Tag Archives: MWA

Join the Rolling Online Picket of YMCA England

ymca-photo-joelsp-199x300via Boycott Workfare

YMCA England have come out fighting in the name of workfare with a new statement defending their use of forced unpaid workers on the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme. This follows their slur aimed at anti-workfare campaigners in which they claimed that just a handful of people are opposed to workfare.

Whilst most ethical charities have pulled out or tried to distance themselves from workfare, the YMCA, along with the Salvation Army have happily adopted roles as Iain Duncan Smith’s cheerleaders for unpaid work.

This is despite the YMCA’s own president, the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, saying last year:

“By all means, pay companies incentives to employ young people, but do not take advantage of the vulnerable by using them as free labour.”

The YMCA are justifying their use of forced unpaid workers by claiming that some workfare participants have had a good experience with the charity and they have heard of ‘several’ cases where someone even got a job after attending the scheme.

What they are choosing to ignore is the brutal reality for those sanctioned. Those who refuse forced labour at the YMCA are plunged into immediate poverty with benefits stopped, sometimes for up to three years. Whilst they continue their involvement in this scheme, YMCA England are directly culpable for the poverty, desperation and homelessness of those who refuse to, or are unable to serve as free workers in YMCA charity shops. It is often those who face the greatest difficulties, people who may have a mental health condition, or face other difficulties such as homelessness or substance misuse problems, who find themselves sanctioned for being unable to attend workfare – the very people the YMCA would claim to support.

The evidence shows that the Mandatory Work Activity scheme does not improve people’s chances of finding work. Despite the YMCA’s claims that the scheme is supposed to be beneficial, the Social Security Advisory Committee who scrutinise welfare reform noted (PDF):

“We wonder why, given that the Department views mandatory work activity as a beneficial change, people will not be permitted to volunteer to take part. This seems to us to signal that being mandated to mandatory work activity is regarded as a punishment rather than an opportunity to learn and develop new behaviours and skills.”

A rolling online picket against workfare exploiters in the charitable sector called in the run up to the Week of Action Against Workfare has already led to Sue Ryder pulling out when they realised the extent of public anger at forced unpaid work.

It’s time to show YMCA England that it is not just a handful of people who object to forced unpaid labour. Boycott them and let’s send a storm of online protest to show this charity just how many people are disgusted at their use of workfare.

Read about The Side Of Workfare That The YMCA Don’t Want You To See

YMCA England are on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/THEYMCA

Contact the Bishop on twitter @JohnSentamu or the charity direct @YMCA_England

Phone them on 020 7186 9500 or their shops hotline on 0845 601 0728.

Email: shop@ymca.org.uk or enquiries@ymca.org.uk

They have a youtube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/ymcaengland

To find contact details of your nearest YMCA shop visit: http://www.ymca.org.uk/find/ymcashops

Contact YMCA International to tell the world what this organisation is doing in their name to the poorest and already destitute in the UK @ymcaint or on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ymcas

YMCA have a range of fundraising arms including a Fitness Training company on twitter @ymcafit and facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ymcafit

They also run a corporate conference centre called Dunford House 01730 812381 sale@dunfordhouse.org.uk http://www.facebook.com/dunfordhouse

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare beginning on March 18th.

Please note: Whilst it’s well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls/emails will be low paid retail/admin staff and could even be on workfare themselves. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls or send communications which are threatening, indecent or offensive.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Side Of Workfare That The YMCA Don’t Want You To See

judas-betrays-jesusLast year the homelessness charity SHP pulled out of the Government’s Work Programme after warning that people were forced to ‘beg and steal to survive’ due to the vicious sanctions regime.  Around half a million benefit claims are sanctioned each year, and under new regulations a sanction can now last up to three years.

Claimants can find benefits stopped for missing a meeting, not applying for enough jobs or failing to attend workfare with charities like YMCA England and the Salvation Army.  Claimant’s personal circumstances are often not taken into account leading to tens of thousands of claims wrongly sanctioned and overturned on appeal.

