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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 »


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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Osborne’s flagship sinking as voluntary sector rejects role in scheme

Posted: April 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 5 Comments »
Logo of Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign - hands raised

Follow the new Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign on Twitter and Like it on Facebook to help spread the word!

Today’s new workfare scheme will fall apart if voluntary sector organisations refuse to take part. Help make it happen my contacting charities and groups you support to ask them to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary!

Osborne’s headline policy of “Community Work Placements” is already in jeopardy as it is launched today, having failed to generate enough voluntary sector participation. Instead, organisations such as Oxfam and the umbrella body National Association for Voluntary and Community Action are marking the date by launching the “Keep Volunteering Voluntary” campaign.

Community Work Placements are six-month unpaid work placements for unemployed people, part a set measures branded as “Help to Work”. The £300 million Help to Work programme is aimed at 200,000 Jobseekers Allowance claimants. Studies into existing UK workfare schemes in the UK have found them to have zero effect on helping people find work.
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Join the physical or online blockade of the Salvation Army!

Posted: April 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 5 Comments »
blockade of salvation army shop

Workfare: If you exploit us we will shut you down!

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty will be holding another of their regular and extremely successful blockades of the Salvation Army on Saturday morning from 11am onwards.

Join in with an online blockade of the Salvation Army’s social media and let them know what you think of their prolific and unashamed use of forced unpaid labour.

Make your feelings known and you may even get to join the prestigious ‘Banned by the Salvation Army over workfare related comments’ facebook group.

Although the Salvation Army are steering clear of the government’s latest workfare programme, the 6 month long Community Work Placements, they are still major users of workfare, taking part in Mandatory Work Activity and the Work Programme. The Salvation Army have expressed their support for workfare for sick and disabled people using the disturbing phrase “emancipation through employment”. Their enthusiastic support of workfare has won them praise from the government last year that they were ‘holding the line’ as other organisations were dropping out of the schemes due to public outrage.

We will keep the pressure on until they fully withdraw from all workfare schemes which threaten people with benefit sanctions of up to 3 years, causing hunger and homelessness.

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.


Anti workfare flying pickets rock Salvation Army in Edinburgh

Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Charities | 13 Comments »
Four Salvation Army shops blockaded in one day by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty!

Four Salvation Army shops blockaded in one day by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty!

Thanks to Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty for this inspiring report of their action on 3rd March… a hint of what’s to come in the week of action?

Anti workfare campaigners swooped on four Salvation Army shops in Edinburgh on 3rd March, blockading them all and turning away customers and a delivery lorry. Salvation Army managers were visibly rattled as a giant banner proclaiming IF YOU EXPLOIT US WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN blocked the entrance to their shops.

At the Bruntsfield Place shop the Salvation Army manager threatened: “I’m one of the more serious managers. I’ll get a group of people to come and kick your heads in if you don’t move from in front of my shop.” The demonstrators from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty maintained their blockade of the entrance and shortly afterwards turned away a lorry from Nathans Wastesavers textile recycling company. Animated debate continued in the street outside the shop as a pro-workfare passer-by was berated by another passer-by who recounted his experiences in the local Salvation Army hostel, where he said the management took half of residents’ benefits to pay for their accommodation.

SUCCESSFUL
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Stop workfare in its tracks – Take action 29 March – 6 April

Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Pledge to boycott workfare, Welfare to work industry | 10 Comments »
blockade of salvation army shop

Workfare: If you exploit us we will shut you down!

Tens of organisations have already quit workfare. The government will not reveal which organisations are still using it for fear the schemes will collapse. Its contractors complain that they have lost hundreds of placements due to public pressure.

But they’re trying it again with a new scheme – “Community Work Placements” – launching in April 2014 which will force claimants to work for six months without pay. Six months – 780 hours – is more than twice the maximum community service sentence. Workfare does not help people find jobs and being unemployed is not a crime.

This new workfare scheme is part of a raft of draconian measures, misleadingly called “Help to Work”, which are designed to increase sanctions (benefit stoppages) and undermine wages still further.

