Tag Archives: Groundwork

Take Action: Bring Down @GroundworkUK’s Community Work Placements in the North East

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From Boycott Workfare

Community Work Placements would collapse without support from major charities. Today, as part of our week of action, we are contacting the major charities who provide CWP placements for Groundwork in the North East of England (six months’ workfare for 30 hours per week). We’re asking them to commit to not taking part in any of the government’s workfare schemes.

Yesterday, the website of Groundwork North East listed all the charities providing them with placements. These include Cheshire Homes, British Heart Foundation, Barnardo’s and Scope, as well as over 15 more local voluntary agencies in Redcar or who are part of Redcar Voluntary & Community Sector. As Groundwork also say, as well as having a ‘fantastic working relationship with the local job centres’, they work in close partnership with Christians against Poverty and local food banks.

What they don’t say is that workfare is a major cause of poverty and a major reason why people end up depending on food banks for food. We know how Community Work Placements are being marketed to employers as a way of replacing paid jobs.

Groundwork have since removed the webpage – but we’ve got a screenshot (click on the image above to enlarge it).

The involvement of well known national charities is disappointing. BHF have previously stated “We are not involved in the Help to Work scheme. Barnardo’s have said “Barnardo’s does not take part in any mandatory work activity. We have been clear that we are against the principle of benefits sanctions”. Scope are signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement, which commits them to not taking part in any government workfare scheme.

So what’s going on? It looks like the culture of secrecy surrounding workfare (e.g. the refusal of Freedom of Information requests, redaction of placement providers from contracts on the grounds of ‘commercial sensitivity) is enabling placement brokers like Groundwork to mis-sell forced labour as volunteering.

We have to ask: is this secrecy compatible with the duty of charities to be open and honest about their activities? To ensure that the public, who donate to charities, are fully aware of whether they do, or do not, support forced unpaid labour in any guise?

We understand that because all aspects of workfare are cloaked in secrets and lies, some charities providing placements may well have been misinformed. It can be especially difficult for small, local charities to avoid being deceived. But if an organisation gets a letter that refers to the same group of people as ‘unpaid employees’, ‘volunteers’, and ‘unemployed people’ – and emphasises that the organisation won’t have to pay anything for them (even travel costs) – then alarm bells should start ringing. And when well known workfare fixers like Groundwork get in touch, it’s more than likely it’s for placements for JSA claimants who’ve already been unpaid on the work programme and are now being sent on CWP for up to six months more unpaid labour.

As for British Heart Foundation, Barnado’s and Scope: you can let them know that the public expect them to honour their commitments not to take part in workfare. And expect them to remember that they have a duty of care towards those on current placements: these organisations must ensure that they do not face sanctions or suffer as a result of the organisation withdrawing.

You can send a message to BHF via their website or phone their head office on 020 7554 0000. You can tweet at them @TheBHF

You can phone Barnado’s North East regional office on 0191 240 4800, contact them on Facebook and tweet at them @Barnados

You can get in touch with Scope’s media and PR via email pasca.lane@scope.org.uk and tweet at them too @scope

Groundwork North East can be reached on the phone (01388 662 666), on Facebook, and on Twitter @GroundworkNE

And Groundwork UK are on Facebook and Twitter aa @GroundworkUK . Or you could contact them through their website, or on the phone (0121 236 8565). They have other local branches throughout the UK. To find contact details for the nearest one to you, look here.

Please feel free to contact the other placement hosts listed on the Groundwork North East website as well. There’s not many, and if half pulled out, Groundwork’s CWP contract would be ruined.

I missed yesterday’s online action, but you can still tweet using hashtag #HospiceCareWeek and ask hospices not to be involved in government workfare schemes.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Take Action Against @GroundworkUK: No Grounds For Greenwashing Workfare

groundworkuk-ruining-livesFrom Boycott Workfare

Groundwork boasts of its involvement in workfare. Join in with an online blockade of their social media and let them know what you think of their prolific and unashamed use of forced unpaid labour.  

Take online action today against Groundwork, the green charity using unpaid labour. Branches of Groundwork up and down the country openly advertise their involvement in all kinds of workfare, including the latest and most exploitative programmes.

Charities and voluntary organisations should know the value of volunteering. Instead Groundwork is taking thousands of unemployed people on workfare placements with no pay and putting people at risk of sanctions. According to their own statistics they forced 4,500 people through workfare last year alone. They trade on the goodwill of their ‘volunteering’ projects to secure government money for unpaid labour schemes.

