Category Archives: JSA/Workfare/Work Programme

Workfare Abandoned! Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements Both To Be Scrapped

workfare-partyIn 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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20 Million Hours Of Forced Unpaid Labour: How Much Lower Can So-Called Charities Sink?

ymca-no-payThe DWP have finally released some information on the performance of Community Work Placements, the mass workfare scheme first announced by George Osborne way back at the 2013 Tory Party conference.

The placements were finally launched in 2014 and require unemployed people to carry out six month’s unpaid work under the threat of brutal benefit sanctions – benefit sanction that are known to kill.  This work must be with a charity or a company which offers a ‘community benefit’.  In reality this has meant many people working unpaid for private, profit making companies who can claim to be a bit green or environmentally friendly, such as recycling businesses.  Many others have been sent to work in charity shops.

Despite the scheme having been in operation for over 18 months, the DWP are not telling us whether anyone has successfully found real work as a result of their placement.  This is sadly unsurprising, this programme was never about getting people jobs but was simply intended as punishment for the long-term unemployed.  And the punishment is severe.  Participants carry out 780 hours of forced unpaid work – almost three times the maximum possible community service sentence that can be handed out by the courts.

According to last week’s figures, around 25,000 people have started a Community Work Placement since the scheme began.  That means that companies and charities prepared to take part in this grotesque exploitation have potentially benefitted from just under 20 million hours of unpaid work – saving up to £130 million in wages even if all these jobs had only been paid at minimum wage.  And they call benefit claimants scroungers.

What the statistics do show is that Community Work Placements have been yet another DWP shambles.  51,430 people have been referred to the companies running the scheme – G4S in most areas – yet less than half of those have actually started a placement.  In an economy where 4 million people are out of work and want a job the truth is there isn’t even enough workfare to go round, a problem which has dogged unpaid work schemes ever since Tony Blair launched the New Deal in 1998.

The ferocious resistance to workfare is another reason why the DWP is struggling to find enough work placements.  Even the most enthusiastic supporters of workfare such as the Salvation Army and the YMCA snubbed the placements as ‘too long’ and ‘not beneficial’.  Worryingly however, other DWP documents show that these so-called charities may be wobbling on this position.

In February and March this year (pdf) Esther McVey, the now unemployed former Employment Minister, met the Salvation Army, YMCA and the Sue Ryder Foundation to discuss Community Work Placements.  All three of these charities have told the public they are not involved with the scheme, and Sue Ryder claim to be out of workfare completely.  Which begs the fucking question why the cosy chat with McVey?  What is there to talk about?  What were they offered and did they accept?  Why not ask them @YMCA_England, @Sue_Ryder and @salvationarmyuk

To join the fight against forced unpaid work visit:

Usual apology for lack of posts, emails unanswered, slack moderation etc.  Been one thing after a fucking other this last few months.  Normal service will hopefully be resumed soon.

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Never Trust A Landlord. How Housing Associations Are Teaming Up With The Workfare Industry

workfare-gravy-train-largeThe National Housing Federation (NHF), the umbrella body which represents housing associations, are quietly teaming up with the fraud-ridden welfare-to-work sector in a bid to monetize ‘workless’ tenants in social housing.

Tomorrow the NHF will hold a joint event with the notorious Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade organisation established to lie on behalf of the welfare-to-work industry.   The Housing and Employment Forum will allow housing associations to discuss how they can further collaborate with sanction-happy workfare exploiters like G4S, Serco and the shadowy US conglomerate Maximus.  To look at the website of the National Housing Federation however you would never know this event is happening, despite them being the joint organisers and chairs.  They are right to be ashamed of their dirty little workfare secrets.

ERSA themselves are also remaining tight-lipped about the forum which is only open to ERSA members and details of which – such as where it is – are not available.  Claimants and housing association tenants themselves are obviously not welcome.

Several housing associations already hold Work Programme sub-contracts, although many pulled out when they realised that they weren’t making enough money out of the mandatory scheme.  In a renewed effort to get their snouts in the welfare-to-work trough they are now not just sucking up to ERSA but also lobbying the DWP directly to get their hands on some of the workfare cash.  Over 40 housing associations are now members of the Give Us A Chance (GUAC) consortium which was formed in 2011 to try and hoodwink the government into giving them some juicy welfare-to-work contracts.  The Give Us Some Money consortium would be a more accurate name.

According to their literature, GUAC are being advised by Jonathan Shaw, the former Labour Minister for Disabled People who helped oversee the introduction of the despised Atos fitness for work tests.  Housing Associations who join GUAC are also being offered free automatic membership of ERSA.  They have even released a joint manifesto (pdf) with the workfare industry in which they ominously call for more data sharing powers between social housing providers, Work Programme companies and Jobcentres.  Who better than a landlord to be the ever-watching eyes of the DWP.

Don’t be in any doubt that this is about anything other than fucking money.  It’s not like housing association tenants are crying out for more CV workshops or mandatory work placements.  Billions of pounds is being doled out by the DWP to organisations prepared to bully and harass unemployed people and housing associations have no intention of missing the gravy train.  Don’t expect them to actually build any houses with all this cash though.  Those six figure Chief Executive salaries won’t pay themselves you know.

