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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.

Take Action: bring down Groundwork’s CWP in the North East

Posted: October 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »

groundwork ne cwp placement hosts

Update: The action was a success – Scope has been removed from the list and Barnardos and BHF have said they will no longer be involved!

Community Work Placements would collapse without support from major charities.   Today, as part of our week of action, we are contacting the major charities who provide CWP placements for Groundwork in the North East of England (six months’ workfare for 30 hours per week). We’re asking them to commit to not taking part in any of the government’s workfare schemes.

Yesterday, the website of Groundwork North East listed all the charities providing them with placements.  These include Cheshire Homes, British Heart Foundation, Barnardo’s and Scope, as well as over 15 more local voluntary agencies in Redcar or who are part of Redcar Voluntary & Community Sector.  As Groundwork also say, as well as having a ‘fantastic working relationship with the local job centres’,  they work in close partnership with Christians against Poverty and local food banks.

What they don’t say is that workfare is a major cause of poverty and a major reason why people end up depending on food banks for food.  We know how Community Work Placements are being marketed to employers as a way of replacing paid jobs.

Groundwork have since removed the webpage – but we’ve got a screenshot (click on the image above to enlarge it).

The involvement of well known national charities is disappointing.  BHF have previously stated “We are not involved in the Help to Work scheme.  Barnardo’s have said  “Barnardo’s does not take part in any mandatory work activity. We have been clear that we are against the principle of benefits sanctions”. Scope are signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement, which commits them to not taking part in any government workfare scheme.

So what’s going on? It looks like the  culture of secrecy surrounding workfare (e.g. the refusal of Freedom of Information requests,  redaction of placement providers from contracts on the grounds of ‘commercial sensitivity) is enabling placement brokers like Groundwork to mis-sell forced labour as volunteering.

We have to ask: is this secrecy  compatible with the duty of charities to be open and honest about their activities?  To ensure that the public, who donate to charities, are fully aware of whether they do, or do not, support forced unpaid labour in any guise?

We understand that because all aspects of workfare are cloaked in secrets and lies, some charities providing placements may well have been misinformed.  It can be especially difficult for small, local charities to avoid being deceived.  But if an organisation gets a letter that refers to the same group of people as ‘unpaid employees’, ‘volunteers’, and ‘unemployed people’ – and emphasises that the organisation won’t have to pay anything for them (even travel costs) – then alarm bells should start ringing.  And when well known workfare fixers like Groundwork get in touch, it’s more than likely it’s for placements for JSA claimants who’ve already been unpaid on the work programme and are now being sent on CWP for up to six months more unpaid labour.

As for British Heart Foundation, Barnado’s and Scope: you can let them know that the public expect them to honour their commitments not to take part in workfare. And expect them to remember that they have a duty of care  towards those on current placements: these organisations must ensure that they do not face sanctions or suffer as a result of the organisation withdrawing.  

You can send a message to BHF via their website or phone their head office on 020 7554 0000.  You can tweet at them 

You can phone Barnado’s North East regional office on 0191 240 4800, contact them on Facebook and tweet at them

Scope – details removed since they are no longer on the list. Well done everybody!

Groundwork North East can be reached on the phone (01388 662 666), on Facebook, and on Twitter

And Groundwork UK are on Facebook and Twitter as well .  Or you could contact them through their website, or on the phone (0121 236 8565).  They have other local branches throughout the UK.  To find contact details for the nearest one to you, look here.

Please feel free to contact the other placement hosts listed on the Groundwork North East website as well.  There’s not many, and if half pulled out, Groundwork’s CWP contract would be ruined.


Take Action: stop workfare in hospice charity shops

Posted: October 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Charities | 4 Comments »

This week is #HospiceCareWeek.  Today, as part of our week of action, we want to contact hospices and ask them to commit to not taking part in any of the government’s workfare schemes.

