Tag Archives: YMCA

20 Million Hours Of Forced Unpaid Labour: How Much Lower Can So-Called Charities Sink?

ymca-no-payThe 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/

Usual apology for lack of posts, emails unanswered, slack moderation etc.  Been one thing after a fucking other this last few months.  Normal service will hopefully be resumed soon.

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Shameless – Workfare Exploiting Charities Slam The Benefit Sanctions They Are Responsible For

times-letter-sanctionsIn an act of breath-taking hypocrisy, the Salvation Army, along with the YMCA, have both signed a letter to The Times calling the current benefit sanctioning regime unfair and counter-productive.

This comes despite both organisations being involved in ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ and therefore responsible for reporting unemployed people to the Jobcentre to face sanctions if they don’t turn up for unpaid work placements.

The Salvation Army has even been praised by the DWP for ‘holding the line’ on workfare after scores of charities distanced themselves from the scheme. When peaceful anti-workfare campaigners visited the Salvation Army in protest at their use of workfare, the charity locked them inside and attempted to have them arrested with fabricated stories of staff being man-handled.

The Salvation Army have repeatedly defended their involvement in mandatory welfare-to-work provision and also their operation of a Work Programme sub-contract. Claimants on this scheme, including those on out of work sickness or disability benefits, can be ‘mandated’ to almost any job search related activity that the charity can dream up, including workfare. If their victims fail to do what they are told then it is the Salvation Army’s job to report them to the DWP to have their benefits sanctioned.

Not for the first time some charities are pretending to care about the poor in public whilst stopping their benefits behind the scenes.  If the Salvation Army and the YMCA think sanctions are unfair then perhaps they should stop sanctioning people.  Until then, these grubby attempts to white wash their own workfare crimes should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

To join the fight against workfare visit Boycott Workfare’s website.

Charities and voluntary organisations opposed to workfare can sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement.

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

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

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Mandatory Work Activity Is Wobbling, Keep Kicking Till It Breaks

salvation-army-workfareIn a victory for anti-workfare campaigners, the number of people forced to work without pay on the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme is steadily falling.

MWA is just one of several workfare programmes and involves four weeks full-time work for charities or so-called ‘community organisations’ under the threat of meagre benefits being stopped.  2,670 people were sent on the scheme in February 2014, compared to a high of over four thousand during the same period last year.  In December 2013 only 1,720 starts were recorded, the lowest figure since the scheme was just beginning in the summer of 2011.

The fall in the number of unpaid workers comes after two years of campaigning against by Boycott Workfare and other claimant’s groups which has now seen hundreds of charities rejecting forced labour schemes.  Household names such as Oxfam, Scope and Shelter have been joined by over 300 organisations to sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement which firmly rejects unpaid work under the threat of benefit sanctions.

This month’s figures are particularly embarrassing for the DWP as they attempt to roll out the most draconian workfare scheme yet.  Community Work Placements will see thousands of people sent to carry out 780 hours work without pay.  Where they will be sent remains shrouded in mystery.  The DWP refuse to say which charities are using workfare to protect the reputations of these supposedly ethical and transparent organisations.

We do know that @salavationarmyuk, @YMCA_England and @TCVtweets have all said they will not take part in Community Work Placements, but they are all still happy to use forced workers on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.  All three of these charities are complicit in processing benefit sanctions which have driven people into destitution. 

Workfare quango @Groundworkuk also use free labour on the MWA scheme, and are the only national charity we know for sure that will be involved in Community Work Placements.

The fight against workfare is a long way from over, but as decent charities everywhere distance themselves from forced work, it is a fight that can be won.

To join in visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

The MWA statistics are available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pre-work-programme-support-mandatory-programmes-may-2014

Sign the petition to scrap all benefit sanctions without exceptions.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

There’s Still No Pay At The Y.M.C.A – Boycott Workfare Target Forced Labour Charity

ymca-protestA lively protest was held both inside and outside the head offices of so-called charity the YMCA today as part of the week of action against workfare.

Several demonstrators from Boycott Workfare carried out a short occupation of the charity’s offices before holding a protest outside where a sound system played and protesters sang the familiar ‘There’s no pay at the Y.M.C.A.”.

Lots of leaflets were handed out and many people expressed shock that a charity claiming to help the homeless would be involved in not just workfare, but also administering benefit sanctions.  The YMCA themselves have said that sanctions, which can leave people with nothing to live on at all, can have a ‘devastating impact’ on the lives of young people.

This hasn’t stopped them being part of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme and the Work Programme – both of which are backed by the same sanctions that the YMCA claim are of such concern to them.

In a major victory for all those who have campaigned against the charity it is believed that they have now decided not to be involved in Community Work Placements – the latest six month long workfare scheme being launched at the end of this month.  They are however involved in Traineeships which can involve up to six months unpaid work for private companies.  In his Autumn Statement George Osborne announced that people under the age of 21 who refuse an unpaid Traineeship will face being sent on a Community Work Placement instead.

