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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.

DWP in court: challenged to reveal list it fears could make workfare “collapse”

Posted: June 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Info on schemes, Name and shame | 7 Comments »

Update 13/6/14: Read about what happened at the hearing here. Judgement is expected in 4-8 weeks.

Media release, 11 June 2014

Tomorrow, 12 June, the Information Commissioner will challenge the DWP to reveal a list of organisations which have used Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) placements for jobseekers at an Upper Tribunal hearing [1]. The DWP will argue that due to widespread public opposition, the controversial workfare scheme could collapse if the names are revealed [2]. If it loses the appeal, the decision could become a landmark ruling on the obligation of the DWP to reveal details of the private companies delivering government contracts [3].

It is thirty months since the original Freedom of Information request was made, and the second time that the DWP has appealed the Information Commissioner’s decision that it must reveal the names of MWA workfare placement providers [1].

Despite the government’s own evidence showing that one month MWA placements have “zero effect” on helping people into work [4], the government launched an extended six month version on 28 April, “Community Work Placements”. Like MWA, these placements rely on the participation of public and voluntary sector “host organisations” to deliver placements for “community benefit” [5].
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Flagship workfare scheme floundering due to voluntary sector opposition

Posted: June 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Info on schemes, Pledge to boycott workfare, Public Sector | 1 Comment »
On Saturday, this demo in Sheffield persuaded tens of people to boycott workfare users TCV.

On Saturday, this demo in Sheffield persuaded tens of people to boycott workfare users TCV.

Today, 2 June, is the deadline by which Community Work Placements – the flagship policy announcement at last year’s Conservative Party conference – were required by contract to be up and running (see 1.22 &1.23 here). Community Work Placements are six month forced unpaid work placements for unemployed people which require local council and charity participation to claim to be of “community benefit”.

However, thanks to massive opposition to this draconian new workfare scheme, CWP is floundering. Here’s how: 350 voluntary sector organisations have so far signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement not to take part since the campaign launched a month ago. The list includes household names Shelter, Oxfam, Crisis, Scope and many others.

These organisations point to the impact of benefit sanctions on food poverty and homelessness and believe mandatory work undermines the value of freely given volunteering.  Over 15 councils have also pledged not to take part, many through signing Unite the Union’s new pledge. Read the rest of this entry »

Workfare and housing

Posted: April 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Public Sector | 1 Comment »
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group attempt to resist the eviction of a private tenant. Photo by Louppy Hart

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group attempt to resist the eviction of a private tenant. Photo by Louppy Hart

As we struggle to access our subsistence benefits – trying to navigate around workfare, benefit sanctions, and disrespect encountered in the job centre – often, simultaneously, we are struggling to keep a roof over our heads. Welfare and housing are closely connected, the poor state of both of them is causing poverty and suffering. The homelessness charity Crisis recently highlighted how benefit sanctions are causing homelessness. Huge cuts to housing benefit mean that often people have to use money from their meagre Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance in order to cover rent, leaving even less money for food and other basic necessities. And then there are the exceptionally vile landlords (including ‘social landlords’) who discriminate against people claiming benefits making finding and keeping a home even more difficult.
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Leaflet to help shut down new workfare scheme

Posted: March 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Info on schemes | 3 Comments »


During the Week of Action against Workfare (29th March – 6th April) actions will take place across the UK to stop workfare and the new 6 month workfare scheme being introduced called ‘Community Work Placements’. Actions are already planned in Brighton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Liverpool. We have also created the above leaflet that we encourage people to hand out at Job Centres – along with our ‘Know Your Rights’ info. As placements are meant to begin in late April this leaflet will help us find out the first places taking this latest, and longest, workfare scheme, helping us put an end to the ‘Community Work Placements’ before they have even properly get started. The recent statement by the Salvation Army where they announce they will not get involved in the new scheme (but sadly keep their involvement in all the others *boos*) demonstrates the effect exposing and taking action against workfare users has.

Here you can get the pdf of the leaflet (print on A4 and cut in half to get two A5 leaflets). If you are unable to print your own flyers get in touch with with the amount you want and an address and we will send you them (along with know your rights leaflets if you wanted). Send us photos or reports of how the leafleting has gone and any information you find out from speaking to people!

The truth is, it’s up to all of us!

Posted: February 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Info on schemes, Unions | No Comments »

No Benefit Sanctions No WorkfareLast week figures on how many people faced sanctions (benefit stoppages) were published. There were no surprises, only the disturbing reality that more people are facing the hardship, hunger and stress of sanctions than ever before.

What about the union of the job centre workers who are pushing poor people into these devastating situations? Last year its members voted for PCS union to look into means of non-cooperation with sanctions, but its leadership is point blank refusing to even consider this an option. This is despite the fact that over 4000 workfare placements have taken place in the DWP, undermining jobs and wages for PCS members.