SDH-logo-HCW14-3Hospices offer palliative care, social support, and practical advice – and help families through mourning and bereavement. They help people with illnesses which would otherwise massively curtail their freedom of movement be as independent as possible. This is vital and valuable work, transforming the quality of people’s lives.

Help the Hospices, the charity for hospice care in the UK, says that

 ‘A hospice is not just a building, it is a way of caring for people. Hospice care aims to improve the lives of people who have a life-limiting or terminal illness, helping them to live well before they die.’

But why are so many hospices willing to stop other people living well,  by forcing them to work for no pay under threat of sanctions?

Many hospices have local charity shops which take people through workfare schemes – especially Mandatory Work Activity.  If you’re unwilling to take part in MWA, which involves 30 hours unpaid work per week, for four weeks at a time, you’ll be hit with a minimum sanction of 13 weeks for a ‘first failure’. The maximum sanction is 3 years: 3 years of hunger, hardship and destitution.  We’ve also heard from people at hospice charity shops on mandatory work placements from the Work Programme and six-month Community Work Placements.

We know hospice shops and care centres need volunteers to run them.  And we know that hospice care across the UK relies on the work of tens of thousands of volunteers to carry on their valuable activities.  But that is no justification for forcing unemployed people to work in charity shops for weeks at a time for no wages.  Charities that take part in workfare not only undermine genuine volunteering, but are also instrumental in claimants being sanctioned and left with no income.

Plenty of volunteering organisations realise that ‘Approaches like this are demeaning, counterproductive and undermine genuine volunteering’ (in the words of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations).  They know that workfare doesn’t help people find jobs. That is why the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement has more than 430 organisations signed up to it at the moment.

One hospice, The Hospice of St Francis has already signed the agreement, pledging never to take part in any workfare scheme. We want lots more to sign, and join with the carers support organisations, parents’ support charities and many others – all of whom know that forced work is not the same thing as volunteering.

Here are four hospices you could encourage to sign up to the KVV agreement as part of #HospiceCareWeek.

If there’s a hospice near you that you know is using workfare, or that you think should sign the KVV agreement, then please get in touch with them as well! Many, many more hospice charity shops are under ‘local charities’ in our list of workfare providers.  And if you’re in London, watch out for the picket of North London Hospice by Haringey Solidarity Group at noon on Saturday.

But please remember, if you call one of their charity shops: it’s definitely worth trying to speak to a manager, or someone involved in fundraising and volunteer organising. The person who answers the phone may well be low paid admin staff, or possibly on workfare themselves.

[1] This sentence was amended on 8th October 2014, because it mistakenly suggested that St David’s Hospice had been taking part in Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) as well as taking placements from the Work Programme.  It was pointed out to us that we had conflated St David’s Hospice in North Wales (@StDavidsHospice) with St David’s Foundation Hospice Care (@SDFHC) in South Wales.  We know SDFHC have taken part in MWA in 2014.


Take action: No grounds for greenwashing workfare

Posted: October 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »

Groundwork boasts of its involvement in workfare. Join in with an online blockade of their social media and let them know what you think of their prolific and unashamed use of forced unpaid labour.  

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 19.11.59Take online action today against Groundwork, the green charity using unpaid labour. Branches of Groundwork up and down the country openly advertise their involvement in all kinds of workfare, including the latest and most exploitative programmes.

Charities and voluntary organisations should know the value of volunteering. Instead Groundwork is taking thousands of unemployed people on workfare placements with no pay and putting people at risk of sanctions. According to their own statistics they forced 4,500 people through workfare last year alone. They trade on the goodwill of their ‘volunteering’ projects to secure government money for unpaid labour schemes.

Groundwork is also taking part in the latest draconian scheme, Community Work Placements (CWP), as a sub-contractor of G4S in Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria. CWP is a six month long placement – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime.  Workfare criminalises unemployed people and then punishes them more harshly than other people who are forced to work for free. It does this without even the appearance of judicial process: people are punished just because they’re unemployed.

