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Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.

Welfare Action Gathering – 30th May

Posted: May 3rd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 11 Comments »

flyer for eventSaturday 30th May, 10.30am-5.30pm (arrive from 10.15am for a cup of tea), London Welsh Centre (10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross station)

We’ve just added a couple more workshops!  And now there’s a timetable as well. 

Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.

If you are concerned about:

  • Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
  • Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
  • 35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
  • ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
  • Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
  • Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
  • Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
  • Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…

…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear from other people organising across the UK! Learn about our rights and share ideas and tactics!

Organising against workfare in your town or city: How groups have had a huge impact and ways to get started in your town.

It can seem a daunting prospect to start a campaign against a workfare provider or business when sometimes there is only you and a couple of mates. What can a couple of people do? How can you sustain a campaign? Whose going to take notice of you? But, this is exactly how groups like those in Edinburgh & Haringey started many years ago, and these groups now having a huge impact against Workfare and sanctions. And it’s how most groups start. Just look at the rise of Housing Action type groups around the country. Most were started by a few people who knew each other. Come and listen to groups who have just started out and others who have been going for years. The workshop is for us all to share experiences, learn from each other, help those out who are thinking of setting a group up and mutual support.

Challenging sanctions and mandation

Over half a million people were sanctioned last year, and unless we fight every sanction we now risk three years without even a subsistence income. This session explores the key facts that people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance need to challenge sanctions. We’ll look at both the formal processes and ways we can collectively put pressure to overturn sanctions as well. We hope people will go away equipped to support each other to fight every sanction!

Knowing your right to Access to Work support, before going on Work Placements

We can use Access to Work as a stalling tactic for avoiding work placements. If disabled people need support to work, such as equipment or a support worker, or can’t use public transport, they can apply to Access to Work. Big employers have to pay themselves so may think twice about taking a workfare placement on if it’s going to start costing them.

Take part in this workshop with Andy Greene of Disabled People Against Cuts to explore ways disabled people can resist forced unpaid work placements.

Taking on Workfare

Together we have brought a flagship government policy to near “collapse”, but with all three main political parties and UKIP firmly committed to workfare and sanctions, we need to keep pushing. Take part in this workshop to share information on the shape of workfare at the moment: where it is taking place and the latest tricks of the providers. We’ll map out workfare’s weaknesses and find the places we can push together to bring it down once and for all.

Universal Credit: The time for welfare and housing campaigners to come together

Universal Credit is slowly being rolled out nationwide, Job Centre by Job Centre. People on “in work” benefits will soon face the same evil job seeking and sanctions regimes that those of us on JSA and ESA have had to endure for years. For people in low paid work, it could mean facing workfare or losing housing benefit. Could this be the present government’s “Poll Tax” moment when different groups come together to destroy a hated piece of legislation? Come and share knowledge about Universal Credit, explore ways to make sure people know what it could mean for them, and discuss how we can bring people together to put a stop to it.

Tactics to resist and navigate the Work Programme

A few different companies have contracts to deliver the Work Programme, the flagship two year workfare scheme. They’re all supposed to follow the same regulations. These can be used against them. There are lots of ways not to cooperate with the Work Programme.

Come to get information from groups and individuals about what Work Programme providers don’t have the power to demand, and the personal data they can’t force you to give them – and more on how to avoid and overturn benefit sanctions they inflict. We’ll hear from welfare action groups in Edinburgh and elsewhere about what can be achieved by insisting on your right to be accompanied to appointments.

This workshop is for everyone to share strategies for stalling and changing the activities that providers try to impose, and for resisting their demands about attendance, unhelpful training, and unpaid work placements.

Keeping Volunteering Voluntary: Workfare stops when there’s nowhere to send people

For workfare to happen, the government needs charities and voluntary groups to take placements. But more and more voluntary organisations are standing up and saying no. Over 550 have signed Keep Volunteering Voluntary’s pledge not to take part and the word is spreading. With most national charities now out of the schemes, we need to get the word out at a local level where charity workfare placements are still rife.

Come along to this workshop with Kevin and Penny from Keep Volunteering Voluntary to explore the key arguments to challenge the voluntary sector’s involvement, to share which tactics and approaches have been successful so far, and to plan how to take the campaign further and win!

Staying strong: Supporting each other through the emotional impact of punitive welfare reforms

When we work in mutual support groups, before we ever overturn a sanction or force a workfare user to pull out, we are already doing something important: sharing our experiences and offering emotional support. The reality is hard: the punitive culture at job centres, ever-present threat of sanctions, and the psycho-coercion of workfare providers take a heavy toll on people’s wellbeing. This session is an opportunity to share our experiences of working in groups dealing with these issues and discuss good ways to share support and look after ourselves and each other.

