Tag Archives: Community Action Programme

Victory For Cait Reilly – Workfare Was Illegal Says Supreme Court

poundland-workfareA unanimous verdict at the Supreme Court has judged that the workfare schemes in the Cait Reilly case were illegal.

This follows the DWP’s appeal after a lower court had found that the almost all the  Government’s workfare schemes were illegal.  Iain Duncan Smith was forced to rewrite the law after this judgement retrospectively making these schemes legal.

That will not be overturned by today’s judgement, although a Judicial Review has been launched by lawyers questioning the legality of this decision.

The judgement can be read at: http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/decided-cases/docs/UKSC_2013_0064_PressSummary.pdf

When Iain Duncan Smith rewrote the law on workfare he did not include the Community Action Programme.  This was the six month period of workfare on which George Osborne’s mass workfare scheme announced at the Tory Party conference is based.  It is hard to see how this scheme, which is due to begin in April next year, is now legal unless it is placed before Parliament.

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Why George Osborne’s Workfare Plans Won’t Work

ids-sadGeorge Osborne’s mass workfare scheme is so unworkable that even Iain Duncan Smith winced when it was announced during the Tory Party Conference yesterday.

Osborne claims that 200,000 people will be forced into either full time workfare or massively increased conditionality – such as having to attend Jobcentres everyday.  This will apply to people leaving the Work Programme, the two year scheme which is already costing tax payers a fortune and failing miserably.

Already Osborne’s sums don’t add up.  People are currently returning to Jobcentres after leaving the Work Programme at a rate of around 50,000 a month.  If all of these people are sent on Osborne’s new scheme – as he promised they will be – then that will be 600,000 in the first year alone.  One third of these are expected to be sent on full time workfare.

As even bungling Iain Duncan Smith knows, this is completely unworkable.  The reason IDS knows this is because he just tried it.

The Community Action Programme (CAP) was a workfare scheme which was piloted in 2011/12 for long term unemployed people.  It was claimed that the programme would go live in Summer 2013 to catch the tens of thousands of people currently leaving the Work Programme without a job.

In mis-directed revenge for the failure of welfare-to-work companies to help people find work , those who were still unemployed at the end of the  Work Programme were to be sent on six months workfare for a community organisation.  This is exactly the same thing that Osborne proposed yesterday.

The Community Action Programme even enjoyed a brief moment of fame as one of the schemes that was hauled through the courts and ultimately found to be illegal.  Curiously, when Iain Duncan Smith rewrote history to make several previously unlawful workfare programmes legal, he did not include the Community Action Programme in the revised back-dated legislation.

One reason for this was presumed to be due to an evaluation of the pilot scheme  which revealed the Community Action Programme to be a disaster.  A DWP report found it had no impact on whether anyone was more likely to get a job, although this is hardly uncommon for one of Iain Duncan Smith’s crazy schemes.  More importantly, it brought home some stark realities to the out of touch mandarins at the DWP.  According to the report, it was unsurprisingly difficult for welfare-to-work companies to find placements for some long term unemployed people who are described as being ‘particularly challenging’.  This included people who were homeless, had current drink or drug problems or such serious criminal records that in the words of the report they represented a ‘risk to placement providers’.

As things turned out the welfare-to-work companies who ran the scheme were only able to find 63 per cent of CAP participants a work placement.  One  reason for this was that many charities pulled out of the scheme after fierce campaigning from Boycott Workfare and other groups exposed the exploitative nature of forced unpaid work.  Another is that most charities do not have the capacity or skills to employ chaotic individuals dubbed the ‘hardest to help’.

That doesn’t mean everyone who is long term unemployed is ‘challenging’, has ‘behavioural disorders’ or faces ‘significant barriers to employment’.  In fact the opposite is true, most long term unemployed people live in areas of sky high unemployment where there are simply no jobs and that is the biggest barrier to work by far.  But there is no denying that a certain percentage of the ‘hardest to help’ are hard to help  for a reason.  That reason may be that they sleep in a shop doorway, or are the first ones queuing up waiting for the off-licence to open as the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal start to play havoc with their nervous system.  It may be that they have been given a dual-diagnosis – meaning they have a mental health condition and a substance use problem.  In a very small number of cases it may be that they have a long and violent history of offending.

