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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.

Court of Appeal says the government breached claimants’ rights, but the retrospective legislation stands

Posted: April 30th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

retroSanctions2At the Court of Appeal on Friday the government lost part of its grubby legal battle to stop claimants getting back benefit payments that were unlawfully taken from them.

The government was appealing a High Court judgement, which said that the emergency retrospective legislation the government rushed through in 2013 was ‘draconian’ and incompatible with the right to a fair trial. The Court of Appeal rejected the government’s appeal against the High Court judgement. It says the legislation is okay according to English law, but that it shouldn’t have applied to all sanctions, because this meant that claimants who were waiting for the results of appeals against sanctions found their cases automatically decided in favour of the DWP. The legislation meant that people were automatically sanctioned even when the DWP’s own appeals process would have overturned the sanction.

That emergency legislation – the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013  – rewrote history. It made it so that workfare regulations made in 2011 were lawful and had always been lawful, even though the court of appeal had said that they weren’t. Those regulations made it possible to sanction people for not taking part. So the retrospective legislation meant that all the sanctions the government had imposed under the 2011 regulations, in one block, were valid, along with the regulations – even the sanctions that would have been unlawful under the old regulations anyway. This meant, in turn, that ongoing appeals against sanctions, most of which would have succeeded before the Act was passed, were bound to fail. (Challenges to sanctions have about a 70% success rate at the moment.) Public Interest Lawyers explain more about this background here. Read the rest of this entry »

Call Out for Mustard Tree Protest this Saturday!

Posted: January 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

WP_001680Take part in the our second Manchester Boycott Workfare action against Mustard Tree
31 January 12pm at Mustard Tree, 110 Oldham Rd, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AG

After a great turn-out at our last protest, Mustard Tree have said they are discussing their use of workfare with their Board of Trustees. Let’s make sure they realise that it is unacceptable to take any part in workfare – an exploitative programme that causes poverty and destitution.

Workfare is forced, unpaid work: people have to ‘volunteer’ or face loosing their right to benefits. It makes a mockery of the concept of volunteering, it undermines real voluntary work, and it does nothing to help people into work (as even DWP research has shown).

The sanctions given for not completing a workfare placement result in hunger, severe poverty, distress and also contribute to homelessness. And it is homeless people who are among the most likely to be sanctioned and devastated by the consequences. It is almost beyond belief that a charity like Mustard Tree that works to support homeless people uses workfare. It needs to end immediately.

Come out and stand in solidarity with homeless people and everyone exploited by workfare. Show Mustard Tree that we will not tolerate this exploitation in our city: there can be no place for unpaid and forced labour anywhere, let alone in a homeless charity.

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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:
Read the rest of this entry »

Day 4: On-line Action against Community Work Placement Charities

Posted: December 4th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

As part of the Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions, on Thursday 5th December 2013, we’re focussing on the Charities that will be handing in their tenders today to access unpaid claimant workers through the new Community Work Placements regime.

Community Work Placements, originally announced by George Osborne as “Help to Work” on 30th September 2013, is a set of new measures that will be forced on claimants who have come through the two year Work Programme without securing employment. The scheme is described as an “intensive option” where the providers will “deliver mandatory work placements for claimants for 30 hours a week for up to 26 weeks, alongside supported jobsearch”. Or put another way, it’s a six month sentence to force claimants work for free or lose their benefits.

Typically the 33 companies who have the option of tendering for this new scheme are the very companies who currently run the Work Programme: the companies who failed to assist the claimants back into work over two years are now being given an extra six months to make even more money off the back of the unemployed! These “Employment Related Supported Services Suppliers” include three charities Boycott Workfare has flagged up before.

Take a look at their finances at by inputting their charity number. Then e-mail or contact them on social media to express your distaste at their continued abuse of the benefits system to line their own pockets!

THE SHAW TRUST: (287785)



There are also two more charities touting for business as “secondary delivery providers”, seeking to subcontract from the above and the usual suspects such as Ingeus, G4S, A4e and Serco. They are the supposedly christian organisations The Salvation Army and the YMCA. Key in “Salvation Army” or “YMCA” to the web link above to find out how they are profiting in your locality. The details below are for their head offices in London.



Don’t forget to sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exceptions:

Day 1: Take Online Action Against The Workfare Conference

Posted: December 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

On Monday 2nd December the welfare-to-work industry will be splashing out yet more tax payers’ money on their annual workfare conference in a plush Central London venue.

Workfare exploiters like the Shaw Trust and the Salvation Army will be gathering to discuss how to further profit from the huge increase in unpaid work. From April next year hundreds of thousands of unemployed people will be forced to work for free for six months or face losing benefits completely. The cost of this scheme is estimated to be £300 million. Most of this cash will end up lining the pockets of the welfare-to-work sector – companies like A4E, G4S, Ingeus and Serco who specialise in forcing people to work without pay.