More than 400 charities and 22 councils have rejected CWP and other workfare schemes by signing the Keep Volunteering Voluntary pledge. They understand that workfare is punitive and that it doesn’t help people find jobs.

Following the latest attacks from the government on unemployed people, in which the Tories are promising to cut benefits and roll out more of the harsh schemes like the ones Groundwork provides, we need to show those involved in workfare just how unacceptable it is.

A lot of green charities and recycling companies are involved in workfare schemes. The environment is a useful alibi for forcing people to work for free, because it makes it easy to claim that the work unemployed people are doing is for “community benefit” – which it is supposed to be, if the scheme is one that people can be directly forced to do, like CWP or Mandatory Work Activity.  This is why there’s so many environmental charities, city farms, and recycling firms on our list of workfare exploiters.

Workfare schemes cannot operate without charities that are willing to take on unpaid workers, but Groundwork’s involvement is deeper: they help organise the schemes as well. Groundwork say they recognise that Jobcentre Plus is enforcing a “stricter application…of conditions and sanctions”, but they continue to help to run this punitive system anyway. Let them know about the hardship and destitution that benefit sanctions are causing. Let them know that forcing people to work under threat of destitution for no pay is wrong.

Groundwork are on Twitter  and on Facebook here.

Or you could contact them through their website, or on the phone (0121 236 8565).  They have local branches throughout the UK.  To find contact details for the nearest one to you, look here.


Claimant Segmentation Survey – The facts & your rights

Posted: October 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes | 1 Comment »
you don't have to take part in the survey

you don’t have to take part in the survey

At the start of September, the government announced it would be using ‘attitude tests’ to assess claimants’ attitudes towards work and their ‘behavioral norms’. This test is in fact a survey – or rather data mining exercise – and would take place in 27 Jobcentres, targeting 27,000 claimants. It is supposed to record the effects on people of signing on every week versus every fortnight. In other words, it is designed to find out what kind of person deserves more hassle from the Jobcentre, based on their attitude.

These surveys are completely unethical. Attempting to classify people according to their feelings about work is being used to stigmatise and pathologize certain claimants. The tests are part of the DWP’s efforts to pretend that unemployment and a low wage economy are a result of individuals’ bad attitudes, rather than a deliberate policy. Esther McVey talks about ‘psychological resistance to work’.  The test assesses people’s attitude to work through just 20 widely varying and unrelated questions, placing claimants into in the following four bizarre rigid categories:

1 Willing but nervous Jobseeker
2 Eager Jobseeker
3 Ambivalent Claimants with few barriers
4 Other Jobseekers

Here at Boycott Workfare we always try to keep on top of these events and find out what people’s rights are when each new shameful and wasteful tax payer funded scheme is rolled out by the DWP and the welfare to work industry. So the guidelines – your rights – regarding the Claimant Segmentation Survey scheme are as follows.

If you have made a new claim, or are signing on as your claim continues then it is important that you know you do not have to take part in this ‘attitude test’ at all.

These are the facts:

  • If you are asked to agree to take part in the Claimant Segmentation Survey you can disagree to take part (see picture ) – it is an entirely voluntary survey.
  • Refusal to take part or answer will not affect your benefits in any way: you cannot get sanctioned for refusing to answer any of the test questions or for refusing to take part in this test [Link 3]:

“There is no obligation to answer these questions and it has no bearing on your entitlement to benefits whatsoever.”

  • Your advisor has to ask for your consent before going through the questions, because they ‘are collecting additional information beyond what is necessary for the claims process for the purposes of research’.

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Take part in the Boycott Workfare week of action! 4-12 October 2014

Posted: September 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 2 Comments »

protesters outside bhf

Forcing people to work for free through the threat of removing people’s benefits (sanctions) is unfair, unjust and wrong. In the week of action, tell the companies and charities who are profiting from this exploitative regime what you think of their involvement! Email, Tweet, use Facebook, phone them, protest, organise a flashmob: for a week of piling the pressure on workfare exploiters.