It is this group of long-term unemployed people that George Osborne thinks he can fix, on the cheap, with his workfare fiasco.  Osborne genuinely seems to believe that Jobcentre staff or welfare-to-work companies can solve these desperate social problems where doctors, social workers, mental health professionals and probation officers have failed.  Iain Duncan Smith used to think these problems would be solved by the magical Work Programme.  But where that two year scheme has been little more than an expensive waste of time, Osborne’ wants us to believe his six month workfare fantasy will mean an end to crime, addiction, homelessness and unemployment amongst this group of claimants.  And if that doesn’t work he’s going to stop all of their benefits.  That’ll teach them.  And us.

£300 million pounds is to be spent on this nonsense, most of which is likely to end up in the pockets of the fraud ridden welfare-to-work sector.  Whilst some of the most exploitative charities, like @salvationarmyuk and @YMCA_England will be only too happy to force vulnerable claimants to work for free, decent and moral organisations are likely to shun the scheme.  Anti-workfare campaigners are almost certain to begin a campaign naming and shaming those involved.  Charities happy to exploit the unemployed in this way will pay for it, one way or another.

That £300 million could fund scrapping both the bedroom tax and the benefit cap, along with halting the closure of the Independent Living Fund for the most seriously disabled people and there would still be money to spare.  Money that could be spent on projects for the hardest to help that genuinely do help and that people do not have to be bullied by benefit sanctions into attending.  It could pay to provide a home for everyone who needs one who currently beds down for the night on the pavement, or be used to reverse some of the most vicious cuts to mental health services and the NHS.

Instead this money is being squandered on a crowd-pleasing shambles – something to appease the UKIP bound swivel-eyed right of the Tory Party.  Osborne will be pleased with himself for stealing the limelight and humiliating Iain Duncan Smith in the process by announcing a new flagship DWP policy.  But it may yet turn out to be one of the most expensive rounds of applause in history as the social consequences of this nasty little move will be felt for decades.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Government Abandons Flagship Workfare Scheme

workfare-stick-upIn a major victory for campaigners, the DWP seem to be confirming that they have scrapped the Community Action Programme (CAP), the rolling workfare scheme which had been planned for those leaving the Work Programme.

The Government had planned to force all those who have been unemployed over two years onto near permanent workfare.  This scheme was recently trialled with disastrous results as participants were found to be no more likely to find work than those who had not attended the programme.

Then the Community Action Programme was dragged through the courts in the case brought by Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson.  Along with other workfare measures the CAP was found to be unlawful, but unlike the other schemes, there was no retroactive legislation introduced to bring it in line with the law.

It now seems it has been abandoned altogether, with an announcement from the DWP today of a new scheme involving ‘a hit squad of specialist advisers’ based in Jobcentres.  It seems that the floundering welfare-to-work companies in charge of the Work Programme are no longer to be trusted with those who have been unemployed for over two years.

Workfare is still likely to be involved in the scheme, with threats of Mandatory Work Activity for participants – four weeks workfare as opposed to six months.  This scaling back is almost certainly down to the huge resistance to workfare which has forced most of the UK’s best known charities to withdraw and refuse to provide further placements.

According to the skiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban, claimants on the latest scheme will also be forced to sign up for Universal Jobmatch – the bodged government job-seeking website riddled with spam and scam vacancies.  The DWP warn that these claimants will also be required to tick the box allowing Jobcentre staff to spy on their accounts – a move of dubious legality under data protection laws.

Hoban is threatening that the new scheme will be tough, intensive and uncompromising.  Yet with Jobcentres already creaking under the strain of the DWP’s ever more hare-brained schemes, it seems hard to imagine how Jobcentre staff will find the time to provide daily intensive support to over half a million people.

One thing that can be guaranteed is that whatever they do won’t work.  From Tony Blair’s New Deal to Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled Work Programme, not one of these measures has come even close to the aim of ending long term unemployment.  Despite the toughest ever welfare reforms, unemployment has risen over the last three months and long term unemployment continues to soar.

And whilst government ministers insist that unemployment is caused by unemployed people, then billions more will be poured down the drain to do little more than harass, impoverish and stigmatise those unable to find a job.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Case of the Disappearing Workfare Scheme

superdrug-workfareIt seems that despite Iain Duncan Smith’s tantrum yesterday – when he insisted he would not back down on forced work for the poor – one major chunk of the Government’s workfare policies has disappeared.

