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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.

Tales of unpaid toil: sanctioned by the Samaritans

Posted: August 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Guest blog, Name and shame, Personal accounts, Sanctions | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Though the Samaritans don’t appear on the recently released lists of workfare exploiters from 2012, we’ve had a report of a Mandatory Work Activity placement in their shop in Hove in 2014. Recently, a claimant has also contacted us about Community Work Placements at another Samaritans charity shop in May 2016. Our correspondent writes: “I would like to point out that, even though I wasn’t placed at the Samaritans, other people sent by Interserve were.”
Like some other claimants who told the truth when questioned about health considerations during an interview and were not taken on, this individual has been sanctioned.
So a claimant who replies honestly about a health condition is alleged to be ‘negative’? Given that the upcoming Work & Health Programme targets claimants with disabilities and long-term health issues, we’ll greet this with a shudder and then get very, very angry.

Tales of unpaid toil: Sanctioned by the Samaritans 1

This doesn’t seem to apply to claimants conscripted to work for free in Samaritans shops

Sanctioned by the Samaritans

I was sent for a CWP placement interview at a Samaritans charity shop. Due to my health issues, the store manager decided that I wasn’t suitable. On returning to Interserve I was removed from the CWP program and ended up with a four-week sanction.

I complained and tried to appeal but the provider Interserve and later the Jobcentre claimed that I had been very negative during the interview and refused to do the placement. This was a lie! The store manager had asked me early in the interview if I had health problems and I had only told her the truth. Read the rest of this entry »

Check out a charity!

Posted: August 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Pledge to boycott workfare | No Comments »

Workfare hasn’t gone away (as evidenced by the number of name & shame posts we still get). But the recent press coverage of the court ruling revealing workfare exploiters is an opportunity to ask some tough questions of charities that may still be involved with workfare. We would like to encourage people to contact charities on that list to find out whether they are currently using workfare, and their position on workfare.

First check at KVV to see whether they have since signed the agreement not to use workfare.
Here is a sample letter which you can use – modify it as you wish.

Another win: 4-year legal battle finally reveals workfare exploiters!

Posted: July 31st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Law, Name and shame | 6 Comments »

This is the first of two linked posts about the DWP being forced to reveal the names of hundreds of workfare exploiters from 2012, after losing a four year legal battle. Frank Zola has pursued this information since 2012. Mr Zola is a member of Boycott Workfare, and you can read the second post – his detailed account of the Court of Appeal ruling and its background – here: 500+ abusers of workfare conscripts named and shamed. He was previously sanctioned as a flexible new deal (“work for your benefit“) workfare refusenik and A4e conscript.

Another win: 4-year legal battle finally reveals workfare exploiters! 1In January 2012, three Freedom of Information requests were made for the names of organisations that were benefitting from unpaid labour through workfare schemes. This month the Department for Work and Pensions finally released information about one of these schemes – Mandatory Work Activity – after they’d resisted and delayed, appealing from court to court, for four and a half years. The public now officially have a right to know which organisations use workfare. You can read the full list of 534 businesses and charities who were involved in MWA here.

Workfare secrecy

Workfare – forced, unpaid labour in return for social security – relies on businesses and charities being willing to take on benefit claimants as unpaid workers. Up until this week, the DWP has protected the identity of these organisations.

The information the DWP has just released is about the business and charities that were using MWA placements in 2011-12. But the ruling means that the DWP should now disclose further information about which organisations are benefitting from workfare today, in response to further requests. Any of us can use a Freedom of Information request to find out what organisations are using workfare in our area, or across the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

Mustard Tree: from workfare exploiter to workfare refuser

Posted: January 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Charities, Pulled out! | 2 Comments »

12265661_1515689348749285_1701812175792048410_o (1)Mustard Tree is a charity that works with homeless and other disadvantaged people in Greater Manchester. Until recently, it participated in workfare. But thanks to a sustained campaign by Boycott Workfare Greater Manchester, they’re no longer involved!  

Mustard Tree had been part of the government’s Mandatory Work Activity Programme (MWA)  –  4 weeks’ full time unpaid work, carried out under threat of sanctions.   Boycott Workfare Greater Manchester first picketed Mustard Tree in December 2014.  Then again at the end of January 2015, again on March 21st, and again in November.  On January 13th, Mustard Tree updated their position on MWA:

Following further consideration, the board of Trustees of Mustard Tree have decided to withdraw our offer of the 4 week work placements associated with the Mandatory Work Activity element of the Welfare to Work Programme.