Dealing with energy companies and energy debt

Eleven million people in the UK are now on prepayment meters- many of these were unwanted and imposed through court warrants, home break-ins or by intimidating people into accepting unpayable debt arrangements.

Come to this workshop with Fuel Poverty Action to  discuss what we can do collectively about break-ins by energy companies and ways we can support each other. Find out about basic rights and standards with treatment from energy companies and what to do if you’re being threatened with an unwanted prepayment meter –at the doorstep, in court, on the phone or by letter. Hear about ways to get energy debt written off or negotiated down; what benefits and funds exist that go towards paying energy bills – and how to get them.

Against austerity — a caring society for everyone!

Caring for others is the foundation of every society, yet this work done mostly by women is devalued & underfunded. Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, WinVisible (women with disabilities) & Payday men’s network host a discussion on how the international petition for a living wage for mothers and other carers counters the market and promotes the caring society we all need.


10.00 Tea / coffee / welcome 
10.30 Opening session 
What will cuts and reforms to welfare and housing mean? How can we fight against them? We’ll hear from everyone about what the biggest challenges facing us at the moment are.  We’ll find out what all the different groups and individuals want to get out of the day.To get a snapshot of who’s come along, each group will have 2 minutes to say who they are and what they do.  Hopefully this way, everyone will be able to make links with the people they especially want to speak to throughout the day. We’ll hear about successes that we might like to explore in more depth later. Everyone will be able to share the priorities and interests that bring them to the gathering, and say what they’d like to work together on and what issues they’d like to discuss.  

We’ll start using the materials around the room to record what people would like to discuss in the open space, to signpost others to useful resources, and to advertise upcoming dates for actions/events/workshops. 

We want this to be a day for making concrete links between groups and between people. We want there to be more effective collaboration by the end of it – not just another committee or a manifesto. And we hope these discussions can get going from the start.  

11.40 Tea / coffee / snacks 
12.00 Workshop session 1
Organising against workfare in your town or city Challenging sanctions and mandation Staying strong: Supporting each other through the emotional impact of punitive welfare reforms Knowing your right to Access to Work support, before going on Work Placements (DPAC)
1.20 Lunch (provided, vegetarian and vegan friendly) 
2.20 Workshop session 2
Universal Credit: time for welfare and housing campaigners to come together Taking on workfare Tactics to resist and navigate the Work Programme Keeping Volunteering Voluntary: workfare stops when there’s nowhere to send people (KVV) Against austerity – a caring society for everyone! (WinVisible)
3.40 Tea / coffee / snacks 
4.00 Open space session to make stuff happen! Workshop
This session is for organising and information sharing.  People can plan how the ideas for action from the workshops will happen; or spend time exploring important questions we’ve all brought to the day. People can move between discussions, and between discussion and the workshop. We’d like each discussion group to be able to feed back with information about: who to contact; what is going to happen; how can people get involved.  Dealing with energy companies and energy debt (FPA)
5.00 After today?
We’ll hear about the plans from the open space, who is taking them forward and how we can stay in touch beyond the day. We’ll maybe arrange dates or targets for UK-wide action and ways we can build capacity and share resources to support each other. 
5.30 Finish and pub!

Join the Facebook event and invite others to come too!

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Sanction the Salvation Army

Posted: May 2nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 2 Comments »

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

Just one of the actions taking place for the Week of Action vs. Workfare and Sanctions on 25 April – 2 May

Saturday 2nd May, 12noon – 1.30pm, Salvation Army International HQ by Millennium Bridge, London

Praised by the government for “holding the line” on workfare, the Salvation Army is one of the few national charities still to use compulsory unpaid work placements.

Being involved in workfare means being responsible for sanctions – benefit stoppages which leave people with nothing to live on. Sanctions are driving food poverty in the UK. So it’s a mystery how Salvation Army – which also runs foodbanks – can justify its involvement in the sanctions regime.

On Saturday 2nd May, come and shame Salvation Army into joining the tens of charities to pull out of workfare. Take part in a visual action outside their international headquarters by millennium bridge near St Paul’s between 12 noon and 1.30pm.

Bring a placard or poster with a sanctions story, fact or example. Show just what a grotesque system the Salvation Army is supporting!

Can’t make it? Keep up the pressure online:

Contact the Salvation Army UK on Facebook and on Twitter: 

They can be telephoned on (020) 7367 4500 or emailed at: info@salvationarmy.org.uk

The Salvation Army’s youth section are on facebook here.


Take action: Charities and sanctions don’t mix

Posted: May 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »

KVV logoThis week’s the Week of Action vs Sanctions and Workfare with daily online actions. If you haven’t had a chance to do so yet, please take a minute to:

Today we’re supporting the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign’s call for people to contact the charities and voluntary organisations you support to invite them to pledge to shun workfare too. Read on for more info, and follow Keep Volunteering Voluntary on twitter and facebook.