The floundering Community Action Programme (CAP) is one of the nastiest workfare schemes, which sentences people to six months unpaid work simply for being long term unemployed.  This scheme was intended for the 96.5% of people who aren’t likely to find work during the two year Work Programme.  The message was clear, if you can’t find a job in two years then you will be expected to work, full time, for nothing.

The ‘Trailblazer’ for this scheme was one of the programmes challenged in the courts recently.  Jamieson Wilson, a former lorry driver, was stripped of benefits and left destitute after refusing to undertake unpaid work on the scheme.  Along with Cait Reilly, who was forced to work in Poundland for no pay on a different programme, they took their case to the High Court.

As is well known now, both of the scheme were found to be unlawful on largely technical grounds.  Simply put, neither the legislation behind the schemes, or the information given to claimants, was legally sufficient.  The DWP’s panicky response was to issue new regulations and rush them before Parliament.

The new regulations make no mention of the Community Action Programme, or any comparable scheme, which means for now, the programme would seem to be still illegal.

It is possible the DWP are planning to table some specific regulations for this scheme just as soon as skiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban makes it into the office.  It is equally possible they fucked up the new regulations and forgot about it.  In fact with the DWP mired in chaos, almost anything seems plausible at the moment.

The scheme has not yet been launched nationally and the Trailblazer pilots are over, so this is unlikely to affect anyone currently on workfare.  But it does suggest that a major plank of Iain Duncan Smith’s bodged welfare reforms is either being rethought, or has been abandoned completely.

This is hardly surprising.  The early analysis of the scheme revealed it had no impact in actually helping people find work.  More importantly, providers were struggling to find work placements.  This problem can only have become much worse recently as a growing number of charities snub the Government’s workfare obsession.  Even workfare profiteers like Poundland are attempting to distance themselves from the DWP shambles (whilst still attempting, possibly illegally, to ensure they have a steady stream of unpaid workers).

Lack of placements has dogged workfare programmes ever since Tony Blair launched the first mass workfare scheme in the late 90s with the New Deal for Young People.  The truth is a lot of charity work is quite specialised and outside of charity shops the voluntary sector has no real need of hundreds of thousands of unpaid full time staff.  Now even the charity shops are pulling out, many in disgust at the brutal sanctions regime and new powers to send sick and disabled claimants to work unpaid.

This hasn’t stopped some charities, such as The Conservation Volunteers (@tcvtweets) or Sue Ryder (@Sue_Ryder), who are only too happy to force people to work for free.  Many more companies, including Poundland, but also Superdrug and Argos, have discovered it can be profitable to take on unpaid temporary staff for work which involves little training.

It’s too early to say whether CAP is gone for good or the real impact of last week’s judgement on workfare.  There is even speculation as to whether the new regulations, which are only slightly less vague than the old ones, would withstand another legal challenge.

The DWP is ploughing ahead regardless of the consequences and insists that it’s business as usual on the workfare gravy train and no-one will be repaid sanctioned benefits.  The lawyers disagree.  Iain Duncan Smith is near meltdown, picking a fight with not just shelf stackers, by insisting they work for free, but also the Judiciary and bizarrely, even geologists.

There is still a long way to go to end workfare.  But if you kick something hard enough and for long enough it will break eventually.  Join the Week of Action Against Workfare beginning on 18th March and help bring a final end to forced labour for good: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1996

Join and share the facebook page for the week of action: http://www.facebook.com/events/517491058274105/

A highly recommended piece about the fight against workfare up until now can be read at: http://www.redpepper.org.uk/workfare-a-policy-on-the-brink/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Workfare Can Be Broken – Join the Week of Action and help make it happen

boycott-workfare-weekFrom Boycott Workfare

Take part in the week of action against workfare 18-24 March

The Government is pushing ahead with increasingly savage workfare policies despite the fierce resistance to the scheme causing many high street names and national charities to pull out.

Unemployed people can now be sentenced to six months compulsory unpaid work as part of the Community Action Programme. On December 3rd last year – International Disabled People’s Day – the DWP introduced forced work for sick and disabled claimants.

Companies such as Superdrug, Argos and McDonalds, who have all been quick to take on unpaid workers on government schemes, have seen a year of boycotts, pickets, demonstrations and occupations due to their involvement in the scheme. Many national charities have pulled out as a result of protests, but some, such as The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), Salvation Army and Sue Ryder Foundation are unrepentent about their army of government subsidised unpaid workers. Many of the new workfare programmes depend on charities like these to provide placements.

