The 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: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/
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