Do As I Say, Not As I Do Says Workfare Hypocrite John Sentamu

labourer-worthy“Millions of people across the country will get up today, leave their families and travel to work to carry out jobs that we all depend on. They will care for people, serve us food, clean the spaces that we all use and share. They will do more than a fair day’s work, but they won’t get a fair day’s pay.”

So said the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, writing in The Observer yesterday.  What the Bishop didn’t mention is that some of those people will not receive any pay at all.  In fact they could even be working – under threat of benefit sanctions – for the YMCA, the organisation of which he is the president.

Despite the Bishop condemning poverty pay, the organisation he heads uses workfare at both a national and local level.  Throughout the country people are mopping floors, stacking shelves and serving customers in YMCA charity shops without being paid a penny.  These people are the opposite of volunteers – they have been forced to work for no pay under the threat of brutal benefit sanctions on the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme.

Benefit sanctions can now last up to three years and mean children going hungry and rent going unpaid.  Claimants are left in a desperate limbo, unable even to afford to look for work whilst they have no money for clothes, fares, stamps, phone calls and internet access.  The end result is often crippling debt as both legal and illegal loan sharks cash in on the poverty created by sanctions.

This is what people face should they refuse a referral to mandatory work with the YMCA.  Despite this the charity claims they believe people referred  “should still be offered a choice about where the placement is undertaken and if at all possible, the placement should reflect their personal interests or skills.”

This shows a gross misunderstanding of this form of workfare which is used as a punishment aimed at those people that Jobcentre advisors have decided aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  Not trying hard enough could mean refusing another form of workfare, or not using the spam, scam and spoof ridden government website Universal Jobmatch to the extent required.  The Social Security Advisory Committee – who scrutinise social security legislation – warned that disabled people or those with a caring responsibility are  likely to be the most vulnerable to sanctions handed out for being unable to attend Mandatory Work Activity (PDF).

The Archbishop has been silent on the use of not just low paid but unpaid workers by his own organisation.  This is not the first time John Sentamu has been guilty of breath taking hypocrisy on the question of workfare.  Astonishingly he has previously condemned workfare directly:  “By all means, pay companies incentives to employ young people, but do not take advantage of the vulnerable by using them as free labour.”

The YMCA, along the The Salvation Army, are one of the few charities left involved in the repugnant MWA scheme after most decent charities pulled out in disgust.  These two so called Christian charities never see the horrific suffering they cause when they report a claimant to the DWP for failing to attend forced labour in one of their shops.  This means they pretend they have no part in the brutality of benefit sanctions that they are directly responsible for initiating.

In The Observer this weekend Sentamu says that “what workers really need is pay, not platitudes”.  Yet he is still quite happy to give his name to an organisation which has become one of the last remaining cheerleaders in the charitable sector for forced unpaid work.  If the Archbishop really cared about low pay or workfare then he would force the YMCA to change course – or resign.

Sentamu ends his piece with an appeal to the low paid, and presumably unpaid, by announcing “If you are paid less than the living wage, I want to hear from you.”

Sentamu is on twitter @JohnSentamu.  His charity can be contacted @YMCA_England or on facebook at:  

If you have been forced to attend or face mandatory workfare then why not join the Archbishop’s “national conversation about low pay in Britain”.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

87 responses to “Do As I Say, Not As I Do Says Workfare Hypocrite John Sentamu

  1. Carls Dickinson

    Is it really the 21st Century? This is degrading exploitation akin to the Dickensian era, but cleverly disguised under a modern veneer of so called ‘charity’. This is absolutely shameful. These people should be bloody well paid for working full stop!

  2. I’m not on any social networks, so I’m a bit in the cold here. But, 3 questions:

    Is the Archbishop aware of the compromised position he’s in?

    Has he publicly either acknowledged or refuted the argument against him? (Apparently not, by this account.) And, if he has not yet done either of those two things;

    How can the Archbishop be politely, but forcefully, made aware of and brought to addressing this situation?

