When the workfare row broke out earlier in the year Employment Minister Chris Grayling insisted that this form of ‘work experience’ was vital to helping unemployed people find work. Only last week the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme was extended, meaning tens of thousands more people will be sent to work full time for charities for no pay.
Ministers have fallen over themselves to sing the praises of voluntary work, claiming this wasn’t allowed under the last Government. That was a lie, but under new rules, full time volunteering will no longer be allowed under this Government.
The recently published draft regulations for Universal Credit state that volunteering will now only be permitted for 17 hours a week. Unless of course you are sent on Mandatory Work Activity, in which case you will be compelled, under threat of sanctions, to volunteer for 30 hours a week.
This reveals the truth about MWA. It is intended simply as a punishment aimed at those deemed to be not trying hard enough to find work. A crude form of Community Service which claimants can be sentenced to on the whims of Jobcentre staff. The evidence suggests it is useless in helping people to find a job. The new Universal Credit regulations shows that was never its intention. This Government don’t want people to volunteer full time. Unless they tell them to.
Somewhat ironically, you can’t actually volunteer for the volunteering ‘opportunities’ on the MWA scheme. It can only be handed out as a sentence, perhaps because you were volunteering too much somewhere else.
It seems possible that this move is intended to bolster support for the Government’s workfare schemes. With several charities having rejected forced labour, it will now be impossible for them to source full time volunteers unless they use one of the Government’s mandatory schemes. Instead of motivated and keen volunteers who want to work for them, they will be sent volunteers by welfare to work companies who are under threat of benefit sanctions for non-attendance.
And of course those same welfare to work companies will be handed a lucrative payment from the Government for everyone they send.
The latest draft regulations for Universal Credit read like a public school sixth form project on how to keep the proles in line. It is not just volunteers and the charities who depend on them who will suffer. It gets much worse. I’ll be highlighting just how over the next few days.
They can be read at: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consult.shtml