Due to some media reluctance to cover the subject and confusing and changing terminology used by government, it is still not clear to some what workfare is and what it is doing for employment. So as it’s the Workfare Week of Action and tonight there is a demonstration outside the Hilton, we thought we’d share some facts to fill in the gaps.
- What is Workfare?
Workfare is a scheme introduced in 2011 by the coalition government under the Community Action Programme, to supposedly help people get off of benefits and into work. It requires claimants to work 30 hours a week for between 4 weeks – 6 months for their benefits, including placements at profit making businesses.
- Is it Voluntary?
Last year, the scheme was exposed for ‘tricking’ people into enrolment, by not informing claimants of their rights, letting them know they didn’t have to do it, and not telling them that they would lose their benefits should they change their mind during the scheme. After lobbying and pressure from campaigners and companies, the government lifted some of the unjust sanctions and said they would ensure the scheme was only undertaken by claimants who wanted to do it.
However, if claimants decide to not take part in the scheme, they may be referred to Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) whereby they are forced to undertake a workfare placement. So the scheme is indeed, voluntary, ‘until you refuse’, say the Boycott Workfare organisation.
- Who does it affect?
Initially the government said that the scheme would only affect those who were long term unemployed. It also did target young people, who were perhaps looking for their first full time job after university or college. However, this has widened to many people, including the short term unemployed and the disabled.
In fact, it was revealed that over 12,000 disabled people were put on the MWA programme since it began and it is feared that some placements have been damaging to health:
“Claimants can be sent on unpaid work with no real assessment of their health or circumstances. Jobcentre staff may not even know that a claimant has a health condition which makes a placement unsuitable. With many claimants too terrified about DWP bullying and sanctions to complain, it is almost certain people have been sent to do work which has damaged their health.”
- Who does it benefit?
Government bravado – as the scheme massages the employment figures. Yes, that’s right, the number of people on workfare schemes are classed as employed in government statistics.
Big business profits – They do not have to pay for staff. Instead, ironically, the taxpayer pays for benefits that are used as the wages for big business – adding to the profits of companies. There have been instances where paid staff have been sent home, and workfare staff are used to finish shifts – saving places like Tesco a few more minimum wage hours. Every little helps.
- Does it work?
The DWP’s own statistics and evidence released last month, revealed that the workfare scheme had ‘no impact on the likelihood of being employed.’ In fact, the scheme is detrimental by giving claimants less time to look for paid work.
‘No impact on the likelihood of being employed.’
We must stop this scheme.
Make your voice heard during the Workfare Week of Action 6-14th July.