1) THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT WORKFARE SCHEMES LEAD TO EMPLOYMENT.
Workfare schemes have been tried out in countries such as Australia, USA, Canada and places in Europe since the 1990’s, with dismal results. Research in Australia found that workfare had an insignificant effect on reducing long-term unemployment and was “ineffective” in finding sustainable employment.
The UK government commissioned it’s own international research into workfare before introducing the schemes and the findings were as follows:
“There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers”
“Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.”
2) YOU’RE FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE SANCTIONED THAN GET A JOB ON A GOVERNMENT WORK PROGRAMME
Figures released earlier this year revealed that five times more people were sanctioned than found work on government Work Programmes.
The sanctioning culture which has roared through the welfare system in the last four years is unfairly punishing claimants despite the provision of jobs being wholly inadequate. This is sanctioning people for not getting jobs that are not available.
The figures also revealed that 3% of 1.5m people enrolled on Work programmes found work.
Targets for jobcentre staff on sanctions mean that they are aiming to catch jobseeker’s out rather than help them, for fear of losing their own jobs for not meeting targets. This further removes and dilutes support for jobseekers and has lead to a raft of unjustified and stupid sanctions,like:
“You get a job interview. It’s at the same time as your job centre appointment, so you reschedule the job centre. You attend your rearranged appointment and then get a letter saying your benefits will be stopped because going to a job interview isn’t a good enough reason to miss an appointment.”
“You get a job that starts in two weeks time. You don’t look for work while you are waiting for the job to start. You’re sanctioned.”
“You are forced to retire due to a heart condition, and you claim Employment and Support Allowance. During your assessment you have a heart attack. You are sanctioned for not completing your assessment.”
(These are from stupidsanctions.tumblr.com where you can see more.)
3) WORKFARE IS UNDERMINING VOLUNTARY AND CHARITABLE VALUES
Many workfare schemes are portrayed as “voluntary” by government, and they are. Until you say no.
Schemes are based around an “involuntary voluntary” system – threatening claimants with sanctions should they not comply.
This erodes the notion of voluntary work as something taken on to provide a meaningful activity or self-motivated contribution. Further, government schemes can ignore other voluntary work taken on by claimants if they do not fall into schemes already decided and agreed, as demonstrated in the case of Cait Reilly who took the government to court and won, after the jobcentre told Cait to quit her volunteering at a local museum to work in Poundland.
The government has offered the scheme to several charities, but involvement in workfare can seriously undermine “core charitable” values, as workfare uses the poor and vulnerable to carry out free labour, and also requires companies and charities to report to the jobcentre on any problems or slip-ups.
“Liverpool Volunteering Centre suggests charities “ask yourself if, in all good conscience, you could report someone for not turning up or being late, knowing that their benefits will then be stopped?”
“Independence and the right to speak out on issues of concern are fundamental charitable values. Charities involved in delivering workfare programmes are increasingly being forced to sign gagging clauses preventing them from saying anything about their experience of workfare “which may attract adverse publicity”. Charities “shall not make any press announcement or publicise the contract in any way” without government approval.”
4) ‘FORCED LABOUR’ IS ILLEGAL
‘Forced or compulsory labour’ is prohibited under UK civil and criminal law.
Threatening claimants with sanctions, to remove what is often their only means to live, if they do not partake in workfare is not leaving them with much choice. Further, people on workfare schemes are counted as in ’employment’, as confirmed by the Office for National Statistics. Thus, workfare is masking the number of unemployed people and also completely destroying the notion of the minimum wage as workfare participants average £1.78 an hour for their benefits.
5) WORKFARE IS NOT JUST FOR THE LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED
There are a growing number of workfare schemes which target different groups of people, and continue under guises like ‘Steps To Work’, ‘Traineeships’, ‘Sector-based Work Academies’ and more. Find a full list at Boycott Workfare.
Whilst the government claimed initially that these schemes were aimed at the long-term unemployed, they quickly widened to allow people to be referred to a workfare scheme within 1-3 DAYS of claiming jobseeker’s allowance.
6) COURTS HAVE REPEATEDLY RULED AGAINST WORKFARE SCHEMES
Courts have repeatedly ruled against the government on workfare. In the case of Cait Reilly, the government had to do a hasty re-write of legislation as claimants were not being provided with adequate information as to what they were able to do. Indeed, the government had made no official documents outlining this before implementing schemes nationwide.
A High Court this year ruled a retrospective law change by Work and Pensions Minister, Iain Duncan Smith as illegal. IDS had attempted to avoid paying out on £130m worth of benefit repayments for sanctions which were also ruled illegal in court.
The government has repeatedly been told by courts to release the names of all companies involved in workfare. The reluctance of the DWP to do so demonstrates the bad publicity attached to the scheme.
7) WORKFARE IS HEADING FOR COLLAPSE. BUT WE NEED TO PUSH FOR IT.
Companies have been pulling out of workfare schemes up and down the country thanks to the consistent and locally organised actions of grassroots groups like Boycott Workfare who also inform claimants of their rights and provide advice.
Companies do not want to be associated with workfare, and the schemes are nearing collapse. But we need to keep pushing.
This week is the Workfare week of action – see how you could join in and help end this exploitation by clicking here.
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass