How voluntary organisations messed up the launch of Help to Work

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’.

Compulsory Work Placements are one form of further punishment for people who’ve already been through the Work Programme.  The 200,000 people who are expected to have to go through Help to Work will either have to sign on every day at the job centre, or undergo intensive harassment by their advisor intended to frustrate them off benefits (the Mandatory Intervention Regime), or work for 30 hours per week unpaid for six months (Compulsory Work Placements).

The placements have to be at public sector and voluntary organisations: according to DWP regulations people can only be directly forced to work for free if what they’re doing is supposed to be for ‘community benefit’.

But by Monday, tens of voluntary organisations had already signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary pledge. Four days later, there are over 150  who’ve signed up.

The government won’t reveal the names of the 70 organisations that are going to deliver the schemes. Probably for the same reason it wouldn’t reveal the names of organisations involved in Mandatory Work Activity: ‘disclosure [of names] would have been likely to have led to the collapse of the MWA scheme’.

All we know is that the primary contractors who will be organising the scheme across the UK are very familiar:  Interserve, Seetec, LearnDirect, Rehab Jobfit, Working Links, Pertemps, and the brutal, fraudulent, and incompetent G4S.  These are the same companies who already run the Work Programme, where you’re five times as likely to be sanctioned as find a job.

These are the companies who will arrange the placements with parts of the public sector, and ‘voluntary’ organisations like Groundwork.

We don’t think that any worthwhile voluntary organisation should take part in workfare.  It’s inhuman to force people to work for no money: it doesn’t help people find jobs, and wouldn’t be justified if it did.  It warps what volunteering is. It replaces jobs and erodes pay and working conditions for people who are in work. It’s oppressive, demeaning, and an excuse for sanctions, which force people into poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

Take Action!

The list of organisations who’ve signed up is here.  If you’re part of a voluntary organisation, or you know one that hasn’t signed the agreement yet, then please ask them to sign the pledge.  Any kind of voluntary group can sign up: from a union branch to a major charity to a local housing action group.

You can also find out if your council replied to research we did at the end of 2013 about councils using workfare by downloading the spreadsheet here. If there’s nothing for your council, you could try your own Freedom of Information request: they know this is information they should share.

If enough organisations refuse to take part, the government will have to scrap Compulsory Work Placements.  Workfare is a ‘failed policy’: it should be an impossible one.


Comments (16)

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define irony: The veterans (whose names are engraved on all the war memorials) of two WW fought to save us from slavery and tyranny (my great-great grandfather died on the Somme & my great grandfather was in the RAF in WWII) and yet ITS OUR OWN THAT government THAT'S forced the poor into servitude & slavery in C21st Britain.


The whole farce is as much about the underpaid /low hour working people as it is about the Unemployment. How can those poor working stiffs get a break when the Government point out how many unemployed there are waiting to take their jobs, they can't ask for higher wages or better conditions because employers offer "if you don't like it there are plenty who will" ( there isn't), and now the draconian treatment of long term unemployed is a warning to low paid wage slaves everywhere to put up and shut up or they too will be "sold"into deeper misery.
If there are all these work placements, why haven't people been employed legitimately to do them, what kind of nation can find "work" for "re-education", but will not pay a living wage to have them done?


Al Capone was a notorious Gangster,he was brought down by paper work! This may sound silly,but Employers Liability Insurance,under MWA/CWP you are not covered,they can include you but at a very steep price,past history shows that the Providers go the cheapest way possible...Demand that you are a named person,it is your right...Watch them £hit themselves.

Great British

‘disclosure [of names] would have been likely to have led to the collapse of the MWA scheme’

This alone should be enough to raise alarm bells all over. Their own words are drenched in the bile of intentional foul play.

Also, I agree with you strongly, diane. I have been saying that since the civil war began.
Present day Germany appears to be ten times greater than "Great" Britain in every way. Their people are treated as citizens rather than subjects, their government makes -at least- some decisions for the actual good of it's people (a mere fantasy for us). And their economy... I need not comment on.

I would rather pay my taxes directly to Germany, where I don't even live, than hand it over to the pure swine we begrudgingly term "our leaders".

Gnome Zone

This disgusting government think they OWN us and we are to be treated like third class citizens.

Forced to do demeaning work for longer than convicted criminals for less than the minimum wage. We have paid taxes for fucks sake. We are not the chattels of these shitbags.

This is not what people fought and died for during the wars, this is what people were fighting against.