The YMCA’s mealy mouthed response to criticism of their involvement with the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA)  scheme has been to focus on the handful of cases where someone says they have had a good experience.  They even claim ‘several’ people forced to work unpaid for the charity have eventually found real jobs.

Even if this is the case it grossly misses the point.  Whilst forced work is clear exploitation, it is the stories of those unable to, or who refuse to work for free that reveal the true horror of the scheme.

When MWA was first proposed the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) issued a damning report (PDF)  and recommended it should not go ahead.  The SSAC used to be a panel of experts who scrutinised welfare reforms.  Since that report the Government has attempted to staff the committee with chinless think-thank wonders like the Policy Exchange’s  Matthew Oakley whose only experience of the benefits system is watching the odd episode of Shameless.

Back when they SSAC had integrity they warned that it would be the most vulnerable claimants who would face sanctions.  They warned that ethnic minority claimants and those with a learning difficulty tend to be disproportionately sanctioned.   They questioned why if this scheme is supposed to help people it is impossible to volunteer for MWA and concluded it was intended as a means of punishment.

They even suggested that attendance on MWA may hamper people’s chances of gaining employment.  As well as limiting the time claimants have to look for work they pointed out that MWA may be confused with community service by employers.  As it would turn out the evidence from the scheme has shown it has no impact in helping people find employment.

The SSAC also reported concerns that people with ‘multiple difficulties’ are at greatest risk of sanctions on the scheme saying: “evidence shows that it is precisely those people who, perhaps because they have caring responsibilities or a disability, find it most difficult to meet their obligations in taking part in unpaid work activity.”

These are the type of people that charities like the YMCA and Salvation Army would claim to support, yet they are currently complicit in destroying their lives.

Housing Benefits are often stopped when claims are sanctioned leading to rent arrears.  Claimants who are fortunate enough to qualify for hardship payments, and many don’t,  receive just £42 a week.  When rent shortfalls (due to the Housing Benefit cuts and the upcoming bedroom tax),  and basic bills are paid, this leaves many claimants without any money at all left to buy food.  Parents are unable to buy even the basics to look after their children.  Many of those queuing up at food-banks have fallen victim to sanctions.  Hunger, child poverty and homelessness have become the weapons of choice at the DWP.

The YMCA never see or hear of those sanctioned because they didn’t attend workfare in one of their charity shops.  They never learn the reasons why.  They are hidden from the consequences of their dirty little workfare exploitation and think that this means their hands stay clean.

But whilst they stay involved in Mandatory Work Activity they are every bit as complicit in the tragedies that result from the current brutal system as Iain Duncan Smith himself.  They have sold their souls to the devil himself in exchange for a handful of free fake volunteers.  Even Judas Iscariot got a better deal.

Join the Rolling Online Picket of YMCA England and let them know what you think.

“Last July, Peter was called into Whitehaven Job Centre to see whether he would be suitable for volunteer work. “I went with him as he was very worried,’’ Christine said. “Physically, his leg was fused and he struggled to move around. He couldn’t properly grip with his hand and was due to have a calliper fitted to his foot. You only had to look at Peter to realise he couldn’t work.

“He was terrified they would stop his money as he had four loans. He couldn’t handle stress and would worry.’’

Peter received the text on the afternoon of November 26. The message didn’t state a date but a subsequent letter was sent days after Peter’s death with an appointment for December 17.

Christine said Peter rang her the day he received the text. He sounded low and told her he was going to bed early. “I didn’t think anything of it,’’ she said. But the next day when she couldn’t contact him, Christine went to his home when she discovered his body.

“He didn’t plan to kill himself,’’ she said. “I believe the text triggered him. It was the fear of what would happen to him. I’ve been unemployed, and he would support me when I felt down.”


Join the National Week of Action Against Workfare beginning on March 18th: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1996

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

British Heart Foundation’s Workfare Lies

Major UK charity, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), have resorted to lying through their teeth to hide their use of mass workfare.