Above pic from the SchNews archive.

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Workfare Week Gets Worse! Work For Up To A Year Without Getting Paid Says #WEWeek2015


A government funded so-called charity is today encouraging employers to break minimum wage laws and hire unpaid interns with “no financial obligations in terms of salary”.

The advice is being offered by Fair Train who last year were paid £283,000 of tax payer’s money to promote unpaid work schemes and workfare.  The organisation are currently holding a Work Experience Week with a different form of unpaid work celebrated everyday.  Yesterday it was the turn of unpaid – and soon to be mandatory – Traineeships.  Today they have decided to focus on internships, with their official guidance (pdf) suggesting they need not be paid and that a placement could last up to a year.

In almost all cases unpaid internships are illegal.  According to the government: “An intern is entitled to the National Minimum Wage if they count as a worker.”  What this means is that anybody who actually does some work for an organisation, unless they are a charity volunteer or it is part of en educational study programme, should be paid at least the minimum wage.  This specifically applies if this work is done for a “benefit in kind, eg the promise of a contract or future work.”  Astonishingly Fair Train even seem to be encouraging employers to offer exactly this, saying that: “Many employers use internships to train and evaluate potential new recruits before offering them permanent employment, creating a win:win situation for both the young person and the employer.”

Several companies have been taken to court and forced to backpay wages due to hiring unpaid interns.  Fair Train don’t mention this in their guidance.  In fact they don’t mention interns getting paid at all, even as a recommendation.  It is not even a requirement to qualify for one of their bogus Work Experience Quality Standard awards which they say exist to ensure unpaid work placements are of a high standard.  It appears that a company could qualify for a Gold Level Quality Standard award and still be flouting the law by using unpaid interns.  What a joke.  Just watch them fucking wriggle now.

You can tell @FairTrainOrg what you think of their promotion of unpaid work on twitter using the hashtag #WEWeek2015.

You can report unpaid internship at:

To join the fight against forced unpaid work visit Boycott Workfare’s website or follow them on twitter @boycottworkfare.

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It’s Workfare Week! Tell The Bastards What You Think On #WEWeek2015


Workfare industry bosses react with delight to news David Cameron intends to attend their next conference.

The vile welfare-to-work sector are teaming up with a DWP controlled front organisation this week to hold a celebration of all the money they are making out of unpaid work.

The inaptly named Fair Train are funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a government body under the control of both the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Iain Duncan Smith himself.  Despite their name, this so-called charity exists to promote unpaid Work Experience schemes, by flogging off dubious Quality Standard awards to workfare exploiters.  In 2013 they were paid a whopping £283,000 of tax payer’s money to promote unpaid work schemes.

Week Experience Week is part of this gushing celebration of exploitation, so it is no suprise to see ERSA, the trade body established to lie on behalf on the welfare-to-work sector, joining in the festivities.  Fair Train say that want others to get involved with Work Experience Week, with aim of encouraging as many companies as possible to stop paying wages and start using workfare.  You can let the bastards know what you think on twitter using the hashtag #WEWeek2015.

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Unpaid Work Schemes Are De-Skilling A Generation And Perhaps That Is The Intention


A delegate at a recent skills conference promotes the use of unpaid work schemes. h/t @screenedout

Anyone who thinks you need to carry out an unpaid work experience placement  to be qualified to work in Poundland has never shopped in fucking Poundland.  This is not being a job snob as former Employment Minister Chris Grayling claimed when people objected to Tesco using unpaid staff.  It is simply recognising that an employee in a shop adds value to that business from day one – and so they should be paid from day one.

The growth of unpaid work in the UK has been justified with familiar claims that the young are lazy, or need to be taught how to get out of bed in the morning.  There is nothing new about this.  The generation that came of age in the late 80s and early 90s were ‘slackers’ and all the same crap was said about us.  Now some of those slackers are saying the same thing about young people today.

The truth is that the young are working longer for less money than at any point in the last half century.  Many are on shitty Apprenticeships which will be paid just £3.30 an hour even after an increase which takes place next month.  Others are not even being paid at all and are working full time on Work Experience schemes whilst trying to survive on £57.90 a week Jobseeker’s Allowance.  To put this sum in context, as far back as 1989 employer based Youth Training schemes for 16-18 year olds paid a similar amount to this and usually came with a day-release placement at college once a week.  Even this has now disappeared.  Those on the government’s Work Experience scheme receive no formal training at all beyond the odd workshop in how to write a CV.  A recent survey of employers found that even 26% of young people on an Apprenticeship only received less than 3 hours training a week.

This shocking statistic comes from the Employer Perspectives Survey carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).  This large annual survey has regularly been used as evidence that unpaid work experience for the young is essential because this is what employers say they want.  The DWP’s recent disastrous #WECan campaign was launched with a gushing press release quoting from the survey that two thirds of employers say that “work experience is a crucial factor when hiring new employees”.