    • Sam,

      Here is a link to the Archbishop’s contact details:

      • E-mail to the Archbishop’s office;

        Good evening.

        I refer to a thread discussing His Grace’s links with Workfare:

        I should be most grateful to know if there is any truth to the assertions being made there.

        If there is, I should be most grateful if His Grace’s attention could be drawn to this thread. I would hope that he may wish to respond, hopefully to refute what’s being said.

        Please excuse me for raising a matter of such gravity by e-mail.

        Thank you for your kind attention.

      • Thanks for the link KRS. I’m going to e-mail him now.

        • Dear Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York,

          I’m writing to you in your role as president of YMCA in regard to YMCA’s use of workfare.

          Workfare is forced labour for no wages, non-compliance in the workfare programme leads to threats of and in many cases benefit sanctions causing poverty, hunger, homelessness and despair to the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

          I don’t know how well informed you are of this scheme? I can only assume not very well because this scheme is completely at odds with your comments in yesterdays observer where you quite rightly stated how low wages are for many in the UK.

          Please can you look into this serious matter and help stop this injustice, thank you.

          …………. I get the feeling the arch bish is genuinely uninformed, he isn’t now though. Hopefully he will get a lot of mail and take some sort of positive action. I’d be disappointed if he didn’t.

          • Rich;

            Have you had an acknowledgment yet?

            A full response may reasonably take time, but acknowledging an e-mail doesn’t take 30 seconds…

            People; please write to or e-mail Sentamu. Politely! There’s no point starting the pressure if we don’t keep it up.

            One victory leads to the next.

            It would be interesting to see any communications to or from Sentamu copied to this page.

            • No afraid not Sam, no acknowledgement, nothing. I take it you haven’t either? If I hear nothing back within the next few days I can safely assume he is aware of this issue but doesn’t care. C’mon Arch bish (the Arch bish will be reading, he loves this blog the old anarchist), I thought you were a man of the people, do something!!!

            • Whoops, didn’t see your post further down. See you down there!

  3. When are we going to have a discussion on the disparity in pay levels across the board. The choice between no pay and low pay is hobson choice in the great scheme of pay levels within a meritocracy, whereby those that have qualifications think they work harder than cleaners, miners,dinner ladies, train/bus drivers etc etc, well they don’t. A fair days pay should reflect a fair days work irrespective of what that work entails and all things being equal, pay should be equal also.
    It is the sick and unemployed that should be on a living wage, those in work should all have a decent standard of living, that’s real equality.

    • Absolutely right guy fawkes, and an equally serious problem is that remuneration is doing pretty badly at filtering from the top downwards. I know that this has always been the case, but now it is worse than ever….certainly in my working (or trying to!) lifetime of over 40 years.
      (Train drivers get paid pretty well btw….but I take your point!)

  4. these places arnt charity’s at all there businesses in disguise.

  5. Hypocrisy seems to be one of the constituent parts of Workfare, as if it was part of the Govt’s policy.
    Thinking about it, just about all of this Govt’s policies contain several elements of hypocrisy.
    It’s quite obvious that the vile (George) Ian Duncan Smith and all of his cabal are using their christian contacts to impose some very unchristian policies, and being totally pious about it to boot.
    The phrase “What Would Jesus Do” is very apt in these times, and the answer would be get sanctioned… “So, you’re a carpenter, and you’ve spent some time turning water into wine, performing catering and medical miracles and roaming the region giving speeches to people about being nice to eachother? I think a placement working in a shop for no money will suit you down to the ground, I understand that you’re not a great fan of material wealth…” Says Judas, the JCP advisor, who may be a member of the PCS.

  6. New Living Translation (©2007)
    ” For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” James 5:4

    • Arbeitsscheu_UK

      Ahh but there are two sets of rules : the ones for the preachers; and the ones for their victims They just award themselves one of god’s get out of jail free cards

    • Excellent! I think I might take that passage as my signature on sites that allow signatures, but maybe the old version because I’m an old man. Or maybe the Wycliffe, since the Archbishop doesn’t seem to respect the teachings of C of E. Or maybe, since we’re going back to slavery, we might as well go back to Roman times and have the Latin…

      It’s sad, really. I truly thought he was a good man; but if he’s as compromised as he appears, one has to wonder whether he’s really a man of God.

