The decision is a major blow for the DWP’s latest plans for mass workfare. Community Work Placements are soon to be inflicted on ten of thousands of people leaving the Work Programme and involve six months’ unpaid full-time work for charities and community organisations. Those who refuse to carry out forced labour will be punished with poverty, hunger and destitution as benefits are sanctioned. But major charities, such as Oxfam, Shelter and Marie Curie, have very publicly distanced themselves from forced work. A recent Freedom of Information request revealed that the provider guidance for the scheme is not yet ready, suggesting its April start date is somewhat optimistic.
The Salvation Army have long been one of the most vocal supporters of forced work and one of the few organisations that had no scruples about even forcing claimants on sickness and disability benefits to work for free. In a victory for anti-workfare campaigners, it seems that The Salvation Army have decided that a workfare scheme equivalent to twice the maximum community service sentence is too much even for them to stomach. In a statement on their website the organisation says:
“We feel that a 26-week work experience placement is too long and would not be beneficial. If someone has not found employment within two years, the lack of work experience is clearly not their only barrier to employment. Our concern is that the underlying issues need to be dealt with holistically and work experience is a part of the support needed. As such, we will not be taking part in the Community Work Placement programme.”
The Salvation Army are far from off the hook. They are still deeply involved in several other workfare schemes and their statement suggests they still believe that unemployment is caused by the flaws of unemployed people. But it does place huge pressure on charities such as the YMCA, Groundwork UK and The Conservation Volunteers who are all expected to be involved in running Community Work Placements.
Several other volunteer organisation have also lined up to condemn the new workfare scheme, including Volunteer Centre Liverpool who have rightly stated that “these placements are not volunteering”. Welfare-to-work companies hoping to pick up yet more taxpayers’ cash by managing the new placements have even resorted to openly offering bribes to charities in the hope they will throw away their principles and join the workfare gravy train.
Boycott Workfare have called a week of action against Community Work Placements beginning on March 29th. With protests and action already being planned throughout the UK, we can stop this plan for mass workfare in its tracks. Join us by organising a protest, picket and action in your town or city and help spread the word about all events taking place. See the latest details here.
Actions will also take place online throughout the week so be ready to tell the workfare exploiters what you think.
If you are organising an event, or know of a local workfare exploiter then please contact Boycott Workfare at: info[at]boycottworkfare.org
In the meantime why not contact YMCA and ask them whether they will follow The Salvation Army’s lead and reject this forced work scheme”? Or suggest to the Salvation Army that they stop pushing people into destitution through sanctions altogether.