For the workfare schemes to happen, they need places to send people, but tens of large charities have already quit. Oxfam stated that the schemes were incompatible with its goal of reducing poverty in the UK. Liverpool Volunteer Centre has condemned the scheme in the strongest possible terms.

Our action can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting forced unpaid work and make sure this new scheme falls flat on its face. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 29 March-6 April.

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2014: Two weeks in and already winning!

Posted: January 12th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Public Sector | 3 Comments »
A park in Scarborough

120 people were sent on Mandatory Work Activity Placements for Scarborough Borough Council, but the scheme has now been cancelled!

Less than two weeks into 2014 and we’re already having an impact! Scarborough Council, one of the worst workfare-using councils in the UK, has cancelled its involvement. Volunteer centre Knowsley CVS has taken the principled stand to have nothing to do with workfare schemes. On Friday, the DWP’s social media strategists were forced to abandon use of their hashtag #takeoverday to promote ‘work experience’ when people literally took it over to campaign against sanctions and workfare!

Over Christmas, The Mirror and The Guardian published our research into UK councils using workfare. Scandalously, councils have benefited from at least half a million hours of workfare labour since 2011. We highlighted some particularly shocking examples, including Scarborough Borough Council, which had taken 120 Mandatory Work Activity placements in its Parks Department.

Apparently the Council didn’t appreciate the national publicity, and following its first meeting in the new year, the scheme appears to have been cancelled practically overnight [Warning: link contains embarrassing self-congratulation by members of the same political party which introduced workfare to the UK]. Cuts to the Parks Department were proposed in 2012. This success should mean jobs are now a little more secure. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


Workfare health & safety problems at the British Heart Foundation

Posted: August 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Personal accounts | No Comments »
protesters outside bhf

Tell British Heart Foundation what you think of them using workfare!

Last year, the Minister for Employment boasted that he had reduced the 8-page Health and Safety guide for the “Work Experience” workfare scheme to one paragraph. Story after story shows that when people are made to work without pay for fear of losing benefits, companies and charities think they can get away with putting people at risk.

We were recently contacted by a mother concerned about her teenage son’s placement at British Heart Foundation. She told us:

About a month ago my son was placed on the Work Experience Scheme with a British Heart Foundation Furniture Store where he works 4 days a week.  I was surprised as I had read they didn’t take people unless they were happy to volunteer. I don’t believe these JSA claimants have much choice in the matter.

My main concern is one of Health and Safety. As far as I can work out the only thing my son is doing is moving furniture – anything from chairs to wardrobes. He is also moving these between floors. He hasn’t had any training in the proper moving and handling procedures. He is not in contact with members of the public or learning any retail skills like the cash handling. If he is unable to move furniture due to size he is either sent home or mills around… there seems to be no alternative work should this occur. The only benefit seems to be to British Heart Foundation who are monetarily rewarded. My son is now beginning to suffer shoulder problems. These young JSA claimants do not have the confidence or knowledge to challenge the work ethics of their placements.

This placement if for 8 weeks and he still has to be looking for work and its seems that if he stops going he will lose benefits. Work experience placements in school are monitored but it doesn’t appear that is the case with JSA work placements. I think other parents should be aware that Work Experience may not be experience at all.

British Heart Foundation have used workfare on a massive scale – at one point their website stated that they had 1500 placements at any one time. Following occupations and pickets across the UK, they announced they were “moving away” from workfare. But they are openly declaring on their website that they are still participating in the Work Programme – despite the fact that in December mandatory work placements on this scheme were extended, so that many sick and disabled claimants on Employment and Support Allowance can be forced to work for nothing, or face sanctions.

BHF state on their site: “Our supporters are welcome to contact us directly if they have any questions about our participation in the scheme. Please email customerservice@bhf.org.uk“. Don’t disappoint them, get in touch!

BHF Retail HQ – 01372 477 300
Head Office – 020 7554 0000
Customer Service Centre – 0300 330 3322
Facebook: BHF
Contact: http://www.bhf.org.uk/contact-us.aspx
Twitter: