Red Cross out: “we no longer feel it is appropriate”

The Red Cross suspended workfare after just a few people got in touch! What you are doing works :) [Photo: Andy Wilkes]

The Red Cross suspended workfare after just a few people got in touch! What you are doing works! [Photo: Andy Wilkes]

As 2012 came to a close we had reports of people being sent for 4 weeks workfare on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme (MWA) at British Red Cross. This was probably to fill the void left by the spate of charities that pulled out in early December when workfare was rolled out for people on disability benefit.

Whereas the British Heart Foundation required a full year of online pressure, pickets and occupations of their stores to finally begin “moving away” from workfare, all the Red Cross required was a letter from a customer who had witnessed workfare in her local store. The Red Cross replied:

“I am sorry that the atmosphere in your local Red Cross shop has been unhappy of late and that there have been ‘volunteers’ who were finding it difficult to cope…

“In line with our fundamental principles our aim has always been to support vulnerable people in crisis and as such we no longer feel that it is appropriate to participate in a programme where sanctions might be applied that could result in an individual losing their benefits.”

This shows holding workfare users to account in any way you can does help bring down workfare! Join events in the week of action on 18-24 March, start your own or join the online protests that week and let Sally Army, YMCA, TCV and all the other workfare users know that “if you exploit us we will shut you down”!


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This is very good news.

Time YMCA pulled out of the 'Voluntary Slave' activity. This is ripping peoples lives and families apart. I have seen in person the trauma, anxiety and troubles these schemes bring to individuals suffering to severe extents. Being made to work so they can keep their benifits is sickening.

Certain Charities are loosing all my confidence and faith. YMCA in particular. You cannot tell sombody to volunteer, furthermore.... You cannot force sombody to volunteer at the threat of loosing their Own/ family income...... Thats NOT a volunteer, Its effectively Enslaving sombody to work. Can only be compared to community service!! which is a punishment at the very least.

I have lost faith in charities, and I am no longer giving to charities involved, and would reccomend avoiding them untill they do whats morally right and PULL OUT of this slavery.

Look up the definition 'Volunteer' online or in any dictionary. Youll see, That slavery / forced, Threat ect... doesnt have anything to do with volunteering.

These charities should be disgusted to be associated with these schemes!

I suggest Anyone currently 'Donating' to any involved charities DO NOT DONATE. Untill they pull out. Its abosultely sickening, So sad.

Thomas Newton

Great news as another charity sees sense and leaves the vile workfare schemes. However we are going to have trouble getting the Conservation Volunteers to leave as half of their £24 million pound income in 2012 was made by participating in workfare.


What does 'volunteers’ who were finding it difficult to cope mean? How were they struggling to cope & how are they going to cope in a paid job?

Can understand if they've recently come from disability benefit, but would be interested to know if that's the case.


Strange post. Working for no pay is wrong, whether someone is disabled or not!

What is so hard to understand?

One may argue like IDS does that you are getting your benefit in return. But if it was a 'real' job that would only be £2.36 an hour for 30 hours forced volunteering.

Forced volunteering? Oxymoron!


So they thought it was appropriate to participate in a programme where sanctions might be applied that could result in an individual losing their benefits, until someone pointed out that it wasn't appropriate?

Doesn't say a great deal for their judgment really then does it.

Cliff W

On the one hand I'm glad to see so many major charities acknowledging public pressure and withdrawing from mandatory enforced workfare; which frankly is just not compatible with their core values or with the ideals of their founders.

On the other hand, with charities increasingly out of the picture, this leaves those sentenced to workfare with little choice but to serve out their time labouring for corporate behemoths like Poundland, Asda, Argos et al.

As much as I think it's hypocritical for charities to be involved in workfare, I suspect that on the whole they'd provide a more supportive environment for workfare participants than the average branch of Poundland.

So I wonder if perhaps it's now time for those campaigning against workfare to shift the focus on to the corporations benefiting from workfare rather than continuing to focus mainly on the Third Sector?


Hi ethicalgirl,

Would being pressured into doing something under the fear of sanction not impact your ability to cope in a job, regardless of any disability?

