I have learned that there is a word for the type of program I and others have been forced into. It’s called workfare, and the idea started, as many of these terrible ideas do, in the United States. It started the idea that people on welfare are caught in a cycle of dependency caused by moral deficiency, and the only way to correct this is to enforce ethical behavior upon them. Of course, no one in the United States is all that concerned about workfare programs or their effectiveness or lack thereof, but similar programs have been tried in the United Kingdom. The most recent example resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. The ministry responsible for administering these programs denied it at first, but since had to admit that some of their overreaching policies had caused these deaths.
If similar statistics occurred in the United States, no one has tracked them. I do know plenty of people who are as bas or worse than I am who have been force into these programs because it’s the client’s responsibility to report the changes to the state agency that administers these programs. They are not forced into work assessment tests, unlike what seems to be happening in Great Britain. However, I did see one article that said that these programs count success by the number of people who go off of the welfare rolls, not by how many people who actually find work through these programs. Many of the cities that tried these programs saw an increase in homelessness. The only exception to this rule was, oddly enough, Indianapolis. Indianapolis’s program had one key difference from the IMPACT program that later replaced it, the contract the workfare agencies had with the city paid the agency based on its successes, and success was defined by placing people into a job that met certain wage requirements. When the state replaced Indy’s program with IMPACT, the statistics became comparable to other cities of its size.
No one in the United States seems to be concerned about people with disabilities who are forced into the program. The Puritan work ethic, which continues to damage this country in so many ways continues. If a person cannot get out of the program, most people assume that they are faking a disability. Sometimes even if a person can get out of the program, people assume they are still faking and just looking for a way to game the system.
I once subscribed to the attitudes held above. I might still resent being forced into a workfare program, but I would acknowledge that they are trying to help me and get me to the point where I want to be. If I’m honest, I will say that I’d still like to be there. My reality, however, is different. I know what my limits are. Almost every single entry-level job requires me to stand for long periods of time. I cannot do that right now. I’ve even been told to lay off driving, but I cannot do that as long as I have to stay in a workfare program, look for work and go to interviews. No one seems to think that the requirements of these programs make certain illnesses or conditions worse. Even if the people who run them do realize this, they seldom care.
At this point, I cannot help but think that Workfare programs exist to give middle class people who could finish college government jobs and to give politicians something to point to and say, “Look at how many people this program got off of welfare.” The fact that the need for food pantries has gone up, that an increased number of people are homeless, and that -- at least in Great Britain – there are documented deaths caused by these programs has not caused any politician to rethink the idea of workfare.
Workfare Death List UK