Despite a high profile launch of the latest mass workfare scheme two weeks ago, DWP documents confirm that in fact it hasn’t started yet.
The unpaid Community Work Placements are one element of ‘Help To Work’. This is the latest draconian scheme concocted by Iain Duncan Smith as part of his increasingly desperate attempt to prove that unemployment is caused by unemployed people. The £300 million initiative involves claimants sent on six month’s full time workfare for ‘community organisations’ under the threat of benefits being stopped.
The scheme is mired in chaos with sources at the beginning of the month saying that no-one who works in Jobcentres has “been told anything about it”. This is confirmed by a DWP newsletter which says that “the first claimants will be referred onto Community Work Placements from the end of May 2014”. It is even unclear whether daily signing, or mandatory interventions – the other two elements of Help To Work – have actually begun yet. A PCS Union circular to members working at the DWP states that it will the end of May before ‘processes will be in place’ to start Help To Work.
The reason for this embarrassingly delay seems to be down to the tendering process for the placements. Welfare to work companies who had bid for contracts to run CWPs expected to be told whether they had been successful way back at the beginning of March. Instead they were not informed until mid-April. It was not until the evening after the ‘launch’ that the DWP quietly admitted to the public that G4S had won six contracts to manage the workfare placements.
As Private Eye points out this week, G4S were barred from bidding for Government contracts until April 9th due to the investigation into the security tagging fiasco. It’s hardly a huge fucking leap to speculate that this flagship Government policy has been delayed just so the DWP can shovel yet more tax payer’s cash into the grubby pockets of G4S.
Much of the details of the placements remains shrouded in secrecy. It is still not known who will join the six lead providers, which also include welfare-to-work firms Seetec and Learn Direct, as sub-contractors to run CWPs. Neither does anyone have any idea which charities will actually accept these forced volunteers. Well over 250 charities have now signed the statement to Keep Volunteering Voluntary.
This mass boycott is not just a disaster for the DWP, but also for the private contractors who will be paid to run the scheme. Jobcentre documents warn that if these companies are unable to find work placements for participants then they must provide full time ‘jobsearch’ or ‘work related activity’ themselves. They will only be paid once someone is either on an unpaid work placement or they are found a job. A pilot scheme for CWPs found that placements could only be found for 63% of participants and that was before the voluntary sector firmly rejected this kind of workfare. Whilst hundreds of millions of pounds are potentially up for grabs to run Help To Work, if not enough placements can be found then this will prove expensive for the contractors running the scheme.
In an effort to protect the reputation of placement providers, where claimants finally get sent to carry out unpaid work will be kept a closely guarded secret. The DWP have repeatedly refused to name companies and charities involved in the shorter Mandatory Work Activity, despite being ordered to do so by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The department claims that campaigners targeting those using workfare could lead to charities pulling out and even bring the scheme to an end. Charities using workfare, who have a duty to be open and transparent, are now being shielded by the Government in an effort to prevent those who support them from knowing what they are up to.
One charity certain to be involved in Community Work Placements is workfare quango @GroundworkUK . With no other names yet released then they can look forward to being the centre of everyone’s attention for some time to come.
Read more about the murky launch of Community Work Placements, along with details of the shameful record of Seetec, another provider, at: http://www.private-eye.co.uk/sections.php?section_link=news&issue=1366
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