‘Help To Work’ is the mass workfare scheme announced by George Osborne at last year’s Tory Party conference. Those leaving the Work Programme without a job – which is almost everyone – will either have to sign on every day or be forced to work for no pay for a ‘community’ organisation for six months. The whole package is expected to cost almost a third of a billion, with most of that money lining the pockets of private sector profiteers running the scheme.
The problem is no-one knows who those providers are yet, including the DWP themselves. A response to a Freedom of Information request dated April 10th said that the tender for ‘Help To Work’ was still ongoing. The DWP have also said that the guidance for companies running the scheme will not be published until the launch date, 28th April.
What we do know is that Help To Work is already mired in chaos. Several high profile volunteer’s organisations have condemned the plans whilst three of the largest supporters of other workfare schemes have said they will not accept placements. Both The Conservation Volunteers and The Salvation Army were expected to bid for Help To Work contracts or sub-contracts, and neither of them have. YMCA have also said they will not accept placements on the scheme, whilst even workfare quango Groundwork are wobbling.
This is more than just an embarrassment for Help To Work, it is a fucking disaster and one was that was entirely predictable. For years workfare programmes have come close to collapse due to a lack of available work placements. Despite what politicians would like to think, the charitable sector has no need for hundreds of thousands of forced workers. The truth is that there isn’t enough workfare to go round for everyone on benefits, let alone real, paid work. The Community Action Programme pilot - a similar workfare scheme to Help To Work - found that placements could only be found for 63% of participants. This took place before scores of charities distanced themselves from workfare due to huge pressure from their supporters who turned out to be disgusted that these organisations used unpaid forced labour.
Help To Work is not the only DWP scheme that looks to be in trouble. Remember Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to warehouse unemployed people for six months at a time on full time job search? No, well it seems neither does he. There has been no sign at all of this scheme, which was also announced at the Tory Party Conference.
It will the the demise of Help To Work which will be the biggest embarrassment to this Government however. This is their latest big idea to fix unemployment after the disaster that has been the Work Programme. It already appears to be yet another shambles. Whatever is announced next Monday – if anything at all – the Help To Work scheme is unworkable.
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid