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28 December 2013 – Media release – For immediate release
UK councils use half a million hours of workfare
New research by Boycott Workfare has revealed 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.
38% of the 271 councils who responded to Freedom of Information requests had taken a workfare placement in the last two years. Of the 1929 placements reported to have taken place, only 1 in 14 led to jobs, many of which were temporary.
The research also revealed that at least one council has been profiting twice – receiving payment for arranging placements with itself. Northumberland County Council (NCC) has a subcontract with Ingeus for delivering Mandatory Work Activity (MWA), a scheme which carries penalties of up to three years’ benefit stoppages. It has used its role to place 44 people in unpaid work for NCC.
Councils are using workfare in departments which have had severe job cuts and escalating the level of benefit stoppages that local people face:
- Bexley Borough Council have taken over 100 workfare placements, including 71 through the London Mayor’s workfare scheme. The majority of these placements were in the library services where 35 jobs have recently been lost. Over 50 young people were unable to complete the scheme and are likely to have had their benefits stopped for either 1 or 3 months as a result.
- Scarborough Borough Council have taken 120 people through the MWA scheme in the last 2 years. Only 71 people completed the placement, resulting in the other 49 probably receiving benefit sanctions. All these placements were in the Parks Department, where cuts to staff were proposed in 2012.
- Newport City Council have used a total of 112 placements from the Work Experience scheme and the Work Programme with the majority lasting 1 month. 84 were in the city’s Streetscene department, which includes street cleaning and bin collection. Only 12 people were eventually given jobs in the council.
Commenting on the research findings, Joanna Long, member of Boycott Workfare said:
“It is a disgrace that councils are making people work for no pay. They are exploiting local people to fill the gaps left by government cuts to public services.
“Workfare is bad news for people in paid work whose jobs it’s replacing. It is terrible news for the people forced onto the schemes who can face benefit stoppages, hunger and homelessness.
“Research shows workfare doesn’t help people find work. People across the country are taking action to stop Osborne’s new six month workfare scheme from launching in April. Unpaid work cannot become the norm in the UK.”
Notes to editors
 Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign network to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. 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. We are not affiliated to any political party and are open to all who share our aims. More info:
 The original research was conducted by Freedom of Information requests to every council in the UK. More details can be found here: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3107 Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for copies of the councils’ responses
 Osborne announced plans for a new six month workfare scheme from April 2014 at the Conservative Party Conference. The scheme will focus on placements in the public and voluntary sector, and has been branded as a ‘criminalisation’ of the unemployed by campaigners: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3018
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