      • “one has to wonder whether he’s really a man of God”

        He’s a man playing at being God. There’s a world of difference!

  7. Arbeitsscheu_UK

    No worse kind of hypocrite than a religious hypocrite, especially when its a greedy louse like this one.

  8. Thank goodness for you Johnny Void, I wouldn’t be aware of half of this stuff it it weren’t for you.
    The hypocrisy goes on and on…I’m in the process of writing to the Charities Commission regarding the Salvation Armys’ use of workfare. Maybe I could write to the Bishop direct and bring this to his attention

  9. Rosemarie Harris

    Gbarbm. I did write the the archbishop of york a few months back but it was signed by someone else so put personal and private on the letter just in case one of his paid staff is reading and sending out rubbish… I did write again but i have not had a reply yet, but i just left him a message on his site as someone futher up left a link. Thank you to that person.

  10. Anyone know anything about a UK charity called Debra?

    Debra charity shops are using benefit claimants on Mandatory Work Activity in the Glasgow area.

    • something survived...

      I think it is that skin condition EB/DEB, that the man called Jonny (piloted light aircraft before he died, was on documentary) had.

  11. This archbishop is doing Gods work then ? Thou shalt not profit from slavery, because mandatory work activity is slavery by another name.
    Of course this pious prick will have turned the other cheek to those of us peasants damaged by his skin trade.

    • You blaspheming bastard. Judgement Day awaits you.

      • There will be no judgement day
        There are no gods
        There are weak, greedy humans capitalising on the misfortune & gullibility of others, by pretending that gods exist.

        We are all the product of 4 billion years of evolutionary success, it’s time we started acting like it.

  12. philipburdekin

    I’ve just been to my GP and he told me they are not allowed to write any letters for support from DWP, he said they have been informed from Sefton medical council, I’m going to appeal about the decision DWP made, they although I have the full 15 points they think I’m capable of some work, I’m just waiting the appeal date now but this is isn’t good for the sick and disabled people of Sefton.

    Philip Burdekin
    (Group leader)
    Southport Fibromyalgia Support Group

    Group address

    The group meet every month apart from December and January, we meet on the last Thursday of every month at 7pm, we meet at,

    Southport fibromyalgia support group
    Portland street spiritualist church
    Portland chambers
    55 Portland street
    PR8 1HN

    Tele: 08448872467

    Please direct all mail to,

    Philip Burdekin
    262c Liverpool road
    PR8 4QA

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  14. Completely off topic folks…..but just had to shout this one out…..I’ve just been offered a JOB!!!….YEEHAH!!!! (Guy fawkes…’s nowhere near a train driver’s salary….but it ain’t half bad compared to JSA. LOL!)

  15. Nice one Max. Nice to see a bit of good news.

    • Thanks Rich, it’s just an amazing feeling to have the weight of all of that constant DWP persecution crap lifted from your shoulders. For exactly how long I don’t know…..but I’ll give it my bloody best shot!

  16. Congratulations to Max. You will not miss JSA and the nob centre. Good luck.

    • Cheers, Jasmine…..last appointment at the nob centre tomorrow….don’t know what to say to them really, as I really don’t like to be too offensive!…and who knows, I could be back there again in a few weeks time!!! You just never know these days…

  17. well as i only got a few weeks left on the wp i told the adviser all the help the wp has done for me over the last 2 years was nothing as they dont do any courses or training just job search thats it.

    said in 2 years i have been 2 times the first time they lost me in a tiny ass building and rearranged it as it was for my induction and when i went for that point blank refused to sign the data waver n that was the end of my wp help 🙂

    got signed on and i never seen a jcp worker get up so fast and run up stares with the look of omg on its face hahah

    cant wait for universal chaos to kick in where i am as they turned all the job points off and telling ppl to do 30hrs job search at public libraries for uc is utter madness not even got iad at my jcp what the fuck are ppl going tto do with no pc access ? can get 2hrs free a day at my local 1 if i book it a week b4

  18. Johnny Void can you remove this post of mine. I would not want to offend John Sentamu, the Archbishop. Someone has been taking the piss and committing purgatory. Sorry about this.

