forever and suffer sanction should they ever choose to leave or fail to discharge their “duty”.

That’s clearly unfair – indeed, I would say that opens up the floor to the fact that by demanding more out of someone with a disability, this scenario is clearly discriminatory – but what you should ask is this:

How did Workhouse A find out the disabled candidate had a disability?  If they didn’t find out from the disabled worker, who, given the choice of servitude/slavery forever or for 8 weeks, is not going to admit the condition that doesn’t  allow parole.  It can only be from a disclosure from the referring body, the DWP.

DWP, I don’t think you have the right.  I’d like to see the rationale that circumvents the legislation above because DPA98, HRA98 and EA2010 aren’t optional.  They’d better have a good answer.

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