We know these tactics work! Just look at how quickly Byteback IT had to pull out when you told them what you thought after George Osborne made the mistake of visiting them. This is just one of the latest in a whole list of businesses and charities that have also pulled out of workfare following our pressure.

The latest workfare scheme, “Community Work Placements” (CWP), forces people to work for nothing for up to six months – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime. But there is growing resistance from the voluntary sector which the scheme needs to work: over 400 charities have signed up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary and 22 councils have pledged to boycott workfare. They know that workfare does not help people find jobs and being
unemployed is not a crime.

Resistance is paying off: the launch of the CWP scheme was massively delayed. Instead of using ‘big name’ national charities, the DWP has had to resort to small local charities and businesses to provide these Workfare placements. So local actions are all the more important! See Boycott Workfare’s list of Workfare users to find one near you.

All this means it is getting harder and harder for the government to find new employers willing to risk taking on Workfare placements. In fact the government is desperately doing all it can to avoid revealing the organisations using Workfare out of fear the schemes will collapse!

People pressure has ended Workfare in the place where it all started – New York – now let’s end it here!

Workfare undermines real paid jobs and wages; results in sanctions for thousands; does nothing to improve the chances of finding a job; and exploits those forced to take up these placements. Our actions can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting this forced unpaid work. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 4-12 October.

Whatever you’re planning – let us know and we’ll help spread the word!

Join our Facebook event here and see the latest list of actions.


Sanctions and Workfare: Incompatible with Human Rights.

Posted: July 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 8 Comments »

“This case is another massive blow to this Government’s flawed and tawdry attempts to make poor people on benefits work for companies, who already make massive profits, for free”

So said Public Interest Lawyers yesterday after the High Court ruled that the government’s emergency retrospective legislation, introduced in 2013 – so as to apply thousands of unlawful sanctions to claimants – is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The retrospective legislation was introduced in order to rewrite history, when the Court of Appeal had originally found thousands of benefit sanctions on workfare schemes unlawful. In response the government came up with emergency legislation, which was designed to retrospectively render lawful benefit sanctions that were issued under the 2011 regulations. This deprived some of the poorest people in the UK of £130million in social security payments that they were lawfully owed. The emergency legislation meant that all previously imposed sanctions were made valid in one block – even sanctions that would have been unlawful under the old regulations anyway.  This means that ongoing appeals against sanctions, which would have succeeded before the retrospective legislation was enacted, were bound to fail.

Now, however, the High Court has found that this retrospective legislation was incompatible with the right to a fair trial. Significantly, the Court called this move “draconian” stating that it was “not explained or justified”.
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Stop G4S’ Annual General Meeting this Thursday!

Posted: June 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized, Welfare to work industry | No Comments »
Stop G4S demo at previous G4S AGM

Stop G4S demo at previous G4S AGM

Boycott Workfare are supporting the Stop G4S  network’s protest this Thursday at G4S’ Annual General Meeting. Among their long list of abuses, G4S are the company the government are depending upon to prop up their latest punitive workfare scheme ‘Community Work Placements’. G4S are also involved in the government’s other workfare scheme, the Work Programme, which seems to mostly involve G4S staff spending their time filling out sanction referrals. Below is the call out from Stop G4S. Hope to see you there!

Protest at the G4S Annual General Meeting

1pm, Thursday June 5, Western Terrace, Excel Centre
Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway, London E16 1XL

https://www.facebook.com/events/286747888161707/

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Boycott Workfare visit the Netherlands!

Posted: May 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, International | 2 Comments »

 

Boycott Workfare banner drop in Leiden

Boycott Workfare banner drop in Leiden

Update! Join in a quick online solidarity action with Doorbraak targeting the owner of the strawberry farm using the contact form on his website and tweet his mate Jan Broertjes the mayor of Midden-Drenthe who also supports workfare. More details on the poverty profiteering happening there in the blog below.