Groundwork is also taking part in the latest draconian scheme, Community Work Placements (CWP), as a sub-contractor of G4S in Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria. CWP is a six month long placement – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime.  Workfare criminalises unemployed people and then punishes them more harshly than other people who are forced to work for free. It does this without even the appearance of judicial process: people are punished just because they’re unemployed.

More than 400 charities and 22 councils have rejected CWP and other workfare schemes by signing the Keep Volunteering Voluntary pledge. They understand that workfare is punitive and that it doesn’t help people find jobs.

Following the latest attacks from the government on unemployed people, in which the Tories are promising to cut benefits and roll out more of the harsh schemes like the ones Groundwork provides, we need to show those involved in workfare just how unacceptable it is.

A lot of green charities and recycling companies are involved in workfare schemes. The environment is a useful alibi for forcing people to work for free, because it makes it easy to claim that the work unemployed people are doing is for “community benefit” – which it is supposed to be, if the scheme is one that people can be directly forced to do, like CWP or Mandatory Work Activity.  This is why there’s so many environmental charities, city farms, and recycling firms on our list of workfare exploiters.

Workfare schemes cannot operate without charities that are willing to take on unpaid workers, but Groundwork’s involvement is deeper: they help organise the schemes as well. Groundwork say they recognise that Jobcentre Plus is enforcing a “stricter application…of conditions and sanctions”, but they continue to help to run this punitive system anyway. Let them know about the hardship and destitution that benefit sanctions are causing. Let them know that forcing people to work under threat of destitution for no pay is wrong.

Groundwork are on Twitter  @GroundworkUK and on Facebook here.

Or you could contact them through their website, or on the phone (0121 236 8565).  They have local branches throughout the UK.  To find contact details for the nearest one to you, look here.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

DWP Begs Charities To Collaborate In Cruelty

CWP-quote

A barely literate made up quote from the DWP leaflet calling on charities to force people to work for free.

The DWP has finally released the provider guidance for the new Community Workfare Placements, the new forced work scheme which may or may not be finally starting this month.  This is the set of rules that the private sector parasites running the placements have to follow and should be downloaded  and studied by anyone facing forced work on the scheme.

Alongside the guidance comes a leaflet begging organisations to take part, promising that forcing claimants to work without pay for six months can help charities “fulfil a social responsibility” and provide them with “extra support” for their work within the community.  They also hint that charities can expect to be paid by the tax payer for  becoming involved in workfare, although they warn this will be the decision of the private companies being paid millions to administer the scheme.

They are quick to point out however that forced workers on the scheme are not to be paid themselves, pointing out to charities that “you are not employing them because mandatory work placements do not replace paid jobs.”

This is their woeful argument to counter accusations that workfare replaces real jobs and is therefore likely to make unemployment worse. The DWP appear to think that if someone isn’t getting paid then that means it’s impossible for them to be replacing the job of a paid worker, because, well just because.  They obviously assume everyone in the voluntary sector is as fucking stupid as they are.

The provider guidance is even more explicit on the question of payments, insisting to the companies running the show that: “You must not give (and ensure host organisations do not give) any incentive payments or rewards to the claimant for participation in CWP”.

It sounds like even a free lunch would be enough to break the rules, although claimants should be paid travel expenses for the daily commute to unpaid work which could be up to a 90 minute journey each way.

The documents confirm that even people currently serving a benefit sanction, meaning they have no income at all, can still be sentenced to forced work on the scheme.  Even without a sanctions, many people on Jobseeker’s Allowance only have a few pounds left after paying the Bedroom Tax, Council Tax and household bills.  There will be lots of people on Community Work Placements who are going hungry throughout the day, and some of them will become ill because of it.  This will include people who’s own doctors say they are unable to work, but who have been found fit for work by Atos and forced to sign on as unemployed.  This scheme is breath-takingly cruel, even for the DWP under Iain Duncan Smith.

It is horrifying that charities like @GroundworkUK are salivating at prospect of all these free unpaid workers.  It is shocking that the DWP is protecting these vermin by attempting to turn the names of workfare placement providers into a state secret.  And it is vital that the public is allowed to find out who they are so they can be rightly named and shamed.  Charities have a duty to be transparent in their dealings.  Before you give them a penny of your money, or a second of your time, ensure that they have pledged not to be part of this disgusting attempt to punish people simply for the crime of being unable to find a job.