This updates their earlier stance. In the previous position statement, from March 2015, they said that:

We believe that the 4 week work experience placement [i.e. MWA – unpaid work] is a wholly proportionate and effective tool for accessing sustainable employment.

Like Haringey Solidarity Group’s campaign against North London Hospice, it shows that sustained campaigns against charities using workfare are effective.  BW Greater Manchester put pressure on Mustard Tree in different ways:

  • they wrote to supporters of the charity, like FC United
  • they kept a dialogue going with Mustard Tree throughout the process,
  • they continued picketing their shops and offering information to people passing about what workfare is and how it links to sanctions.  

On all the demonstrations, people from BW Manchester had a massively positive response from passers by.  Even people who were hearing about workfare for the first time very quickly understood what is wrong with workfare, and especially what is wrong with a charity participating in it.

Protest report: MUSTARD TREE: STOP USING WORKFAREMustard Tree’s Eccles shop, Saturday (14/11/15) at 12 noon.As usual…

Posted by Boycott Workfare Greater Manchester on Saturday, 14 November 2015

Read the rest of this entry »

Sanction the Salvation Army

Posted: May 2nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 4 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:

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

Make sure Cancer Research keep to their word

Posted: January 15th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Pulled out! | Tags: | 3 Comments »
Cancer Research have told the Guardian they are pulling out of Mandatory Work Activity - but what about the other schemes?

After numerous workfare placements in their stores, Cancer Research now say they will cancel any placements they hear of

Despite having formally pulled out of workfare in 2012, we recently heard of two people who were referred to undertake six month long Community Work Placements at Cancer Research shops in London. One of the persons concerned complained. She was informed by the Head of Retail Operations:

  • Cancer Research UK do not have and never has had a national relationship with a mandated scheme which affects people’s benefits as these do… we have had local arrangements, however these were brought to a close almost two years ago.
  • When this is brought to our attention we make sure all details are thoroughly investigated and appropriate action is taken to stop this from happening.
  • All shops shops nationally received… a communication once again clarifying our policy not to accept, however underhand some of the agencies have approached shop managers, individuals on a placements scheme.
  • There have been some challenges and confusion at local level where shop teams may have missed reminders or their initial training or where the agency hasn’t been clear as to the nature of the scheme someone is joining us on. However, following this complaint, 10 placements were withdrawn.

Anyone out there in the world of Community Work Placements or facing workfare on another scheme, please ensure Cancer Research UK stay true to this commitment.
Read the rest of this entry »

Take part in the Manchester Boycott Workfare Action Against Mustard Tree

Posted: December 19th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 3 Comments »

Workfare is forcing people to work for free using the threat of sanctions (removal of welfare benefits).  DWP Workfare schemes have already led to thousands relying on food handouts, caused or aggravated mental health issues, suicides and homelessness. Yet unbelievably, despite this being well documented and researched, a charity who work with homeless people are using Workfare!

Come along to let a charity that works with the homeless understand that it’s unacceptable to use workfare – an exploitative programme that causes poverty and destitution.

Where and when? December 22nd, 12pm at Mustard Tree, 110 Oldham Rd, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AG

Unlike most users in the voluntary sector, who do their best to snidely disguise or hide their involvement, Mustard Tree have openly defended their use of this forced labour. This, despite acknowledging the fundamental injustices of  workfare and the sanctions regime that underpins it.

Some classic quotes from Mustard Tree:

”On one hand the jobless should not be forced to undertake work or to work for their benefits…”

“Increasingly the good people that Mustard Tree has traditionally supported are trapped in WorkFare.”

“we oppose some of the core elements of Workfare”

Mustard Tree, if you want to offer valuable and genuinely voluntary placements, then do. But don’t actively support a regime of forced labour that punishes and starves those who choose not to be involved or turn up late one day. Using workfare means being part of a system that contributes to homelessness, that takes financial resources away from this exact community. It makes a mockery of the concept of volunteering and a mockery of the idea of a charity who help the homeless.

If you can’t make the demonstration in Manchester on Monday, then you can . And Mustard Tree can be reached on the phone (01612287331) and by email (

Come out and stand in solidarity with homeless people and all those forced to undergo this exploitative regime. Show Mustard Tree that we will not tolerate this in our city: that there can be no place for unpaid and forced labour anywhere, let alone in a homeless charity.