Hundreds of people have contacted them objecting to their use of forced labour on the government’s various workfare schemes.  The charity have responded with this statement:

“Our shops rely on the efforts of paid staff, volunteers and people on schemes and placements. Every new person goes through the same process, irrespective of which route they have used to come through our doors. Our shop managers have a discussion with all applicants to ensure that their joining us is appropriate and mutually beneficial. If either side feels that this will not be the case, the applicant will not take up a position with us.”

This flies in the face of British Heart Foundation’s admission that they currently have 600 unpaid workers on the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme.  As the name suggests, this schemes involves four weeks unpaid work, and is used as a punishment by Jobcentre staff when they decide someone isn’t trying hard enough to find work.

When MWA was first proposed the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), who scrutinise government welfare rules, warned:

“We also wonder why, given that the Department views mandatory work activity as a beneficial change, people will not be permitted to volunteer to take part. This seems to us to signal that being mandated to mandatory work activity is regarded as a punishment rather than an opportunity to learn and develop new behaviours and skills.”

The committee recommended that MWA should not go ahead.  Despite this the Government ploughed on regardless and tens of thousands of people have now been sent on the scheme.  MWA does not help people find work, and it isn’t intended to.  Just like community payback, it is a punitive scheme, the only difference being that if you are caught burgling someone’s home you at least get a trial.

Increasing numbers of people have expressed outrage at major UK charities exploiting unemployed people to staff their charity shops.  The more ethical charities such as Oxfam and Marie Curie have already pulled out.  Others like the British Heart Foundation and Scope have carried on regardless and simply attempted to mislead the public about their use of forced labour.

There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence from people forced to work in BHF shops that despite the charities claims, they do not feel their placement with them is “appropriate and mutually beneficial.”

W King, in the comments of this blog recently noted: “I’ve been assigned to BHF starting next monday, definitely nothing voluntary about that.”

Most damning of all are the findings of Izzy Koksal, who recently visited a BHF charity shops in search of workfare and reported:

“Speaking with the manager, she looked around the room and counted those on Mandatory Work Activity, ‘1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 today’ she informed me, adding ‘we do have pure volunteers as well’.”

Speaking to those on workfare revealed the exactly how unhappy some of these ‘impure’ volunteers are:  “the young woman at the desk hearing why I was there, said quietly and emphatically ‘it’s not nice here, it’s not nice here’.”

“I went over to the three men who were fixing a broken wardrobe. ‘It’s a punishment’ one of the men told me as he hammered a nail into the wardrobe ‘it’s nothing to do with work experience, if you miss a day your benefits are stopped, it’s about stopping people from claiming benefits…Yes, I really appreciate this work experience, the 13 years of work I’ve done managing clubs in London really wasn’t enough’ he says good naturedly.”

The full story, which is well worth reading, can be found at:  http://izzykoksal.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/workfare-at-the-british-heart-foundation/

Today (Sept 8th)  sees another National Day of Action Against Workfare and many groups will be choosing to target charities, including BHF, who are benefiting from unpaid workers.

Even those who don’t consider forced unpaid work to be vile exploitation, may think twice about supporting charities who are prepared to lie about their use of workfare.  After all, if they lie about that when what else could they be lying about.  Charities like BHF, and Scope who also deny using workfare despite having unpaid workers on the MWA scheme, risk bringing the entire charitable sector into disrepute.

With the government rekindling plans to force even claimants on sickness or disability benefits to work for free, it is vital we show these so called charities that the workfare is unfair, immoral and unethical.  And no amount of spin from high paid charity bosses will hide their dirty little workfare secrets.

For all the latest news on workfare and the campaign to bring unpaid forced labour to an end visit:  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

British Heart Foundation are on twitter @thebhf, whilst Scope can be contacted @scope – if you can’t attend today’s day of action in person then why not tell them what you think.