There are a lot of organisations who have said they won’t take workfare, but still a lot who do. We want all voluntary work to be freely chosen, not a means for private companies to make profits or Jobcentres to force people off benefits. Keep Volunteering Voluntary (KVV) have set up a pledge and already over 450 organisations have signed!

You can help to encourage organisations to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary in several ways. Firstly check whether they are already on the list of sign-ups.

  • If you use or support a charity, try to find out whether they use workfare, and in any case ask them to sign up to KVV.
  • If there is a local charity shop, go in and talk to the people there: find out whether there is anyone there on workfare, and ask the organisation to sign up to KVV.
  • If you work or volunteer at a voluntary organisation, try to get them to sign up.
  • If a place you work or volunteer at has any links with a voluntary organisation, try to contact them too.

Download or order leaflets from Keep Volunteering Voluntary to take into charity shops, or adapt this template letter as an email to send to a voluntary organisation.

Some responses you may get and some tips on how to reply:

“We’ve already signed up.” – great, well done!
“We don’t have anyone on workfare.” – so you won’t mind signing up to KVV then.
“We’re helping the unemployed gain experience.” – that’s not of much value if they don’t want to be there.
“What’s wrong with (unpaid) volunteers.” – there’s no objection to genuine volunteers, but to compulsory schemes and coercion.
“The people on placement want to be here.” – that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be threatened with sanctions.

If you can get any kind of statement from an organisation, that’s always useful – a way in to further dialogue, or good publicity for the campaign. Let Boycott Workfare know and we’ll pass it on to KVV as well.

Some charities – such as Age UK – have a national office but each local area branch is ‘independent’ and may sign up separately. So if you see a local branch signed up but not your area, that’s an added incentive for your local to sign up too.

Without charities’ support, workfare schemes will collapse. That’s why every extra new organisation to sign up is so important – helping build consensus in the voluntary sector that workfare is completely at odds with its aims and values.

Perhaps you’d like to take the opportunity to contact some persistent workfare-using charities with your concerns too?

And don’t forget to check out the list of actions taking place across the UK today and tomorrow as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions.


Sanction Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice Shops

Posted: April 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »
interior of charity shop

Sanction Greenwich & Bexley Hospice Charity Shop!

Kicking off the Week of Action vs. Workfare and Sanctions, there are actions today in Bexley, Haringey and Leeds. Please show your support on Twitter and Facebook (details below)…

Saturday 25th April 12 noon Meet up outside Greenwich & Bexley Hospice Community Shop, Bellegrove Boutique, 12-15 Bellegrove Parade, Welling, Kent, DA16 2RE

We’re taking action to expose GBC hospice’s persistent use of workfare and the very poor working conditions that people on forced placements with GBC experience.

If you shop in one of GBC Hospice sixteen charity shops, you won’t be served by someone on workfare. That’s because they keep Community Work Placement conscripts hidden away from the public. As one person told Boycott Workfare:

“None of us are allowed to serve the public, we’re probably not seen as good enough for that. In fact we’re kept well away from the public, hidden at the back in their warehouse area sorting out the crap for them to sell there, or to send to other hospices.”

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Let them eat inquiries

Posted: April 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Sanctions | 4 Comments »
Job centres have become "sanctions" centres

Job centres have become “sanctions” centres

It is no longer a secret that benefit sanctions are causing ill health, hunger, homelessness and deaths.  The disastrous impact of sanctions and the deaths of David Clapson and others have now been widely reported.   More than 200,000 people signed the petition calling for an inquiry into sanctions which led to the Work and Pensions committee agreeing to look at the issue.  As we predicted their response is woefully inadequate.
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Win, win & win on workfare

Posted: April 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Pulled out! | 3 Comments »
Know your rights sanctions advice

Get in touch to order our new sanctions leaflets to give out in the week of action on 25 April-2 May – info@boycottworkfare.org

Just over three months into 2015 and your campaigning against workfare continues to pay off.

Win: In January, the charity Wandsworth Oasis publicly stated that they have now pulled out of workfare. Then in March, following your campaigning, charity Starter Packs Glasgow announced that they too had pulled out of workfare. It would also appear that the charity Changing Lives may have quietly used workfare and then quietly pulled out. Maybe they know this is a campaign that can…

Win. The charity Papworth Trust have taken the step of emailing Boycott Workfare to say…

“…that as of 31 March 2015 Papworth Trust will no longer be delivering Mandatory Work Activity as we have not renewed our contract with the Department for Work and Pensions.”

