Osborne’s flagship sinking as voluntary sector rejects role in scheme

Logo of Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign - hands raised

Follow the new Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign on Twitter and Like it on Facebook to help spread the word!

Today’s new workfare scheme will fall apart if voluntary sector organisations refuse to take part. Help make it happen my contacting charities and groups you support to ask them to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary!

Osborne’s headline policy of “Community Work Placements” is already in jeopardy as it is launched today, having failed to generate enough voluntary sector participation. Instead, organisations such as Oxfam and the umbrella body National Association for Voluntary and Community Action are marking the date by launching the “Keep Volunteering Voluntary” campaign.

Community Work Placements are six-month unpaid work placements for unemployed people, part a set measures branded as “Help to Work”. The £300 million Help to Work programme is aimed at 200,000 Jobseekers Allowance claimants. Studies into existing UK workfare schemes in the UK have found them to have zero effect on helping people find work.

The Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign, which has garnered support from tens of voluntary sector organisations, points out that six months is more than twice the maximum community service sentence. As organisations become more aware of how benefit sanctions affect homelessness, food poverty and rising use of food banks, they are rejecting schemes that threaten benefit stoppages for non-participation. Other signs that the Community Work Placement scheme is floundering include:

  • Three of the largest supporters of other workfare schemes have said they will not accept placements: the Conservation Volunteers, Salvation Army and YMCA.
  • A response to a Freedom of Information request dated 10 April said the tender for ‘Help To Work’ was still ongoing, suggesting that the government was struggling to recruit the private providers to run the scheme.
  • The DWP has also said that the guidance for companies running the scheme will not be published until the launch date, 28 April, suggesting its production was running late.
  • The government is refusing to reveal details of where placements will take place to journalists.
  • Job Centre sources report that, at least in some areas, the framework for rolling it out is not yet in place.
  • The Community Action Programme pilot – a workfare scheme similar to Community Work Placements – could only find placements for 63% of participants.

Dave Draper from Derby, who will soon finish two years on the Work Programme and face a possible Community Work Placement, said:

“On the Work Programme, you are made to feel like a criminal for being unemployed. These new schemes aren’t about helping people get jobs; they’re about getting people off benefits. Those of us who have to go through them get sick with worry that we can be sanctioned at any time for anything.”

Andy Benson of the National Coalition for Independent Action, which works to keep the voluntary sector free of government interference, said:

“With Community Work Placements, charities that have a genuine desire to help people could end up exploiting them instead. We must not be naïve. The CWP scheme is the latest attempt to co-opt voluntary groups into doing ministers’ dirty work for them. We want real jobs and real volunteering, not real exploitation.”

Daniel O’Driscoll, Head of Volunteering at Oxfam, said:

“These schemes involve forced volunteering, which is not only an oxymoron, but undermines people’s belief in the enormous value of genuine voluntary work. Oxfam does not offer placements for participants in the mandatory work activity, or compulsory elements of ‘work for your benefits’ schemes. These schemes impact unfairly on the support people receive, and so are incompatible with our goal of reducing poverty in the UK.”

Joe Irvin, chief executive of the umbrella body the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), said:

“NAVCA champions volunteering but volunteering must be voluntary. That is why we oppose any requirement for people who are unemployed to carry out compulsory unpaid ‘voluntary’ work in return for their benefits.”

If voluntary sector groups don’t take part, the scheme falls apart – let’s make it happen!

Organisations can affirm their commitment to genuine volunteering by signing the pledge circulated by the campaign. Over 25 groups have already signed, including Adur Voluntary Action, Anti-Slavery International, Asylum Education and Legal Fund, Boycott Workfare, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), Children England, Christianity Uncut, Communities Inc, Derman, Disabled People Against Cuts, Ekklesia, Faith 4 Change, Hackney CVS, Hackney Refugee Forum, Hull Children’s Adventure Society, Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project, National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), National Coalition for Independent Action (NCIA), National Community Activists’ Network (NatCAN), Neighbourhood Networks, Oxfam, Salford Star, Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, Student Christian Movement, Unite the Union, Voices of Youth, Voluntary Action Harrow (VAH), 42nd Street.

This is an impressive list, but let’s make it much longer. Please ask any voluntary sector organisations you know (however small) to sign up. The disarray of the Community Work Placements shows that opposition and non-participation by voluntary organisations is already proving effective in derailing this punitive scheme.

Follow the new Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign on Twitter and Like it on Facebook to help spread the word!

For more media enquiries or more information, please contact Symon Hill of NCIA on 07920 037 719.


Comments (5)

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Michael Petek

The law, correctly stated, is that you are free to charge your own fee for the work you are summoned to do. Any Job Centre notice that doesn't clearly state this is likely to engage s2 of the Fraud Act 2006, and should be notified to the police.


Lets unite now and end this modern slavery. Any firms or charity's that profit from the oppression of the poor deserve to be boycotted and made to suffer financially. Hit them were it hurts in there pockets.

Jeff Smith

I would suggest targeting Hospice Care
Hospiscare, Registered in England, registration number 02164215, registered office: Dryden Road, Exeter, EX2 5JJ - Tel: 01392 688000 - Fax: 01392 688050
UK Registered Charity No: 297798.
They are rather embarassed users of MWA 'volunteers'. Even issuing them with volunteer badges.


@ Michael Petek: I reckon you're thinking of Section 3 of the Fraud Act 2006, not Section 2. The Fraud Act doesn't come into it anyway, as only contractors are free to charge their own fee for the work they are summoned to do, and those mandated to Workfare schemes aren't even employees in the legal sense of the word.
No, the laws being violated in this case are Article 4 of the Human Rights Convention which forms part of the Human Rights Act 1998, and Section 71 (1) (b) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Trust me, I'm an Autie.

susan frazer

I have struggled to find the dwp definition on "long term unemployed" I am 58 and recently made redundant now claiming contribution based jsa for 26 weeks only. I questioned an advisor in the job centre (when told about having to go in every day after eight weeks signing on). she replied that it was down to individual jobcentre managers to decide w hen to start this.