An online action has also been called against the charity so you can tell them what you think of their use of workfare on twitter @YMCA_England or facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/YMCA.England

For more details and the latest news on the week of action visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3436

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

The Vile Hypocrisy of Workfare Exploiters the YMCA

ymca-no-paySo-called charity the YMCA have issued a disgusting statement today in which they acknowledge that benefit sanctions can lead to debt, along with worsened physical or mental health and yet they still claim to support this vicious regime.  This vile attempt to justify their own role in stopping young people’s benefits comes on the day that the DWP admitted a huge increase in the number of benefit claims sanctioned in the last year.

Perhaps most contemptuously of all, they attempt to use the young people who makes use of their services to justify this grotesque hypocrisy.  According to the YMCA: “there is support in principle amongst YMCAs and the vulnerable young people we work with for some form of sanctions.”

They honestly expect people to believe that young people are just crying out to have their benefits stopped and be driven to homelessness, begging or even attempting suicide.  And like Jesus’ little fucking helpers the YMCA are only too happy to comply by forcing people to work unpaid in their charity shops or face benefits being stopped.

The YMCA want to have their cake and eat it, pretending to care about the people they impoverish in gushing press releases on their website whilst quietly forcing people to work without pay behind the scenes.  Don’t let them get away with it, tell them what you think on twitter @YMCA_England  and facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/THEYMCA

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

YMCA Attempt Workfare Whitewash – Who Benefits From This New Charity Campaign?

Charities-workfare-sheeps-clothing-small1The YMCA, one of the UK’s leading advocates for workfare and benefit sanctions, have joined a campaign which demands that “no one should go hungry because they lose their job or become homeless because they get ill.”

The Who Benefits campaign was launched this week in an attempt to change the negative stereotypes of those claiming benefits and calling on the Government to do more to  “focus on the real reasons that people are struggling, like low wages, the high cost of living and the housing crisis.”

The campaign is backed by 80 charities and so far seems to be little more than a website listing the corporate logos of the charities involved and a call for people to tell their stories of life on benefits.

Homeless charity YMCA are featured on the list despite their involvement with mandatory work schemes.  YMCA have freely admitted to using forced volunteers on mandatory Government programmes to staff their shops at both a local and national level.  Claimants sent by Jobcentres to undertake this unpaid work could face having benefits stopped completely for up to three years if they refuse.  It seems that this campaign is quite happy to work with an organisation who will leave people to go hungry if they don’t attend their workfare placement in a YMCA charity shop.

Several others charities involved in this campaign, including MIND who co-founded the project, hold Work Programme sub-contracts – meaning they too are actively involved in sanctioning claimant’s benefits.  Disability Rights UK (DRUK) are also on the list, an organisation which has worked hand in glove with the DWP throughout Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.

The sad truth is that many charities are up to their neck in welfare reform and the welfare-to-work industry that has developed to administer the endless attacks on claimants.  Mencap – who are members of this new campaign – recently even sponsored an award at a welfare-to-work industry shindig.

There is no doubt that the image of the so called third sector has taken a battering over the last couple of years as grassroots campaigns have exposed the cosy relationship between charities, this Government and poverty pimps like A4e, G4S and Working Links.  Yet the inclusion of the YMCA in this project, along with the dogged refusal of the big disability charities to pull out of the sanctions regime completely, does not suggest that a radical change of heart has taken place.

Which begs the question who really benefits from this campaign?  Is it benefit claimants, disabled people and those condemned to poverty or forced work by benefit sanctions.  Or is it charities who hope a cheap website and some weasel words will help restore their reputation whilst behind the scenes it’s business as usual on the welfare reform gravy train.

The new campaign is on twitter @WeAllBenefit whilst the YMCA can be found @YMCA_England

Above pic from Crippen Cartoons

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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

There’s No Pay At The Y-M-C-A!*

ymca-construction-worker“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 above quote is from Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu and one of a growing number of  voices in the Church condemning this Government’s obsession with unpaid labour.

Unfortunately the Bishop is also the president of workfare riddled YMCA, as has just been revealed by @boycottworkfare.

YMCA are involved in the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) programme – four weeks full time unpaid work for organisations with a ‘community benefit’.  This scheme is the teeth of the workfare regime, used solely as punishment for those who refuse ‘voluntary’ workfare or are judged to be not trying to hard enough to find work.  The evidence shows that MWA does not help people find a job, and it is not intended to.  Under current rules it is not possible to volunteer for MWA.

The YMCA (@YMCA_England) have remained silent about their use of unpaid workers ever since the workfare row broke out.  Dr John Sentamu can be found on twitter (@JohnSentamu).     Perhaps he will have the grace to tell the truth about how his own charity takes “advantage of the vulnerable by using them as free labour”.

*I really wish I could claim credit for the above headline, but that goes to @wolvopingu

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