  19. just saw this in the Guardian in amongst all the baby mania (good day to bury bad news eh!)

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  21. It is very strange that Sentamu can spot that low pay is a problem in organisations with which he is not involved but not that no pay is a problem in one of which he is the president! This will not be the last time we hear hypocritical utterances from him.

    • Hypocrisy is second nature to so-called “christians”, so should anyone really be surprised by Sentamu’s comments.

  22. Matthew 26 11

    ‘ For the poor ye have always with you…’

    At least it seems we can’t fault YMCA, Sally Army, etc. for not trying to ensure that the bible remains true…

  23. I hope the following will interest you all. I would call this a satisfactory answer to my e-mail to the Archbishop’s office (posted above on this page).


    Firstly, I should make clear that the Archbishop’s position as President of YMCA England is a formal appointment and he has no overview or responsibility for the day to day running of YMCA England or their projects locally.

    As you will know, the Archbishop has spoken publicly several times about his concerns regarding “workfare” schemes. It is not right that people should be forced to work for free, on the promise of a possibility of paid employment further down the line. The Archbishop believes that people should be paid a living wage for a fair day’s work – and his position has not changed.

    The Archbishop has raised his concerns with YMCA England and they have released the following statement:

    “YMCA England does not have any national agreements in place to provide mandatory work experience placements. Some of our member YMCAs have been involved with the mandatory work experience scheme at a local level, however a number have taken the decision not to participate in these schemes. We trust the skills and expertise of YMCAs to deliver the best possible service to those taking part and we continue to monitor and review the programmes we have in place.

    The main priority for the YMCA is to ensure that any placement offered provides the volunteer with quality training opportunities and the best possible chance of going onto further training or employment in the future.”

    As I say, the Archbishop has no formal overview of decisions taken at local YMCA projects – projects are self-governing bodies who are empowered to take their own decisions locally – but he will continue to impress on all organisations and companies the importance of fair wages for workers. As Christians we believe that all individuals are valuable and important to God, and it is important that this is reflected in our employment practices.

    Please be assured that this is a matter the Archbishop takes very seriously and he will ensure that YMCA England understand his views on this important issue.

    • So further concerns should be addressed to individual branches of YMCA rather than to the Archbishop, it seems. I have to admit that I’m relieved.

      • overburdenddonkey

        i do not share your relieve, i believe that the church has serious identity problems and need to resolve them so as to be one side of the fence or the other and not try to be both sides at once, the individuals voice and needs should always be paramount to the church.

  24. @ Sam: I got the same reply, but unlike you, I felt dismay rather than relief, so I drafted the reply below.
    “I should make clear that the Archbishop’s position as President of YMCA England is a formal appointment and he has no overview or responsibility for the day to day running of YMCA England or their projects locally.”
    And if I was in such a position, I would take the only action I could by stepping down as president, knowing that even a symbolic gesture such as that would say a lot to those on both sides of the debate.

  25. I’m with Sheogorath on this one. The general public will think that the YMCA must be doing the right thing on staff pay because its president is none other than Sentamu (the man who campaigns for fairness!). By remaining president whilst saying he has expressed concerns about the YMCA use of forced unpaid labour shows a complete lack of morality on his part: the morality he often bemoans society lacks and much needs.

  26. Since I read the e-mail from Sentamu’s office, my initial relief (based, I admit, on my wish to believe him to be a good man) has begun to evaporate. Now I come back to this page and find several of you expressing the reservations which I was only beginning to feel. But then, I always was rather a slow thinker…

    I’m afraid you guys are right; the e-mail, ever so reasonable on the face of it, does not let him off the hook at all.