Two members of Boycott Workfare recently visited the Netherlands after an invitation from anti-workfare activists based there to share what we have been doing in the UK. We spent two days with Doorbraak, the group which organised the visit, giving talks in the evenings in Amsterdam and Leiden. In Amsterdam we stayed at one Doorbraak member’s home which was just on the edge of the Jordaan district where unemployed people rioted back in the 1930s.

Doorbraak, which translates in English to ‘breakthrough’, was formed back in 2007 by people who had been involved in migrant struggles. They wanted to start a new group which brought together different groups of people on the different issues we face and ‘turn the world upside down, organise from the bottom up!’ (which rhymes in Dutch). Over the last 3 years they have been taking action against workfare in Amsterdam and Leiden, after militant research they had conducted about the crisis and how it was affecting people uncovered this issue. For some activists in the group who had been very involved in migrant struggles, they were now also acting from their own direct experiences.

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How voluntary organisations messed up the launch of Help to Work

Posted: May 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Call to action, Charities | 16 Comments »

no one wants workfare (IDS and war memorials, CWP)On Monday, David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith launched a new workfare scheme called Compulsory Work Placements – part of a bundle of punitive measures called Help to Work. It ran into a lot of trouble on launch day and hasn’t been doing well since then.

Over 150 voluntary organisations have signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign to say they won’t take part in any workfare scheme, including Oxfam, Anti-Slavery International, Unison, Unite, and NCIA.  And the government won’t be able to fall back on the public sector: Liverpool City Council say they won’t be taking part.

The pledge was launched on the same day as Help to Work. Already more than twice as many organisations have said they’ll never take part in CWP as the 70 that the government claims are signed up to deliver it.  It’s not clear how those 70 organisations are going to be able to arrange for more than 120,000 people to do 780 hours of unpaid work.  They’d have to accept more than 1,800 placements each.

And it turns out that even the unpaid work the DWP especially suggested unemployed people should do – like cleaning war memorials – won’t work.   No-one in government bothered to check this with the War Memorials Trust. They say that they can’t actually take part in CWP, because each memorial is the responsibility of one of a hundred thousand custodians, who’d have to be asked individually.  And anyway, the work is usually done by ‘specialist contractors or conservators’.
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Fans’ success – Dulwich Hamlet Football Club end workfare!

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog, Pulled out!, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Dulwich Hamlet FC end workfare

Out of workfare!

Pressure by Dulwich Hamlet football fans has resulted in the club pulling out of using workfare in its grounds. Boycott Workfare were contacted through a Name and Shame form by someone who was forced to work at DHFC as part of Mandatory Work Activity. They told us how they had received a 3 month sanction after they asked questions about the health and safety forms Seetec told them to sign.

Dulwich Hamlet FC fans were quick to respond – as soon as we told them about this they contacted their club to find out what was going on and call for an end to workfare at their club. After talks with the new management, who had inherited the workfare contract from the previous owners, fans managed to get the following statement that workfare would no longer be used:

It has become apparent that the previous owners were using mandatory work activity programmes, and that local ’long-term unemployed’ people have been assisting on site without payment. We want to support the community in as many ways as possible, but do not feel this is a suitable option. Dulwich Hamlet are willing to speak to any service providers regarding apprenticeships and training programmes”

We welcome that Dulwich Hamlet FC acknowledge that forced unpaid work under threat of benefit sanctions is at odds with supporting the community and that they will not be involved in such schemes. Apprenticeships and training programmes involve poverty wages. To truly support the local community, paying at least a living wage for all work at the club is a good place to start.

Boycott Workfare have received numerous reports of workfare being used in football clubs, and other sports clubs. We encourage others fans to follow the impressive example set by Dulwich Hamlet FC fans in their dedication to workfare free football.

Here, one fan outlines the situation at Dulwich Hamlet FC and their personal response to hearing about its use of workfare:
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