Hundreds of charities are now waking up to the reality of workfare in the UK and have signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement.  Some local councils have also pledged to boycott the scheme with a list being maintained by Unite the Union.  To join the fight back against all forms of workfare visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

For links to the provider guidance for Community Work Placements and information on claimant’s rights: http://refuted.org.uk/2014/05/27/mandatorycommunitywork/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Another Shambles At The DWP: Community Work Placements Fail To Launch

g4s-workfareDespite 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

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Stop Workfare In Its Tracks – Join The Week Of Action 29 March – 6 April 2014

salvation-army-workfareIn April George Osborne’s mass workfare scheme will begin.  Unemployed people will be sentenced to 780 hours community work simply for being unable to find a job. Not even lone parents with young children are to be exempt from the scheme which will see so-called charities like Groundwork UK and the Salvation Army paid by the tax payer to force people to work for free.  Part time workers and those currently genuinely volunteering will also face being sent on unpaid work.

Collective action can halt this forced labour scheme in its tracks.  A week of action against workfare has been called beginning on the 29th March.  An escalation in the campaign against unpaid work is vital and there is no better chance than this.  It only takes a few people to get the ball rolling, and protests against organisations using workfare have proved to be effective.  Boycott Workfare can offer support with publicity, leaflets and advice. Please help spread the word about the week of action and let’s make this the strongest stand against people being forced to work for free that has been seen so far.

From Boycott Workfare:

Tens of organisations have already quit workfare. The government will not reveal which organisations are still using it for fear the schemes will collapse. Its contractors complain that they have lost hundreds of placements due to public pressure.

But they’re trying it again with a new scheme – “Community Work Placements” – launching on 1 April 2014 which will force claimants to work for six months without pay. Six months – 780 hours – is more than twice the maximum community service sentence. Workfare does not help people find jobs and being unemployed is not a crime.

This new workfare scheme is part of a raft of draconian measures, misleadingly called “Help to Work”, which are designed to increase sanctions (benefit stoppages) and undermine wages still further.

For the workfare schemes to happen, they need places to send people, but tens of large charities have already quit. Oxfam stated that the schemes were incompatible with its goal of reducing poverty in the UK. Liverpool CVS has condemned the scheme in the strongest possible terms.

Our action can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting forced unpaid work and make sure this new scheme falls flat on its face. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 29 March-6 April.

Target the charities:

  • Friendly local charity or Volunteer Service? Invite them to commit not to use forced unpaid work by signing our pledge.
  • Big workfare user like RSPCA, YMCA, Salvation Army, The Conservation Volunteers, British Heart Foundation, Barnardos or Cancer Research? Write to them, organise a demo or encourage people you know not to donate until they stop using workfare!
  • Approach workers in the voluntary sector to ask them to pressure their employer not to participate in the scheme. There are often Union branches for voluntary sector workers you could contact.
  • Visit boycottworkfare.org daily during the week to take part in online action!

Target the councils:

  • Find out if we know about workfare in your local council on this spreadsheet.
  • If so, adapt our press release and expose them in your local paper.
  • Contact local Unison, GMB or Unite branches for council workers and encourage them to pass the motion to challenge workfare and to take it up with the council.
  • Find out if any sympathetic local councillors would take a motion to the council for it to boycott workfare. It has been done!

Support each other to get our rights:

  • Order know your rights leaflets to give out at the job centre or around your local community – email info[at]boycottworkfare.org with how many you would like!
  • Thinking about starting a mutual support group? Invite an existing group to help get it going with a workshop or talk.

Want to target the companies involved in workfare as well?
There are currently call outs to target Peacocks, and Grosvenor Casinos. Or there’s our crowd-sourced list of workfare exploiters to whom you may also like to pay a visit.

For more info visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3353 and follow @boycottworkfare for the latest news.

Please join and share the facebook page for the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1548766378680842/

Read about the recent inspiring action by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty against workfare exploiters The Salvation Army.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Shameless! Are TCV and Groundwork Britain’s Biggest Benefit Scroungers?

tony-hawkhead-smile

Groundwork boss Sir Tony Hawkhead who recently gave a speech at the annual workfare conference.

Groundwork UK and The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)  are believed to be two of the biggest workfare exploiters in the UK.

These two charities do not just force people to work without pay on their environmental chain gangs but also have lucrative DWP contracts to bully people into unpaid work.

Both organisations are providers of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme on which unemployed people can be sent to work without pay for four weeks at a time seemingly on the whims of Jobcentre advisors. Sources have even suggested that TCV have referred unpaid workers on this scheme onto their own environmental projects.  This means they not only get a free tax-payer funded workers but are paid again by the tax-payer for the privilege!