Bernard Rentajag

IDS really is descending into an Alan Partridgesque parody of himself, isn't he?

Due to the country turning against his schemes because they don't agree with private companies profiteering from vulnerable people (and costing employees work in the process), he goes for the war veterans angle.
"Nobody would begrudge these people keeping war memorials clean and in good repair", he thinks, rubbing his hands together and cackling with glee.
Except it all blows up in his face again because he's got caught up in The Big Lie, where he's lying to try and stop a previous lie being uncovered, and now he can't stop.

One day he'll realise that he's dug a hole so big that everyone can see it and he won't be able to climb out, and he'll take the easy way out with a length of knotted rope.

chris lafferty

Its fecked up, greedy arsed, mainly idiotic, ignorant miscreants who have voted in these inept, priviliged fools.. 1. War memorials should never ever exist, (I wish not to take away any respect of the fallen) but they are a stark reminder of the failings of humanity. To ask the "unworthy" unemployed to clean them, speaks volumes of this arsehole governments, intolerance of the individual, and that individuals feelings and rights.. They are ghettoising the unemployed, plain and simple..


A lot of people do not agree with war memorials in the first instance as some feel it glorifies war and justifies it - war memorials for the illegal gulf war and attacks or Iraq/Afghanistan as well as the colonial war on the Malvinas/(Falkland) Islands are seen by many as unjustified, illegal and war crimes

How date the dwp attempt to force pacifists, Buddhists and conscientious objectors into working on shrines that promote/justify wars?

Yet another pathetic tory bandwagon policy that is a failure and is slave labour which the EU should outlaw


My local war memorial is an enormously tall obelisk. I can't find out the exact height, but it's well over 30 feet tall, as are many others.

The idea of anyone other than a properly trained steeplejack scaling that memorial is horrific.

Presumably IDS intends that the crippled and infirm in his chain gangs be sanctioned if they fail to scramble to the top...but will die a grisly death and also come off benefits if they comply.

There is much evidence that employers routinely decline to provide workfare victims with adequate safety equpment (the laws seem to be 'waived') and it has also never been clarified who will be liable in the case of injuries or fatalities.

Just as those damaged or killed by the WCA process and their families have yet to receive justice.


Anyone caught up in this prestigious scheme should be able to claim minimum wage: they are not working voluntarily as they are being forced and as IDS has pointed out it is work.

Hoping for someone to get legal advice

neil McBain

the so called back to works schemes

were the govt threaten and intimidate innocent vulnerable people

represents the criminal abuse of political power

from which those same people have right to the protection of the law.

Barbara Kirk

IDS as Alan Partridge! He's certainly anti-women.


If only someone would take a bloody big knife and stab that vicious, clinically insane and evil CUNT to death. The 'man' is a real piece of verminous shit and needs to be put six foot under. Please will someone do this soon! I can't stand looking at the completely smug and gormless thick git's ugly mug.


Just look at the evil glint in his eyes in EVERY photo of him. The bloke is seriously insane and always has been. He is on a massive personal ego trip and if he lived in an earlier era he would have made a perfect SS guard at Auschwitz or any other Nazi concentration camp. Doesn't anyone in this god-forsaken country realise this person has an extremely authoritarian personality and just loves to get off on the thought he is making vulnerable people's lives hell and even driving them to take their own lives?

He just HAS TO GO soon before he causes any more social division.


The blood, sweat and tears of the poor feeding the fat rich to make them fatter and richer.
If there`s work placement room for these quantities of people in the work place, how do they actually exist? I mean, who was doing these jobs before they were filled with slaves? I`m not talking about voluntary sector jobs, I `m talking about the likes of Tesco and Poundland etc. How can this ever help people get jobs? For every slave these companies take on they are negating the need to provide a paid equivalent. They are taking jobs out of the market and replacing them slaves that they have no incentive or responsibility to train and who have no rights as `employees`.
It`s all about intimidation, oppression and the building of anxiety, fear and desperation in the unemployed. It`s about stamping on the necks of the unemployed until they either prefer homelessness or death. Push push push until they snap.


Like the movie brewsters millions where he has to spend all the cash or he gets nothing...

Tories seem the same with voting losing 150.000 votes each month, force 150.000 people to work for no pay, and you expect they're votes also THINK AGAIN i'm a voter who's being forced to work in City Furnishing Glasgow for the next 4 weeks and i'll make sure and so will the other 25 million make sure to VOTE and it won't be TORY we'll be voting for...

And these rats are expert politicians !!!