Tag Archives: YMCA England

Do As I Say, Not As I Do Says Workfare Hypocrite John Sentamu

labourer-worthy“Millions of people across the country will get up today, leave their families and travel to work to carry out jobs that we all depend on. They will care for people, serve us food, clean the spaces that we all use and share. They will do more than a fair day’s work, but they won’t get a fair day’s pay.”

So said the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, writing in The Observer yesterday.  What the Bishop didn’t mention is that some of those people will not receive any pay at all.  In fact they could even be working – under threat of benefit sanctions – for the YMCA, the organisation of which he is the president.

Despite the Bishop condemning poverty pay, the organisation he heads uses workfare at both a national and local level.  Throughout the country people are mopping floors, stacking shelves and serving customers in YMCA charity shops without being paid a penny.  These people are the opposite of volunteers – they have been forced to work for no pay under the threat of brutal benefit sanctions on the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme.

Benefit sanctions can now last up to three years and mean children going hungry and rent going unpaid.  Claimants are left in a desperate limbo, unable even to afford to look for work whilst they have no money for clothes, fares, stamps, phone calls and internet access.  The end result is often crippling debt as both legal and illegal loan sharks cash in on the poverty created by sanctions.

This is what people face should they refuse a referral to mandatory work with the YMCA.  Despite this the charity claims they believe people referred  “should still be offered a choice about where the placement is undertaken and if at all possible, the placement should reflect their personal interests or skills.”

This shows a gross misunderstanding of this form of workfare which is used as a punishment aimed at those people that Jobcentre advisors have decided aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  Not trying hard enough could mean refusing another form of workfare, or not using the spam, scam and spoof ridden government website Universal Jobmatch to the extent required.  The Social Security Advisory Committee – who scrutinise social security legislation – warned that disabled people or those with a caring responsibility are  likely to be the most vulnerable to sanctions handed out for being unable to attend Mandatory Work Activity (PDF).

The Archbishop has been silent on the use of not just low paid but unpaid workers by his own organisation.  This is not the first time John Sentamu has been guilty of breath taking hypocrisy on the question of workfare.  Astonishingly he has previously condemned workfare directly:  “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, along the The Salvation Army, are one of the few charities left involved in the repugnant MWA scheme after most decent charities pulled out in disgust.  These two so called Christian charities never see the horrific suffering they cause when they report a claimant to the DWP for failing to attend forced labour in one of their shops.  This means they pretend they have no part in the brutality of benefit sanctions that they are directly responsible for initiating.

In The Observer this weekend Sentamu says that “what workers really need is pay, not platitudes”.  Yet he is still quite happy to give his name to an organisation which has become one of the last remaining cheerleaders in the charitable sector for forced unpaid work.  If the Archbishop really cared about low pay or workfare then he would force the YMCA to change course – or resign.

Sentamu ends his piece with an appeal to the low paid, and presumably unpaid, by announcing “If you are paid less than the living wage, I want to hear from you.”

Sentamu is on twitter @JohnSentamu.  His charity can be contacted @YMCA_England or on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/THEYMCA  

If you have been forced to attend or face mandatory workfare then why not join the Archbishop’s “national conversation about low pay in Britain”.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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