Workfare can be broken by showing these organisations that the public have clearly rejected unpaid work. Evidence has shown that mandatory work has no impact in actually helping someone find a job, the stated aim of the scheme. Instead workfare is used to replace real jobs, with some companies even caught taking on unpaid workers to fill temporary Christmas positions.

Join Boycott Workfare on 18-24 March for a week of action against workfare exploiters everywhere. Take action in a town or city near you, join in online and show all those who profit from forced labour that we mean it when we say “if you exploit us, we will shut you down”.

Organise now and contact Boycott Workfare on Facebook or info[at]boycottworkfare.org to be added to the national list of actions.

Please share, tweet and spread the word!

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Chris Grayling’s Reign of Chaos at the DWP

Lying bastards always get caught out in the end and the recent judgement in the workfare court case may only be the beginning of bungling Employment Minister Chris Grayling’s undoing.

Whilst workfare was recently ruled not to be illegal, the judgement in the case brought by Cait Reilly and unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson, contained a vicious sting in the tail for the DWP.

The ruling was highly critical of the lack of information provided to benefit claimants about the Government’s workfare schemes. Thousands of people have been forced to work in private companies for no pay under the threat of benefit sanctions. Due to the recent ruling, many of those who were sanctioned may yet be able to claim back benefits.

It is hardly surprising that the DWP should find themselves in this position. Lies, smears and often deliberate confusion have been the hallmark of the department since the almost absent Iain Duncan Smith and his underling Chris Grayling began their current reign of chaos.

Grayling has repeatedly gagged Freedom of Information requests attempting to find out exactly what the DWP is up to. When the workfare row blew up he lied to the public, the business sector and other MPs alike as he attempted to squirm his way out of trouble. Documents were disappeared, or hastily rewritten, as the DWP said one thing and Chris Grayling said something quite different.

Under this regime it is hardly surprising that benefit claimants are unable to find out the true nature of the schemes they may have been sent on. The Minister himself barely seems to know what’s going on half the time.

Chris Grayling’s behaviour over the last couple of weeks reveals that this deceitful shambles shows no sign of slowing down. Grayling this week banned publication of a report looking into the treatment of unpaid stewards at the Jubilee earlier in the year. Claiming the document is commercially confidential, it seems that Tory stooges Tomorrow’s People – the so called charity that sent unemployed people to sleep under a bridge for the night – are not to be held to public account for their actions.

Meanwhile, two recent television documentaries once more saw Grayling spinning out of control as he declared that there are no targets for the private company Atos to find people ‘fit for work’, despite the clear evidence to the contrary presented in Channel 4’s Dispatches.

The documentary explored the Work Capability Assessment, the now notorious assessment process inflicted on those claiming sickness or disability benefits, undertaken by French IT firm and Olympic sponsors Atos.  The system was described as toxic by the very people paid to carry out the tests who revealed how some cancer patients were judged fit for work simply for being on the wrong type of chemotherapy.

Grayling still claims this brutal process ‘helps’ people, despite the untold suffering and increasing number of deaths which have occurred due to the endless assessments. Professor Malcolm Harrington, the man brought into the scrutinise the process, has been ‘resigned’ after being critical of the assessments and Grayling is ploughing on regardless.

In an effort to stem the growing number of successful appeals challenging Atos’ decisions, Grayling has now effectively banned a video produced by the Ministry of Justice providing advice on the appeal process.

Shortly after the documentaries were aired it was announced that Atos are to be awarded the contract to carry out similar assessments on those claiming the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the replacement for Disability Living Allowance (DLA). This time there can be no pretending from ministers that there will be no targets. The Government have already announced that 20% of disabled people are to lose benefits due to the new assessment regime.

So still the Chris Grayling comedy show marches on. His latest pronouncement, as workfare collapses around him, is to introduce yet more workfare on the Community Action Programme. Under this madcap scheme, around one million long term unemployed people are to be forced into six months full time workfare for community projects and charities.

Grayling has neglected to ask the voluntary sector whether they want a million full time volunteers, many of whom won’t want to be there. There has been no assessment as to whether the sector can even absorb, supervise and afford this influx of unpaid workers. The more ethical charities such as Oxfam have already stated they will take no part in any workfare style schemes.

