Hundreds of people have contacted them objecting to their use of forced labour on the government’s various workfare schemes. The charity have responded with this statement:
“Our shops rely on the efforts of paid staff, volunteers and people on schemes and placements. Every new person goes through the same process, irrespective of which route they have used to come through our doors. Our shop managers have a discussion with all applicants to ensure that their joining us is appropriate and mutually beneficial. If either side feels that this will not be the case, the applicant will not take up a position with us.”
This flies in the face of British Heart Foundation’s admission that they currently have 600 unpaid workers on the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme. As the name suggests, this schemes involves four weeks unpaid work, and is used as a punishment by Jobcentre staff when they decide someone isn’t trying hard enough to find work.
When MWA was first proposed the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), who scrutinise government welfare rules, warned:
“We also wonder why, given that the Department views mandatory work activity as a beneficial change, people will not be permitted to volunteer to take part. This seems to us to signal that being mandated to mandatory work activity is regarded as a punishment rather than an opportunity to learn and develop new behaviours and skills.”
The committee recommended that MWA should not go ahead. Despite this the Government ploughed on regardless and tens of thousands of people have now been sent on the scheme. MWA does not help people find work, and it isn’t intended to. Just like community payback, it is a punitive scheme, the only difference being that if you are caught burgling someone’s home you at least get a trial.
Increasing numbers of people have expressed outrage at major UK charities exploiting unemployed people to staff their charity shops. The more ethical charities such as Oxfam and Marie Curie have already pulled out. Others like the British Heart Foundation and Scope have carried on regardless and simply attempted to mislead the public about their use of forced labour.
There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence from people forced to work in BHF shops that despite the charities claims, they do not feel their placement with them is “appropriate and mutually beneficial.”
W King, in the comments of this blog recently noted: “I’ve been assigned to BHF starting next monday, definitely nothing voluntary about that.”
Most damning of all are the findings of Izzy Koksal, who recently visited a BHF charity shops in search of workfare and reported:
“Speaking with the manager, she looked around the room and counted those on Mandatory Work Activity, ‘1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 today’ she informed me, adding ‘we do have pure volunteers as well’.”
Speaking to those on workfare revealed the exactly how unhappy some of these ‘impure’ volunteers are: “the young woman at the desk hearing why I was there, said quietly and emphatically ‘it’s not nice here, it’s not nice here’.”
“I went over to the three men who were fixing a broken wardrobe. ‘It’s a punishment’ one of the men told me as he hammered a nail into the wardrobe ‘it’s nothing to do with work experience, if you miss a day your benefits are stopped, it’s about stopping people from claiming benefits…Yes, I really appreciate this work experience, the 13 years of work I’ve done managing clubs in London really wasn’t enough’ he says good naturedly.”
The full story, which is well worth reading, can be found at: http://izzykoksal.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/workfare-at-the-british-heart-foundation/
Today (Sept 8th) sees another National Day of Action Against Workfare and many groups will be choosing to target charities, including BHF, who are benefiting from unpaid workers.
Even those who don’t consider forced unpaid work to be vile exploitation, may think twice about supporting charities who are prepared to lie about their use of workfare. After all, if they lie about that when what else could they be lying about. Charities like BHF, and Scope who also deny using workfare despite having unpaid workers on the MWA scheme, risk bringing the entire charitable sector into disrepute.
With the government rekindling plans to force even claimants on sickness or disability benefits to work for free, it is vital we show these so called charities that the workfare is unfair, immoral and unethical. And no amount of spin from high paid charity bosses will hide their dirty little workfare secrets.
For all the latest news on workfare and the campaign to bring unpaid forced labour to an end visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/
British Heart Foundation are on twitter @thebhf, whilst Scope can be contacted @scope – if you can’t attend today’s day of action in person then why not tell them what you think.