Many of these companies will be present at Monday’s conference where tickets cost up to a whopping £534 in some cases. Claimants are clearly not welcome at the conference unlike Employment Minister Esther McVey and Matthew Sinclair from hard right think tank the Tax Payer’s Alliance who will both be giving speeches at the event. The Tax Payer’s Alliance recently released a report calling for permanent workfare for those out of work even if this is due to sickness or disability.

The conference is being organised by ERSA, the trade body established to represent the welfare-to-work racket along with the Centre for Social Inclusion (CESI).

Boycott Workfare will be holding a noise demo outside the conference from 12.30pm as part of the Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions . A day of online protest has been called targeting the sponsors of the event who hope to gain some positive publicity from being associated with this workfare love-in. Contact them on social media and let’s make sure that doesn’t work out quite in the way they hoped as they are named and shamed for their support of forced work.

Delegates at Monday’s conference will be tweeting using the hashtag #ERSA2013 so add this to all tweets. Don’t forget to tweet conference organisers ERSA and CESI themselves.

Sponsors of the conference include:

Learn Direct, who are on facebook at:

Work Programme providers the Shaw Trust are at:

Training charity Catch 22 who recently advised the Department for Education that the new unpaid Traineeships Work placements should be shown “to provide a commercial advantage to employers” can be found at:

Spirit Resourcing are sponsoring the delegate packs:

pauline-pensWelfare-to-work recruitment agency R3 Welfare & Skills will be sponsoring the pens at the conference.

Don’t forget to sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exceptions.

What if the whole workfare industry got together in one place?

Posted: November 24th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Poster for demo - see text of article for details12.30-1.30pm, Monday 2nd December, outside the ERSA workfare industry conference, Senate House, Malet Street, London (nearest tubes: Russell Square, Warren Street, Euston), facebook event here

(Can’t make it to London? Take part in the week of action where you are.)

On 2nd December, those driving forced labour for unemployed people on the government’s workfares schemes are getting together in one place for their annual conference. Be there too to show them that their days of vast profits for abusing the poorest people in the UK are numbered.

The workfare industry is already on the backfoot. The government’s flagship ‘Work Programme’ which promised to hand £5 billion to this sector – whose profits are wholly subsidised by public funds – has failed. The industry failed to meet even the minimum targets and tens of thousands have returned to the Jobcentre as the two year stint comes to an end.

Add to this arrests for fraud, consistent reports from jobseekers of the punitive and pointless measures these companies demand, and the immense public backlash against workfare – leading many of the big brands to withdraw from forced unpaid work.

ERSA, the trade body for the ‘welfare to work’ industry, have called their conference “Challenge and change in an evolving landscape”. Let’s make the scale of the challenge clear with fun and noise on the conference’s doorstep.

And in case you need more convincing, here’s a few good reasons you should come (in the form of a list of people who’ll be at [the conference] pushing their workfare agendas): Read the rest of this entry »

Press release: “Sanctions must stop” say campaigners

Posted: November 6th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

After months of delay, the DWP have finally released data on benefit sanctions for JSA and ESA claimants. The data confirms what claimants and anti-poverty campaigners have been saying all along; that sanctions are being used on a massive scale to bully and intimidate claimants and leave hundreds of thousands of people without subsistence benefits for a minimum of four weeks, with the maximum sanction lasting for three years.

Some of the key stats from the DWP’s data shows that:

  • Since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012, there has been an average of 69,000 JSA sanctions a month – a 75% increase on the previous year.
  • Between October 2012 and June 2013 0.58 million JSA sanctions were applied.
  • Between December 2012 – June 2013 11,000 ESA sanctions were applied. 71% of these were for “failure to participate in work related activity”. ESA claimants having been declared unfit for work by ATOS were subsequently sanctioned by the DWP for failing to do workfare.
  • Between December 2012 – June 2013 45,000 ESA sanction decisions were made with 11,000 of these being applied. For JSA between October 2012 – June 2013, 1.35 million sanction decisions were made of which 0.58 million were applied. This shows the high rate of successful challenges that claimants have made to a sanction decision.

With the post-Work Programme ‘support’ and Osborne’s mass workfare plans, it is likely that these numbers will continue to soar as a result of these increasing obstacles to subsistence benefits. The DWP also has plans for one million low paid workers to be subject to the brutal sanctions regime.

Boycott Workfare have called on the Public and Commercial Services union, the union for job centre staff, to ballot their members on a boycott of workfare and sanctions.

Boycott Workfare have called for a UK-wide Week of Action Against Sanctions and Workfare from 2nd to 8th December.

Liz Wyatt from Boycott Workfare said: “These statistics are sickening to see, but they are no surprise. We are contacted regularly by people who tell us horrific stories of being unable to afford to buy food as a result of having their benefits sanctioned. They also describe the significant mental toll that sanctions and the threat of sanctions cause them. Sanctions must stop. They are causing hunger, homelessness, and intense suffering in our communities.