This was an outright lie.  What the survey actually says is that 23% of employers believe ‘relevant’ work experience is critical when recruiting staff whilst 43% said it was significant.  This is just obvious.  The first thing anyone’s going to ask when offering someone a job is whether they’ve done it before or not.  In some cases, such as being an airline pilot, it will indeed be critical that they have had some experience flying a plane.  Yet the #WeCan campaign claimed that any work experience was important, no matter how irrelevent to the job hopes of the young people concerned.

The DWP are not the only ones who have been less than honest with these survey results.  UKCES themselves have misrepresented the results to promote the value of unaid work – such as in the tweet below which claims that work experience is the most common attribute employers cite as lacking in young recruits.  A look at the accompanying graph shows that employers appeared to think that it is work or life experience that is lacking amongst new young recruits.  A look at the survey from which these figures came shows that what employers were actually asked was whether education leavers had a “lack of working world / life experience or maturity”.  Even then less than half of bosses said this was a problem amongst 16 year olds, whilst only 14% of employers thought that 18 year old college leavers lacked life/work experience or maturity.ukces-tweetWhat this survey suggests is that it is just not true that most employers are obsessed with the idea that the young are too lazy and feckless to work. And this shows in their recruitment practices.  31% of employers said they had recruited an education leaver in the last 2-3 years whilst only 29% had recruited someone over 50.

The current obsession with mass workfare is not just pandering to the needs of employers, it is pandering to the never-ending whining of the worst kind of employers – like the 10% of bosses who brazenly told UKCES that the reason they offered work experience placements was to help with the workload or because it meant they didn’t have to pay people.

Legislation is on the way which will force all young people into an unpaid traineeship, an unpaid community work placement, or if they can find one, a poverty paid Apprenticeship.  These are young people that could be studying at college, or might have gone to university had the government not tripled tuition fees.  They could be fucking about with computer code, or motorbikes, or making things to flog online.  Or making music, art or youtube movies.  From the UK’s once thriving music scene to the once thriving alternative press, young people with time on their hands have achieved incredible things which have brought benefits to the whole of society in time.  And in that process they gained far more work/life experience or maturity then any shitty work placement in a supermarket could offer them.

Unpaid work experience schemes are de-skilling the young, the opposite of their claimed intention.  But perhaps this is really why they exist.  With the number of middle class jobs expected to shrink due to automation then there will no longer be space for social mobility.  The architects of workfare schemes are simply ensuring that in future the good jobs go to their kids and the working class youth are put back in their place.

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The Forced Labour Party: The Day That Corbyn (And Half His Cabinet) Voted For Workfare


Almost every new member of Corbyn’s cabinet, including Corbyn himself, voted in favour of the above motion to force unemployed people into temporary jobs – which involve ten hours a week unpaid work – or face benefit sanctions.

Corbyn was joined in his support for forced labour by over half of his new cabinet, including John McDonnell, Andy Burnham, Angela Eagle, Rosie Winterton, and Tom Watson.  London Mayoral hopeful Sadiq Khan also joined the workfare frenzy as did Green MP Caroline Lucas.  She kept that quiet.  Never trust a hippy.

The vote took place in an Opposition Day debate introduced by creepy (and possibly former) Shadow Employment Minister Stephen Timms as recently as February this year.  In the debate Timms outlines Labour’s ‘tough plan’ for a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee that “will hold people responsible for accepting work when it is offered.”

These compulsory jobs would be set at the minimum wage and last six months with no guarantee of a real job at the end.  Instead unemployed people would then be expected to “pursue intensive job search” for six months. Appallingly, whilst these jobs would be full time, those forced to join the scheme would only be paid for 25 hours a week – meaning they would be expected to work for ten hours for free.  Labour said that these extra ten hours would be reserved for training, provided by the employer.  Employers like Poundland.  They must think we’re fucking idiots.

Compulsory jobs, that involve 260 hours of work for no wages, are workfare.  Jeremy Corbyn has said he opposes both workfare, and benefit sanctions.  Yet here he was, with all his so-called lefty chums, voting for both.  Not one Labour MP spoke up in the debate about the impact of removing benefits from those who chose not to, or were unable to take up a compulsory job.   Workfare is now so embedded within both main political parties that it no longer even occurs to them to ask what if these sanction backed schemes destroy more lives than they ‘help’.

There is a chance now for Labour to take a step back, admit they were wrong, and consign their support for benefit sanctions to the dustbin of history. Benefit sanctions kill and no amount of fucking job outcomes justify the horror of driving people to poverty, homelessness, ill health and even death in the hope of catching a scrounger.  The impact of sanctions are just the same whether applied by a leering Tory or a Labour do-gooder who’s convinced themselves that forcing people into poverty paid work under the threat of destitution is some kind of help.  If this weekend’s events represent real change then it time for Labour to call for benefit sanctions to be scrapped, without exceptions.  Otherwise, for unemployed people at least, then Corbyn’s victory is little more than meet the new boss, same as the fucking old one.

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