Here’s a list of workfare schemes

A list of current and past workfare schemes, with a brief description of what each of them involves and how you might be affected by sanctions by having to take part in them.


Current Workfare Schemes

Sector-Based Work Academies

These are 6 weeks long and involve both “pre-employment training” and a work experience placement. More on this scheme can be found here

Do not take part in Sector-Based Work Academies: If you start and then drop out you could be sanctioned

Work and Health Programme

This is a mandatory programme aimed at disabled and unemployed claimants. It utilises elements of the failed Community Work Placement scheme. (See below) The scheme is enforced via sanctions. The details of these placements are awaiting clarification

Universal Credit

The shambolic ‘flagship’ welfare reform policy contains the prescriptive use of workfare. This is important as Universal Credit, along with sanctions and workfare, will eventually be applied to an additional 7-8 Million people who are already in work.

Youth Obligation

This is made up of a three month placement that is enforced via sanctions in a public sector organisation or a registered charity. From April 2017 it applied to 18-21 year olds on Universal Credit (UC). They are expected to ‘earn or learn’, and participate in an ‘intensive regime’ of support from day one of their claim. After 6 months on UC, they will have to apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship, gain work-based skills, or go on a work placement.

Work Programme

The last referrals to this programme were in March 2017, but it can last up to two years, so people will still be on it until 2019. The Work Programme is basically a for-profit Job Centre you are forced to attend normally after 9-12 months on JSA where you can be forced to carry out workfare at the whim of the private provider. Figures are not available for the number of mandatory work placements under this programme, but Ingeus (owned by city financiers Deloitte) force people to do six month long workfare placements. The Work Programme, is expected to cost the taxpayer at least £5 billion pounds.


Past Workfare Schemes

Mandatory Work Activity (MWA).  The scheme mandated four weeks’ unpaid work for up to 30 hours a week. Although the government claims it is “community work”, its definition of this includes working “for the profit of the host organisation.”. Claimants faced losing benefits for 3 months the first time they do not take part, and this can go up to 3 years for the third time. Claimants can, and are, referred to MWA at any point in their claim.

Community Work Placements (Help to Work).  From April 2014 people who returned to the Job Centre after going through the Work Programme were faced with the Help to Work scheme. There were three elements to the scheme: 1) daily sign-ons at the Job Centre; 2) ‘intensive training’ and ‘work preparation’; and 3) 6-month long workfare placements (Community Work Placements), involving work like litter picking and cleaning graffiti. Those who refused to participate in either a placement, training scheme or in work preparation faced being sanctioned.

The DWP announced in March 2016 that the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) and Community Work Placement (CWP) schemes would end on 31/3/16, with no claimants taking part in MWA after 27/4/16 and in CWP after 26/10/16. (For details, see these two memos from the DWP: here for JSA and here for Universal Credit.) However, Boycott Workfare received messages from people as late as August 2016, saying that they were on the MWA scheme.

Steps 2 Success – This replaced the ‘Steps to Work’ scheme and is the equivalent of the Work Programme in Northern Ireland. The programme lasts for up to a year and you can be sanctioned if you refuse to take part in it.

Day One Support for Young People Trailblazer (London only) – this scheme ran from 2012 to 2013. It forced young people (18-24) without 6 months official work experience (attained in at most 2 jobs) to work without pay for 13 weeks on the first day of signing on. Not taking part resulted in benefit sanctions of up to 3 months.

Derbyshire “Trailblazer” Mandatory Youth Activity Programme – This was a scheme that was designed for JSA claimants age 18 -24 year old who had been 26 weeks on the benefit. It involved an 8 week mandatory work experience placement of 30 hours per week. Refusal to take part resulted in a sanction.

All the above schemes’ placements are meant to be for ‘community benefit’. Practically this means charitiescouncilswaste/recycling centressports clubs etc.

There are also some schemes that, while officially voluntary to start the scheme, they still involve coercion since refusal to participate can lead to claimants being forced onto one of the above compulsory schemes (see this blog for more details on why they are still workfare):

  • Traineeships – Traineeships started in Autumn 2013 and are 6 months long with up to 5 months of this being a work placement, normally at a company such as Subway, or Kwik Fit. The rest of the time is spent in ‘training’, during which people can be sanctioned for not participating. See here for more info.
  • Sector-based work academies – Placements can last up to six weeks and people can be sanctioned for dropping out once they have started the placement. More info here.

There are also other workfare policies and schemes that are or have been in place:

Skills conditionality – This is something claimants can be mandated to take part in, and sanctioned if they refuse to do so. It is a requirement for you to attend courses in order to improve particular skills, and these courses are delivered by a college or other training organization. Often the courses provided on Skills Conditionality are low in quality and unlikely to help claimants find a job.

Supervised Jobsearch – this was a scheme that ran between autumn 2014 and April 2015 which involved claimants spending 35 hours per week in a job centre for 13 weeks doing supervised job searching. It was quietly scrapped when it emerged that it cost more money than it saved, was understaffed and had an extremely high rate of sanctions.