Elsewhere, the TUC mustered a cynical statement condemning sanctions – cynical given they also support the use of sanctions (PDF – 3.6, pg 31) and have explicitly called for Labour’s ‘workfare-lite’, the so-called ‘job guarantee’, to be backed with this threat of destitution. Also taking the cynical “sanctions bad, but also necessary” line were charity Gingerbread, which seemed determined to have its cake and eat it, in a press statement which managed to both condemn and advocate sanctions. Read the rest of this entry »

UK councils use half a million hours of workfare

Posted: December 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Name and shame | 10 Comments »
Public sector workers, including at the DWP, will soon face sanctions under Universal Credit unless we take action now.

Boycott Workfare’s research revealed half a million hours of unpaid work in councils

New research by Boycott Workfare, covered in The Mirror and The Guardian, reveals that UK councils have used over half a million hours of unpaid work through the government’s workfare schemes, which compel people to work without pay on threat of benefit sanctions. Click here to see if your council is involved!

In a Freedom of Information request to all councils in the UK, 38% of the 271 councils who responded and held the information had taken a workfare placement at some point in the last two years. These placements include schemes with direct benefit losses, benefit losses if you drop out after starting, or referral to a scheme with direct benefit losses if you refuse to take part. Also, with all these schemes, Boycott Workfare has heard of people being told it is compulsory by their job centre advisor, even if officially you can choose to take part.

In total 1,929 placements were reported to have taken place across the 106 councils involved since June 2011, with 15 councils reporting use of the schemes but not saying how many placements they had taken. This is over 500,000 hours of unpaid work.  Half of these reported placements were on the Work Experience scheme, but nearly 300 placements were on Mandatory Work Activity where people can receive a benefit sanction for up to 3 years for refusing to take part in the 4 week placements. Almost 300 people were also sent to work at councils through the Work Programme (or Northern Ireland’s equivalent Steps to Work) where placements were lasting up to 26 weeks.

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100,000 people given historic sanctions

Posted: December 15th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes | 6 Comments »

In August 2012 it was ruled in the high court that the letters given to claimants mandating them onto workfare schemes of up to 780 unpaid hours did not communicate to people what was required of them on these schemes. This meant all the bretroSanctions2enefit sanctions that had been awarded through a range of different workfare schemes were unlawful and had to be repaid. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) went about appealing this ruling, but in February 2013 the decision was upheld.

After this the DWP rushed through the retrospective Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act, making the unlawful withdrawal of benefits from an estimated 179,000 people now apparently legal – although obviously this Act did not change the fact that people were not fully aware of what was required of them at the time. This Act was supported by the Labour Party and deprived people who would have suffered significant hardship of a total of £130 million that was unlawfully stolen by the government.

It now turns out that the cruelty of this Act did not stop there. Since the first court case decision in August 2012 they had stopped sanctioning for cases that would be affected by the courts decision, and had started to stockpile these decisions. The introduction of the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act allowed them to start sanctioning all these stockpiled sanctions. At the time they rushed through the act 63,000 sanctions had been stockpiled, and by the time they started to sanction people in July 2013 this could have reached over 100,000 sanctions.

Over the last 3-6 months people have been notified of these sanctions with letters such as the one shown. As can be seen there can be a year long gap between the alleged event and you being notified of the sanction making it almost impossible to appeal as it is unlikely you have knowledge of what you did on that day* (and neither do the work programme providers!).

Not only were all 3 main political parties involved in depriving the poorest people of £130 million that was rightfully theirs, but are now chasing another 100,000 claimants for money through these historic sanctions with little hope of claimants forming a strong case of appeal*. All benefit sanctions are wrong, but this retrospective law shows how happy the government are to even sanction illegally – as they’ll just change the law later and sanction people a year down the line.

There is currently a petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions and Boycott Workfare are hosting a Welfare Action gathering on Sat 15th Feb to bring together people involved in, or wanting to set up, groups that are locally trying to stop and overturn sanctions, as well as organising against other welfare cuts. Follow this link for more information on the gathering – it will take place in central London and a programme will be up soon. Get in touch at if you would like to come and also if you need help with travel.

*Appealing on the grounds that you have no record of events a year later could possibly work, but we have not heard of it. Let us know how it went if you have tried it. However if you have other grounds of appeal because you still have evidence or recollection, then use that instead. It can be worthwhile appealing as 53% of reconsideration requests and appeals against JSA sanctions are successful.

