In a humiliating snub to this Government’s welfare reforms, disability charity Scope have pulled out of workfare for the second time in just six months!
Scope first claimed to have pulled out of workfare in July, claiming they were extremely ‘disappointed’ that Boycott Workfare and others had been protesting about their use of forced labour. The charity claimed a ‘robust placement agreement’ ensured that no-one was forced to work at the charity against their will. Yet just a month earlier a DWP Press Release featured a case study in which a claimant was “referred to a Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) placement in a Scope charity shop – a referral that the claimant was reluctant to accept.”
Under DWP rules it is impossible to volunteer for Mandatory Work Activity (the clue’s in the name). Once referred a claimant will have benefits stopped, possibly for three years, should they leave the scheme. Scope have not yet apologised to Boycott Workfare for their misunderstanding of how Mandatory Work Activity operates – which led to them wrongly suggesting the campaign is opposed to genuine volunteering.
Scope are still sub-contractors to deliver the Government’s Work Programme, the scheme under which sick and disabled claimants can now be sent on workfare for an unlimited period.
Scope are the fourth major charity to pull out of workfare after the DWP announced that sick and disabled claimants can now be forced into unpaid work. British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Age UK have also announced they are pulling out of the scheme in the last month.
Whilst these announcements are welcome they will be greeted with scepticism. British Heart Foundation (BHF) have only said they are ‘moving away’ from the scheme. There are reports of claimants still being referred to unpaid placements with the charity.
Yesterday a small but determined Boycott Workfare protest visited the BHF furniture shop in Brixton (pictured above). Just a week earlier sleuths from the campaign had spoken to one person in the store who confirmed they were still taking unpaid placements referred from Jobcentres. Whilst no workfare workers were present yesterday, it remains to be seen if they are genuinely pulling out of workfare altogether.
The protest also visited @superdrug and @poundland, both of whom profit from unpaid staff.
The DWP themselves are responsible for much of the confusion. When the workfare row broke out at the beginning of the year the Government claimed benefit sanctions had been lifted from the scheme. In truth only workfare placements at private companies became ‘voluntary’. Those who refused to volunteer for the likes of Argos and Superdrug risked being sent on Mandatory Work Activity with a charity instead.
Until the DWP stop enforced work completely then all schemes should be considered mandatory by charities who support genuine volunteering as opposed to mandated workfare.
Some of the charities still using workfare include: @Papworth_Trust @salvationarmyuk @Capability_Scot @TCVtweets @CSV_UK @RSPCA_official @RBLI