In a major victory for campaigners, two of the main workfare programmes are to be abandoned the DWP has quietly announced today. Private sector contracts to run Community Work Placements and Mandatory Work Activity will not be renewed says the department in their response to George Osborne’s spending review.
Community Work Placements involve six month’s forced full time work for the long term unemployed, whilst Mandatory Work Activity is a four week short sharp shock of workfare used to punish claimants who were judged not to have the right attitude by Jobcentre busy-bodies.
Hundreds of charities have pulled out of both schemes or boycotted them completely after furious campaigning from Boycott Workfare, Keep Volunteering Voluntary and claimants across the UK. Recent performance figures showed that only half of those referred to forced community work actually started a placement. Eighteen months after Community Work Placements began the DWP is still avoiding telling us whether anyone has actually found a real job through the scheme. The department is claiming the programmes will not be renewed to save money.
This is not the complete end of workfare, with some claimants still facing forced work on the Work Programme, at least for now. The ever growing number of unpaid work experience schemes such as Traineeships – which are officially voluntary but often coerced in practice – are also not likely to be abandoned yet. And of course we may yet see mandatory unpaid work return under another name, whilst this news doesn’t help those currently serving workfare sentences or those who may be referred before the schemes are wound down.
Ominously the DWP are also announcing a new Work and Health Programme aimed at the long term unemployed along with sick and disabled people. The fight is far from over, but the scrapping of the two key workfare programmes shows the power of collective action to frustrate and even destroy the Government’s mass workfare ambitions.
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