“Yet the government is intent on extending benefit sanctions to low-paid workers as well, bringing one million more people under the savage sanctions regime. Sanctions are being used by the government to bully people from claiming what is rightfully theirs. People around the country will be taking action against sanctions and workfare in December as part of Boycott Workfare’s week of action and we invite people to join us.”

Workfare at the Supreme Court: What’s Changed?

Posted: November 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »
Boycott Workfare at the beginning of the workfare case.

Boycott Workfare at the beginning of the workfare case.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court dismissed the Government’s appeal in the Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson workfare case.  The government were appealing against the Court of Appeal’s findings in February that the regulations which the government used to create most workfare schemes were unlawful and should be quashed.

The government was appealing even though they enacted retrospective legislation in March, which obliterated the Appeals Court judgement.  The Jobseekers (Back to Work Scheme) Act 2013 amended the law and re-wrote history. It made it so that the regulations were legal, and had always been legal, even though the Appeals Court had just found that they weren’t.  It was passed with Labour’s support.

The only reason the government can still say that ‘DWP is able to require claimants to take part in employment programmes’ is because they’re willing to override the courts when it comes to workfare. Public Interest Lawyers, who represent Cait and Jamie, have already launched a judicial review of the legality of this legislation.

The Supreme Court’s full judgement can be found here (summary version here), and there’s a good overview of what’s significant in the Court’s ruling on Public Interest Lawyers website.

The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal was right to quash the 2011 regulations: Ian Duncan Smith overstepped his powers when he drew them up.  In relation to Jamie Wilson’s case, it found that the notice he was given was invalid under those regulations anyway – something the Government was also appealing.

Most importantly, the Supreme Court went further than the Court of Appeal on one point. They agreed with the argument made by Public Interest Lawyers that it is right that you should have some information about laws and policies that will punish you (like workfare) before they punish you (paragraph 65):

 Fairness … requires that a claimant should have access to such information about the scheme as he or she may need in order to make informed and meaningful representations to the decision-maker before a decision is made.

The Supreme Court didn’t say how the government should make this information available (paragraph 76). But the judgement means that, in the future, the government has to provide enough information to you so that you can challenge your eligibility for workfare.  If you don’t get this information before you’re told you must take part, this is likely to make it unlawful for the job centre to force you to take part, and unlawful for them to sanction you if you don’t take part.  PIL say that:

 The requirement on the DWP to provide jobseekers with adequate information about the schemes has far reaching implications as all jobseekers who, like Jamie, were not provided with adequate information will be able to seek the repayment of their benefits.

So even though they passed the unjust retrospective legislation and denied justice to unemployed people, the government still might have to pay back some of the £130 million in benefits that they unlawfully took from people.   Thousands of people weren’t given information about workfare schemes: if you were sanctioned, you might be able to have your benefits repaid – check Boycott Workfare for updates.

But the Court didn’t find that workfare breaches article four of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Article four says that ‘No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour’. The courts say that workfare, in general, is fine.   It isn’t likely they’ll change their minds soon.

We have to make workfare impossible in other ways: we have to force the government to end it and we have to force businesses and charities to end their involvement in it.  We must support each other when we’re on workfare and in the job centre. We must make sure people know their rights.

To do all this, take part in the Boycott Workfare week of action!

Read the rest of this entry »

Week of Action to Stop Workfare and Sanctions: 2nd – 8th December

Posted: October 30th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

week of action poster

In January this year, 110,000 people had their benefits stopped – ‘sanctioned’ – in a social security system that now leaves people with nothing for up to three years.

The government has not revealed how many thousands of people have been sanctioned since then, but it looks clear that more than a million people will have faced sanctions – and the hunger, pressure on families and stress they cause – by the end of the year.

Workfare, which forces people to work without pay and pushes those in work out of their jobs, is still the government’s ‘flagship’ solution for the unemployed. Osborne’s latest workfare proposal is more than twice the length of a maximum community service sentence.

But people’s action is pushing back their plans:

  • Wetherspoons, Argos, Shoezone, The Red Cross, and Superdrug have all dropped out since the start of the year. Homebase has scaled back significantly and Homes for Haringey has started paying people.
  • Despite a court ruling, the government is still refusing to publish the list of organisations exploiting people on workfare. It argued “disclosure [of names] would have been likely to have led to the collapse of the MWA [Mandatory Work Activity] scheme”!
  • The government’s plan to send people leaving the Work Programme from June this year on an automatic six month workfare placement could not be rolled out.
  • The government has had to double the amount of money it pays to workfare contractors like Seetec to find Mandatory Work Activity placements because they say it’s got so difficult since organisations started pulling out.

 This is your actions making a real difference.

The chances are you probably know someone who has faced the hardship and stress of sanctions – which means you’ll know that these devastating decisions are handed out for the pettiest of reasons.

It’s time to take action, and to push back against sanctions as we have against workfare. Whether you’re on your own or in a group, take part in the week of action

And let us know what you plan so we can help spread the word!

Join our facebook event for the week of action here