Groundwork are planning to go one step further and are currently bidding to run the upcoming Community Work Placements.  TCV are also expected to bid.  This scheme will involve thousands of people being sentenced to carry out six months forced full time work – that’s 780 hours – over two and a half times the maximum community service punishment which can be handed out by the courts.  If successful Groundwork will be paid for everyone they bully into forced labour on the scheme.  Whether some of these workers end up working unpaid for Groundwork remains to be seen – but there is nothing in the rules to prevent this.

There is no pretence by the DWP that these schemes actually help people find jobs.  Appallingly organisations running the Community Work Placements will be paid more to force someone into workfare than they will if they find them a job.  Under new rules even claimants currently serving a sanction – meaning they have no money at all – could be forced into unpaid work or may never be entitled to benefits again.  These schemes purely exist to make life on benefits as unbearable as possible due to the warped belief that most people choose to be out of work and that unemployment is caused by unemployed people.

A recent report by Citizens Advice warned that people who have had benefits sanctioned have been driven to attempt suicide, have become homeless or been forced to beg or go through bins to find food.  This is what happens to someone who refuses, or is unable to work full time without pay for Groundwork or TCV.

There have recently been questions raised over why so many people are currently going hungry in the UK.  This follows a report written by doctors warning that food poverty is now a ‘public health emergency’.  It is no secret what is going on however.

The benefit sanctioning activities of charities like TCV, YMCA, Groundwork and the Salvation Army are one of reasons for this suffering. Foodbanks repeatedly report that many people they help have had benefits sanctioned.  These organisations cannot wash their hands of their own responsibility for causing hunger in the UK by attempting, as many do, to shift the blame for sanctions onto the DWP.  Especially when they don’t just benefit from free workers but also run lucrative Government contracts to manage forced labour schemes which are backed by sanctions.

As part of the week of action against workfare and sanctions it’s time to say enough is enough and hold these shameless bastards to account for their grotesque profiteering.  And don’t let them try claim that they aren’t doing it for the money.  Workfare and workfare contracts are two of the reasons they can afford to pay their bosses so much after all.   These so-called charities are the real benefit scroungers and the suffering they are causing is obscene.

Groundwork are on twitter @groundworkuk and facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groundworkuk

TCV are on twitter @TCVtweets and facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TheConservationVolunteers

YMCA are on twitter @YMCA_England and facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/YMCA.England

The Salvation Army are on twitter @salvationarmyuk and facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/salvationarmyuk

And don’t forget another so-called charity involved in mass workfare, The Shaw Trust, on twitter @Shaw_Trust and facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shaw-Trust/221553131217597

Don’t forget to sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exceptions.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Tax-Payer Funded Charity Workfare Subsidy Tops £50 Million!

workfare-stick-up74,070 people have now been sent to work unpaid on the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme DWP statistics reveal today (via @refuted).

Claimants on Mandatory Work Activity are forced to carry out 120 hours of unpaid labour over a period of four weeks.  The scheme is used by Jobcentres to punish people they decide aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  Those receiving Jobseekers Allowance can be sent on this type of workfare from the first day they are unemployed or face benefits being stopped completely.  17,090 of these forced to work unpaid were recorded by the Jobcentre as being disabled people.

Many of the claimants are sent to work in charity shops such as those run by @salvationarmyuk and @YMCA_England.  Others are sent to work outside on chain gangs for environmental charities such as @TCVtweets and @Groundworkuk.

Many of these so-called charities have claimed that they do not benefit from unpaid workers and have bought into Iain Duncan Smith’s warped ‘work makes you free’ ideology.  Yet according to the figures, this scheme has meant a total of 8,888400 hours of forced unpaid work has been carried out by unemployed people for the ‘voluntary’ sector.

If charities had been required to pay even minimum wage for these workers it would have cost them over £56 million pounds.  And this is far from the only workfare scheme that grasping charities can make use of.  Anyone who’s ever visited the Salvation Army’s gleaming international headquarters knows these organisations are not short of money.  The Salvation Army’s UK boss is estimated to be paid around £150,000 a year.

Christmas is a busy time for charities and often their most lucrative time of year.  There has never been a better time to join Boycott Workfare’s week of action and hold these organisations to account for this gross exploitation.  Actions will take place on and offline from next week beginning with a noise demonstration outside the annual workfare conference on Monday 2nd December.

With the number of people on workfare increasing despite many high profile charities pulling out of the scheme, it seems that many organisations are trying to conceal their use of forced labour from the public.  Help track them down and then make sure they are named and shamed on the Boycott Workfare website.

And please sign/share/tweet the petition to bring an end to benefit sanctions without exception.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid