However yesterday’s Guardian report contains one chink of hope which may yet prove the unraveling of this vicious and inept welfare regime. Earlier reports that British Heart Foundation are pulling out of workfare appear to now be confirmed. This is despite the floundering welfare-to-work companies who run the scheme offering them bribes to continue using forced unpaid labour.
Cancer Research UK are also set to abandon exploiting people on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme in their charity shops. Whether this also applies to Work Programme participants forced into unpaid work is unclear. Let’s hope so. If not those on sickness benefits diagnosed with cancer could soon find themselves working unpaid for the UK’s largest cancer charity.
Disability charity Scope – who from Monday will have powers to send sick and disabled people on endless workfare themselves as Work Programme providers – are also reviewing their involvement in workfare and may pull out.
Many in the so called third sector have been shamefully slow to wake up to the realities of workfare, no doubt because so many of them have lucrative Work Programme sub-contracts themselves.
These announcements, by three major UK charities, are important however. British Heart Foundation are believed to have been one of the biggest workfare placement providers. Cancer Research were probably not far behind. This leaves a big hole in the number of organisations who are prepared to abandon decency and their charitable credentials and force unemployed, unwell or disabled people into forced labour.
The ‘voluntary work’ option of Tony Blair’s New Deal, the first mass workfare scheme, largely collapsed due to providers not being able to find enough work placements.
Some charities are unrepentant. The Conservation Volunteers boast of how they have quietly and ruthlessly exploited 20,000 workfare workers since the 1980s. It is these types of charities, which need a lot of physical work doing and are not in the public eye, who are likely to make use of the Government’s plans to force disabled and in some cases terminally ill people onto workfare.
It has been public pressure, from demonstrations outside their premises to an onslaught of anger online, which has forced these charities out of workfare. With a huge escalation of workfare underway, it is down to all of us to make workfare unworkable.
Join the Week of Action Against Workfare Charities beginning on December 8th for starters.