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31 March 2014 – Media release – For immediate release
Flashmob at YMCA headquarters launches week of action against workfare
Anti-workfare campaigners today paid a surprise visit to the headquarters of YMCA England on Farringdon Road, occupying with a flashmob to sing “Forced to work at the Y-M-C-A”. The action launched a week of action called by Boycott Workfare, which aims to make the new six-month forced, unpaid work ‘Community Work Placements’  unworkable and to “stop workfare in its tracks”.
Despite publishing research this month which showed that sanctions are forcing young people to cut back on essential items including food, housing costs, and toiletries , YMCA continues to defend its involvement in workfare schemes which see at least 10% of participants sanctioned .
Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England has described the impact of sanctions on young people as ‘disastrous’. Archbishop of York and President of the YMCA Dr John Sentamu has publicly criticised workfare.  Campaigners hope that their pressure will persuade YMCA to join the growing list of charities including Oxfam, Marie Curie, The Children’s Society and the Red Cross , who say they will have nothing to do with these schemes which can push people into absolute poverty.
The week of action aims to escalate pressure on those charities still using workfare ahead of the six month “Community Work Placements” (CWP) due to launch on 24 April. These will rely heavily on the voluntary and public sector to deliver mandatory placements for unemployed people, of more than twice the maximum community service sentence. However, the success of the scheme looks far from certain as even major workfare-user The Salvation Army has said it will not take part .
Jim McLaughlin, member of Boycott Workfare says:
“The brutal impact of the sanctions regime is clear for all to see as the use of foodbanks and loansharks soars. Charities should play no part in punitive forced work schemes: being unemployed is not a crime and workfare does not help people find jobs.
“Six months’ forced unpaid work seems to be too much even for some of the biggest workfare exploiters to stomach. As more and more charities refuse to take part, we can stop workfare in its tracks and undermine another devastating ‘flagship’ government policy.”
The week of action will also see protests Brighton, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Swansea and Weston-Super-Mare. 
Notes to editor:
1. Community Work Placements were announced by George Osborne at the Conservative Party Conference in Sept 2013 and are due to commence on 24 April. See the provider guidance here.
2. YMCA England published research on the devastating impact of sanctions at the beginning of March 2014.
YMCA has issued several statements defending its involvement in workfare schemes which enable sanctions.
3. Corporate Watch research has found that approximately 1 in 10 people sent on Mandatory Work Activity are sanctioned, although some sub-contractors refer as many as 45% for sanction.
4. Archbishop John Sentamu has been outspoken in his criticism of workfare schemes but has not apparently been able to persuade YMCA to change its policy.
5. See a list of organisations who have pulled out (and those still involved) here.
6. 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.
Salvation Army who last year were praised by the government for “holding the line” on workfare have said that they will not take part in Community Work Placements.
7. See a full list of protests in the week of action here.
Past press releases:
28th December 2013: UK councils use half a million hours of workfare
5th December 2013: Community Work Placement charities to face protests
30th September 2013: Osborne’s plans ‘criminalise unemployed people’
18th March 2013: Salvation Army HQ occupied by workfare protestors
12th February 2013: Workfare regulations quashed in huge victory for ordinary people
5th July 2012: Workfare protests to take place across the UK
25th June 2012: Workfare in the Dock
19th October 2011: Anti-poverty campaigners denied access to “welfare to work” conference
18th October 2011: Forced labour protest to target welfare to work conference
10th June 2011: Work Programme will replace paid workers with mandatory labour
7th June 2011: Workfare Conference cancelled due to protest
6th June 2011: Protest to target workfare conference
A selection of coverage:
December 2010 – Islington Tribune, Happiness Society will not bring us joy
August 2011 – Corporate Watch
August 2011 – Guardian
September 2011: Corporate Watch exposes Matalan, Savers and Newham Council amongst others as profiting from workfare
October 2011: Morning Star – Forced labour scheme activists vow to defy gag
October 2011: Islington Tribune – Protest against ‘forced labour’ reforms at the Business Design Centre
November 2011: Corporate Watch exposes Holland & Barrett and Tescos
November 2011: Red Pepper – All Work and No Pay
February 2012: The Guardian – Waterstones ends unpaid work placements