Welfare to Work insiders already claim that finding enough workfare placements on the current schemes is proving almost impossible. The few charities left using forced labour, such as Scope and the British Heart Foundation, only have so many shops. Once again a back of the envelope scheme aimed at punishing the unemployed is set to collapse simply because no-one at the DWP has thought through what is likely to happen in practice.

Cait Reilly is set to appeal against the recent court judgement meaning workfare will be back in the courts this Autumn. A judicial review has also recently been granted to challenge the Work Capability Assessment. More protests against both workfare and Atos are scheduled in the next few weeks.  Everyday more and more people are waking up to the reality of welfare reform, as it happens to them, their friends, neighbours or loved ones.  If Grayling thinks he can lie, scheme and cheat his way through yet another session of Parliament he may yet have an unpleasant surprise.

Work Programme, Work Experience and Workfare – A Guide For Employers

“I employed somebody on the Government’s Work Programme in my restaurant and caught them spitting in the bleedin’ food.”  J. Oliver, Small Business Owner


The Government have been evasive about revealing too many details of their schemes aimed at forcing people to work for their benefits.  This lack of concise information has led to confusion for both benefit claimants and small business owners alike.

There are several schemes in which employers can get workers for free.  The largest scheme is the Work Programme, under which unemployed claimants are placed under the control of Welfare to Work companies such as A4e.  Unemployed people can be sent to work for no pay for periods of up to six months at a time.  This scheme is open to both the private and charitable sectors.  These workers must not be paid.

It is unclear whether unemployed people who refuse to attend workfare on this scheme will face benefit sanctions.  Guidance published by the DWP suggests that they will, however this guidance was changed abruptly earlier in the year. 

The Minister concerned, Chris Grayling, has told a Parliamentary Committee that no-one has ever been forced into ‘workfare’ on the Work Programme, however Freedom of Information requests have revealed it to be common practice.  The best advice for employers who are opposed to unemployed people being coerced by sanctions into working for free is to avoid those on the Work Programme.

Work Experience is a scheme for young people under which they can be sent to carry out unpaid work for up to two months.  This is the scheme which drew protests earlier in the year and is currently at the centre of a court case to establish its legality.  It is therefore possible that this scheme may turn out to be unlawful.  The scheme is open to private and charitable sector organisations.  Workers must not be paid.

Once again it is unclear whether sanctions apply to this scheme.  The Government has announced that young people will not be sanctioned should they refuse to attend (or leave at any point).   Informal reports from benefit claimants suggest however that young people are still being threatened with sanctions for non-attendance.  Once again, if you are opposed to benefit sanctions, it is best avoided.

Mandatory Work Activity is four weeks unpaid work and used as punishment by Jobcentre staff who feel that somebody isn’t trying hard enough to find a job.  It is believed that those who refuse to attend workfare on the above two programmes are sentenced to Mandatory Work instead.  The system operates in a similar way to the Community Payback scheme for offenders, however presently unemployed people are not required to wear uniforms.  This scheme is open to charities and businesses which can demonstrate a ‘community benefit’.  Workers must not be paid.

These are the largest ‘workfare’ style schemes however Sector Based Work Academies and the Community Action Programme are just two more examples of the endlessly complex Government schemes intended to compel the unemployed to work for their benefits.

The schemes are administered by Welfare to Work companies who are contacting small businesses now in order to secure placements for unemployed claimants.  Under some schemes these companies get paid for every person they refer to an unpaid position and will use every trick in the book to convince businesses to accept a ‘workfare’ worker.

Whilst for many employers the idea of employing people to work for free is a ‘no brainer’ there are several potentially costly pitfalls that must be considered.

Workfare has proved hugely unpopular with the general public.  An informal survey carried out at pickets of companies using workfare showed that around 9 out of 10 people refuse to enter a shop or restaurant when they discover staff aren’t being paid.  It is not just charities like Oxfam and Marie Curie who have issued clear rejections of the scheme.  Major companies such as Tesco, Boots and Burger King have also pulled out of the scheme due to threats of mass boycotts and damage to their reputations.

The Government will try and keep your company’s involvement in workfare a secret, however there is no legislation planned to prevent workfare workers from revealing where they are sent.  Should your company use workfare you should assume that at some point people will find out.  Can your company afford the kind of negative publicity which might arise should your customers find out you don’t pay your staff?

