A disabled job-seeker who signed up to the government’s new Work and Health Programme was banned from using the toilet, washing his hands or accessing drinking water.
Ryan*, from north London, was attending a voluntary programme run by the charity Shaw Trust, which was supposed to help with his search for a job.
But when he turned up to the first session at the offices in Cricklewood, having cycled there in the rain, he asked to use the toilet to wash his hands, and was told the facilities were only for staff.
Ryan, who has experience of depression and anxiety and receives universal credit after previously being found fit for work – he was sacked from his last job after an anxiety episode – was told to use a nearby café instead.
When he insisted that he only wanted to wash his hands, he was escorted to the kitchen area, while a member of staff watched over him “like a prison officer”.
The following week, while attending his second weekly session, he asked to use the toilet, to be told again that the facilities were only for staff and that he should use the nearby café.
Ryan did not want to have to ask to use the facilities in a café, so he “cycled home really fast” after the session and used his own bathroom instead.
He is now refusing to return to the offices in Cricklewood Lane and has asked Shaw Trust to refer him to another service. He has also lodged a complaint about the way he was treated.
Ryan said: “This was a breach of my human rights.
“It is an unacceptable way to treat people, especially disabled people.
“I believe in fighting for my rights, so I made a complaint. I just feel that it is degrading.”
He added: “I’ve attended many jobcentre-sanctioned courses over the years and never have I experienced anything like this.
“In my opinion it’s not fit for purpose for holding any type of work programme-related support.”
Shaw Trust is one of the largest 25 charities in the country and says it provides “specialist services to help people gain an education, enter work, develop their career, improve their wellbeing or rebuild their lives”.
But last year, Disability News Service revealed that the charity had promised to “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of the work and pensions secretary and pledge never to do anything that harmed the public’s confidence in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in order to win the Work and Health Programme contract.
The £398 million, seven-year Work and Health Programme is replacing the Work Programme and the specialist Work Choice disability employment scheme across England and Wales, with contractors paid mostly by results.
Most of those referred to the scheme are expected to be disabled people.
Shaw Trust is one of the five main Work and Health Programme contractors.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “I think any organisation raking in so much money to supposedly provide services to disabled people can afford to provide premises which have a toilet and facilities for attendees to get both hot or cold drinks during the day.
“But, sadly, this Shaw Trust failure comes as no surprise given their previous track record in failing to meet disabled people’s needs on workfare-type programmes.”
A Shaw Trust spokesperson said: “Shaw Trust seeks to provide services in communities, and co-locates these services to ensure they are accessible to all clients.
“On this occasion the premises, which belong to our partner, in Cricklewood do not meet our required standards and this is already being addressed with them.
“The wellbeing of those participating on our programmes is a priority for Shaw Trust and we are already in contact with [Ryan] to support him at alternate locations to meet his individual needs.”
A DWP spokesperson refused to comment.
*He has asked for his full name not to be used
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