Seducing the voluntary sector: Or, never take sweeties from the men at the DWP

Posted: November 13th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Info on schemes | 7 Comments »

Salvation Army International and UK HQs were paid a surprise visit to launch the week of action. [Photo: Sinister Pics]

Salvation Army is one of the charities propping up workfare and sanctions – let charities know it will damage their reputation if they get involved [Photo: Sinister Pics]

Community Work Placements are the workfare part of the ‘Help to Work’ scheme. This was announced by George Osborne in September, and will begin in April next year. The other parts are daily attendance at job centres (for 35 hours per week) and compulsory training.

This means that once again we’re seeing ads for workfare subcontractors that target the Community & Voluntary Sector. While some charities (e.g. YMCA, Salvation Army, The Conservation Volunteers & Groundwork) are dedicated workfare exploiters, many others say they do not support workfare, but still end up helping to deliver it. The supply chain is so (deliberately) complex, it can disguise what’s going on.

Currently EOS, Maximus, Learn Direct, Reed in Partnership, ESG, G4S (tax dodging supremos) and Interserve (they rely on prayer & financial support from Christians) are all inviting bids from voluntary sector ‘partners’ to provide Community Work Placements in a ‘real working environment’ for up to 30 weeks, for up to 30 hours per week. In other words, forced unpaid labour for people who have not found ‘sustained employment’ while on the Work Programme.

The criteria for being sent on a Community Work Placement are ‘lack of motivation‘ (for example a reluctance to be exploited in no pay, low pay jobs) and/or ‘lack of work experience‘. Claimants will have to do these placements alongside ‘supported job search’: the exhausting and pointless process of endlessly looking for non-existent employment opportunities. As blogger Johnny Void says: “This new scheme represents 780 hours unpaid work, over two and a half times higher than the maximum community service penalty that can be handed out by the courts.  And this is just for the crime of being unable to find a job.” Read the rest of this entry »

Osborne’s plans criminalise unemployed people

Posted: September 30th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes | 12 Comments »

Community Service punishments are less harsh than the forced work handed out to unemployed people

Campaigners have condemned George Osborne’s announcement that more unemployed people will be forced to work without a wage or face losing their only source of income as a further criminalisation of the unemployed.

The maximum community sentence that a judge can hand out is for 300 hours, but claimants on six-month workfare schemes are already being forced to work without pay for 780 hours. The four-week Mandatory Work Activity scheme is already the equivalent of a medium level community service order that a person might receive if they were found guilty of drink driving or assault.

When a similar scheme was introduced in the US, thousands of jobs in the Parks Department were lost in New York alone – to be replaced with forced unpaid workers. Similar case studies have emerged in the UK, where workfare placements are already taking place in hospitals, council offices, charities and businesses.

Campaigners accuse Osborne of rehashing existing schemes, which DWP research has repeatedly found to fail in helping people find work. The pilot of the scheme announced today was found to have no effect on helping people find employment. 71% of people sanctioned on the scheme reported going without food; half went into debt. The requirement for daily visits to the Job Centre for people leaving the Work Programme is already in place for many people – though Osborne’s announcement is rebranding the current ‘Hit Squad’ and ‘Mandatory Intervention Regime’ as ‘Help to Work’.

This latest workfare scheme may become unworkable as charities and voluntary organisations refuse to take part. Tens of large charities have already quit workfare schemes: Oxfam stated that the schemes were incompatible with its goal of reducing poverty in the UK. The government is currently appealing the Information Commissioner’s decision that it must reveal the names of the organisations involved. If it loses, charities involved in sanctioning unemployed people will face further public pressure to withdraw.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Joanna Long, member of Boycott Workfare said:

“Community workfare schemes literally treat the unemployed as criminals – with far harsher sentences than if they had committed a crime. Osborne’s announcement is a PR rehash of schemes that are already failing to help people find work on a massive scale. It’s bad news for people who will be forced to work at far below the minimum wage – and it’s terrible news for the people whose jobs they will be replacing. This is about cutting the safety net for unemployed people, and handing something for nothing to charities, companies and councils which should be paying wages and taxes.”

The Community Action Programme – Another Workfare Scheme That Doesn’t Work

Posted: September 26th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes | Tags: | 18 Comments »
protesters outside bhf

Some large charities continue to profit from workfare. Others – like Oxfam – give it a wide berth.

Rumours are abounding in the press that the Conservative Party conference will be used to launch a workfare scheme (or pilot of one) for people unfortunate enough to still be unemployed after two years on the Work Programme. We thought we should reproduce this article, first published by us on 12 December 2012, to point out it has already been piloted. And found to fail (apart from at increasing sanctions).

More news of workfare schemes that fail to help people into jobs came out last week, as the first examination of the “Very Long-Term Unemployed Trailblazer” is released. The headline is that being sent on the Community Action Programme (CAP) – a 6 month workfare placement – has no effect on employment levels with 15-18% of people finding work – the same amount as people who simply got standard job centre plus support.

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