Although they remain a subcontractor for the work programme, they now say they won’t mandate people to work experience on the scheme. For a charity of this size to decide not to renew a workfare contract is another massive blow to the DWP, and another success for this campaign. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised given workfare’s culture of bullying, sanctions and fraud is finally becoming common knowledge.

However, your campaigning successes do not stop there. Read the rest of this entry »


Week of Action vs. Workfare and Sanctions 25 April – 2 May

Posted: March 15th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 21 Comments »

workfare and sanctions face demolitionNo workfare. No sanctions. Whoever wins we will resist!

As the general election campaign gets underway we are already seeing politicians calling for more of the same policies. More workfare. More sanctions. Yet we know that these policies have been a total disaster. It is shameful that workfare and sanctions are supported by all the main political parties. This is why we are holding a week of action in the week before the election. We need your help to expose and challenge workfare and sanctions policies and the political lies that underpin them.

Workfare undermines paid jobs and wages and results in sanctions. It does nothing to improve the chances of people finding a job and exploits those forced to carry it out. Last year over half a million people had their benefits sanctioned. The number of benefit sanctions imposed by the DWP now exceeds the number of fines imposed by the courts. People are being left with nothing for up to three years. There is now overwhelming evidence of the harm being caused by sanctions. Sanctions are damaging the health of claimants and leading to hunger, homelessness and deaths.

Your actions have already had a huge impact in challenging these policies. Read the rest of this entry »


25 Feb Day of Action to support activist arrested at jobcentre for representing a jobseeker

Posted: February 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 6 Comments »
SUWN protest

Support Tony Cox from the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, who was arrested after assisting a claimant at Arbroath Jobcentre.

Solidarity with unemployed activist arrested for representing a jobseeker – call out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty.

Take part in a day of action at job centres Britain-wide, 25 February 2015.

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We urge you to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity.

We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented. Tony will be in court in Forfar on 25th February facing charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. That same day we call on people to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews.

As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, it’s more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.
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Take action this week to stop workfare in North London Hospice shops

Posted: January 31st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »
Pickets and protests meant North London Hospice promised to pull out of workfare. But  they still have 50 placements and have taken on at least one new placement too!

Pickets and protests meant North London Hospice promised to pull out of workfare. But they still have 50 placements and have taken on at least one new placement too!

Please support Haringey Solidarity Group’s call for action this week!

  • From Mon 2 Feb – in a “communications conga” – social media / email / phone action
  • Sat 7 Feb, 6.15pm – join our protest at North London Hospice’s Dancing Strictly fundraising event in North Finchley to ask “Waltz going on with workfare?”

“If we want them to tap dance, then they will tap dance”

- a Whitehall official on government plans for benefit claimants (Sunday Times, 2012)

Since August last year, Haringey Solidarity Group has been campaigning for North London Hospice to stop taking on people on 30-hour a week workfare schemes in their shops. (For more info, see our full web article ‘Why North London Hospice should keep its word and pull out of workfare‘). These six-month Community Work Placements (CWP) are backed by the threat of sanctions, i.e. having your benefits cut off for four weeks or more.

We tried contacting the hospice, to let them know that CWP is not voluntary, and we leafleted passers-by outside their shops. Finally, in December, North London Hospice’s Chair of Trustees wrote to us, stating their intention to stop using workfare once current placements came to an end. He refrained from giving a date for their withdrawal from the scheme, leading some of us to fear that their “intention” could mean another six months’ misery for claimants on CWP.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, we found out that, contrary to the letter, North London Hospice had taken on a new placement. Furthermore, it has been over a month and a half since their letter to us, and not one of the shop managers we have spoken to is aware of the proposed withdrawal from the scheme, and the chair of trustees has to refused to give any indication of a date for withdrawal.

So our campaign against workfare at North London Hospice continues.
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2014 was a year of successful action. What should 2015 hold?

Posted: January 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 5 Comments »

tea and leaflets outside cardiff job centre

Share your ideas about how to take on workfare and sanctions in 2015

In 2014, your actions helped push workfare closer to collapse. The disgusting new Community Work Placement scheme struggled to get off the ground; 500 charities and voluntary organisations pledged to avoid workfare and Keep Volunteering Voluntary; and direct action and pressure across the UK brought an end to hundreds of placements.

Read more about how we all helped push workfare closer to collapse.

What does 2015 hold?

Over the next few weeks, we’re having a proper think about the most effective ways to take on workfare and sanctions in 2015. We’d like your ideas and creativity to help us plan ahead!

Please email info@boycottworkfare.org or comment on this article by Wednesday 4th February. We’ve got some thoughts on the questions below and would love to hear your thinking on any of them too. Please feel free to think wider as well! Read the rest of this entry »