    I’m going to think about this, and see what other people might say… but I believe that in a day or two I’ll be sending another e-mail. It’ll have to be very carefully phrased…

    This is too important to set aside. There are so many even harder rocks to crack – arrogant and bloody men who are too stupid even to consider responding to e-mails from untermenschen like us (at least Sentamu’s office allowed us that courtesy).

    I hold on to the belief that every victory pathes the way for the next one.

  27. As I mentioned above, no e-mail from Johnny S (I’ve been blacklisted by god, fuck me I didn’t know the DWP were THAT powerful!). In response to your correspondence I feel resigning and giving TV interviews about why he resigned would be a huge victory for the boycott workfare campaign. He is widely respected and his views would hit home to people who were either unawre or ambivalent about workfare before. So once again I say c’mon Arch bish put your money where your mouth is!

  28. something survived...

    The Workfare Triangle
    An early and now sadly discontinued work programme, that offered training and travel opportunities for millions of people. Based in the import-export industry, it used the latest ships full of tastefully decorated budget accommodation. In the second part of the triangle, we gave opportunities to a carefully selected workforce, who we hired using a 100% quota of positive discrimination. Those still viable following the end of the journey, proved their worth and were retailed at the appropriate value. During these journeys, therefore, stock were cleansed and genetically improved. After meeting their new bosses, they were sent straight to work. Most was in the agricultural sector. Others learnt the trade of the hospitality industry in domestic service. At least half of the workforce had the potential for intimate relations with the boss, at the bosses’ command. Misbehaving (malfunctioning) stock could be de-clothed, physically and sexually reeducated, or redeployed to other opportunities such as being hung or shot.

    Who were Sentamu’s parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, then?

  29. I got the same reply as others to my first email. So I replied and asked what pressure JS was putting on local YMCA branches. I received this reply:
    “Many thanks for your email – the Archbishop has contacted the YMCA in order to impress upon them the need for change to ensure that all employees receive a living wage.
    The YMCA statement on this can be read in full here:
    Please be assured that we will also pass your feedback onto the YMCA.

    • Effjay, the YMCA statement simply reeks of what the male pachyderm drops behind him. Take the following quote, for example: When the person at the job centre explained about mandatory work experience, I jumped at the chance. I mean if ‘Jay’ really was champing at the bit to go on work experience, why was it mandatory and not voluntary to some degree? Don’t simply open your mouth for the ConDems’ spoon now.

  30. YMCA on a national level is saying ‘nothing to do with me guv’. Surely they could at the very least issue guidelines to local branches. As for that story in the link, the bloke jumped at the chance of workfare, even if I take that at face value what about all those who are forced to via threat of benefit sanction. I’m all for people like ‘Jay’ volunteering for YMCA but not when a lot of these poor sods only do it because of job centre threats. Not good enough YMCA.

    • overburdenddonkey

      the most important aspect of work, is pay experience, at minimum rate of pay..

      • A month in hand, even though you have nothing to live on until your first pay (such as it will be), if IDS has his way, so that you learn what real life is all about – as if you don’t already know… and as if he does!

        • overburdenddonkey

          seems to me that the banks are running the government and are economy, and everything is done in the interests of the banks economy, now, my father was right, never have a bank a/c, coz one day they’ll take over the world…

          • If I had my way, every 15-year-old would be taught banking 101. The reason that banks tried to maintain a culture of probity (real probity, not the post-modern front we see now) for so long was because banking is such a dangerous tool by the very way it works and the bankers knew it. Fortunately many of them had religion of the strictest sort. (And that’s another wonderful but dangerous tool that’s ended up in the hands of monkeys.)

            Both bad religion and bad banking hide behind a fog of the ignorance of too many ordinary people. Strip away the faux mystery, and the bad priests and the bad bankers, both, scuttle back under the rocks where they belong..,

  31. Pingback: Boycott Workfare » Blog Archive » Boycott Workfare visit the YMCA

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