Despite Government claims, it is not just anarchists, socialists and Trade Unionists who object to unpaid work.  Thousands of people have bombarded workfare using companies on social networking sites such as twitter and facebook.  A Conservative Councillor recently quit his post over the Government’s treatment of the unemployed.  Workfare is unpopular across the political spectrum.

As well as widespread condemnation of the scheme online, there have been an unprecedented numbers of protests and campaigns targeting companies which use workfare.  Whilst this guide for employers was being written a National Week of Action Against Workfare was taking place.

One company – Holland & Barrett – was so overwhelmed by the sheer force of opposition to workfare that they reluctantly abandoned their use of unpaid workers.  A group calling themselves Solidarity Federation repeatedly called for pickets of their stores around the UK.   These pickets were well supported by other activist groups and the general public alike. A huge boycott campaign was also launched, whilst the company were repeatedly mocked on the internet. 

In a PR disaster the company pulled out of workfare accusing protesters of acting violently towards their staff.  These claims were not substantiated and led to many customers turning a temporary boycott of the firm into a permanent one.  Holland & Barrett had corporate plans to replace around a quarter of their workforce with unpaid labour, however even this colossal saving was not enough to stop them leaving the scheme.  Could your company afford to be the next Holland & Barrett?

Workfare is unpopular with Trade Unions with many of the larger Unions issuing blanket condemnations of the practice.  If you have a heavily unionised workforce then you should expect resistance from current employees should you take on unpaid staff.

Many workfare workers are believed to be highly politicalised.  Rumours just started on the internet have suggested union activists, and even anarchists are deliberately infiltrating un-unionised workforces via workfare schemes.  There is a danger of sabotage.  Websites have appeared which show complex ways in which workers can cost employers money without being traced.  We can not allow ourselves to be held to ransom by these individuals.  But it is vital that employers recognise the consequences of having a potential fifth column of hardened radicals present within their workforce.

Due to the changes currently being made to sickness benefits, the nature of unemployed benefit claimants has changed.  Many people, including people with often serious physical and mental health conditions, are now judged ‘fit for work’.  There have been numerous stories in the press of people dying soon after being judged able to work.  In addition there have been several suicides linked to benefit reforms as well as the recent story of a man who set himself on fire outside his local Jobcentre.

Your business needs to be aware that potential unpaid workers may be vulnerable or simply unwell.  It is your company that is likely to be legally responsible should adequate insurance and Health and Safety procedures not be in place.

Remember that Jobcentres and Welfare to Work companies may not be aware of any health conditions or disabilities that workfare candidates may have.  Other disadvantaged groups, such as those dependent on drugs and alcohol or ex-offenders, are also likely to be referred to workfare positions.  Once again, Jobcentre staff are not likely to be aware of a claimant’s personal circumstances, and claimants are under no obligation to reveal information to them or you.

Should a vulnerable person have an accident or even die in your business premises then it is you and your company who will find themselves on the front pages.  Consider the experiences of Molly Prince, the boss of insurance firm Close Protection who were recently in the news after workfare staff were made to sleep under a bridge.  Molly was forced to resort to employing the costly services of Max Clifford after her personal life, and previous convictions became the story of the day.  Could you, or your family, handle this kind of tabloid intrusion into your personal life should the worst happen?

These are just some of the negative factors which businesses and charities alike should consider before employing workfare staff.  Perhaps the main concern however is the legality of the scheme.  The current court case attempting to have workfare ruled illegal is unlikely to be the last legal challenge to unpaid labour.  If workfare is ruled to be unlawful at any point then companies who partook in the scheme may find themselves with a huge wages bill.

Theatre Union BECTU and the National Union of Journalists have recently been successful in gaining back dated wage payments for interns who were employed without pay on non-government work experience placements.  HMRC has also demanded National Insurance to be paid for the period that interns were employed. 

If workfare is ruled to be similarly illegal then companies could find themselves with a wage and National Insurance bill for every workfare worker they have ever employed.

That recruiting unpaid staff may not be as profitable as it appears is easily demonstrated by the number of large employers who have pulled out of the scheme.  It is clear that for many businesses, workfare isn’t working.  Small companies in particular should consider the potential costs of what may look, on the surface, to be an attractive idea.  There really is no such thing as a free lunch as many workfare using companies have recently discovered.