I'm also interested to know which benefit they came from though, as it is worth knowing in some respects.

I just think being in that forced situation could bring about feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, or frustration - which can apply to even the most able bodied/minded people.

Just being at a paid job can be stressful so being pushed into one, unpaid, can make it even more so.


We'll be targeting companies in the week of action with daily online pickets and high street actions... check back for more from 18 March!


Ethicalgirl: Also, people can be good at one job but rubbish at another. a person who might be OK typing in an office or (if their legs are bad) any seated job will not find walking/standing in a charity shop easy or unstressful.


It is easy to imagine out-of-touch people at the top of a charity organisation; yes, yes, very in-touch with where their charity works. But, completely clueless when it comes to the DWP telling them a pack of lies about people 'volunteering' with them.

Give them some credit for listening, and reacting, fairly quickly. Read what you will into their 'vetted' statement, I take it as a caution to other charities on how screwed-up this "free labour" scheme is.


I already volunteer for a charity, if they take my DLA off me that will end and I'll be forced into 'volunteering' for a charity I don't support on less than half of the minimum wage.

Cameron makes more in one month than my wife who works for the police. She's had her pay frozen and capped a 1% while those thieving bastards in the house of parliament are just about to debate a 32% rise for MP's.

Yeah, we are all in this together.

My arse we are!


Ethical Girl

Not only are the disabled made to 'volunteer' but those previously on Incapacity Benefit [replaced by ESA]. Most of these will have been told they can work by DWP based on work capability reports from self-serving target/bonus driven such as ATOS. It is no wonder they are unhappy, most will be suffering mentally and/or physically from symptoms that were ignored at the time of the WCA.

David Moynagh

Workfare has little to do with helping people into employment. It is nothing more than a morally corrupt tory government punishment of people that they know do not vote for them. It is a very sinister thin edge of a wedge when considered together with tory state sponsored Atos suicides of the sick and disabled is worthy of investigation by the international court of human rights for crimes against humanity. The Atos atrocity must be stopped before more deaths occur.

P Townsend

I'm an OAP so this doe's not affect me in any way.Morally I cannot support slavery so thank you for telling me that the Salvation Army participates in this outrage. I will be making an appointment with my solicitor on Monday to remove the donation I was to make them in my will.




moralboy: - just so everyone's clear on this, whole idea which IDS is promoting that you are somehow getting your benefit in 'return' for your 'voluntary' work is total nonsense. Your benefits, whether they be JSA, Disability or whatever, are money law says you are entitled to so long as you fulfil basic entitlement conditions. They are not, and never have been, any sort of 'salary' for work done. You don't have to do anything extra to get them, they are yours by right. I know this because many years ago I actually worked for DWP where I was part of a research team looking at all the different benefit entitlement regulations and went on all sorts of training courses to help me do this which covered the processes/procedures and also the underlying law. Idea of you having to work 'for' your benefits is a legal nonsense - money you get is not designed to be any kind of financial reward or compensation for the work you do, it is simply money which the law says you need to live on in order to survive. On Workfare you are not working 'for' this benefit - for it is yours to get anyway - you are working for nothing (and being forced to or else be threatened with removal of your benefits via sanctions) which is, as recent court case in Court of Appeal, showed, illegal. IDS either does not know the law regarding benefits or he is lying. Make your own mind up about which of these 2 most accurately reflects present situation.

Karen Passmore

I have just receivedone of the regular Red Cross appeal envelopes complete with free cards, pens, drink coasters and a reply envelope to send your donation back in.

I used one of their free cards to make my feelings known that I will not support any charity that uses forced and unpaid workers via the mandatory work programmes and further that I am having my will redrawn to remove those charities that have taken advantage of this scheme.

I have sent my card with comments back to the Rad Cross in their own return envelope but declined to add a stamp, they can pay to read my message and to discover there is no cheque or credit card payment slip inside .....


Really? That's funny because I started workfare in Swindon last week licking envelopes, and guess who they were for? That's right, the British Red Cross !!!!!!! I am so looking forward to returning for the next three weeks without pay or possibility yof full time employment.


A lot of these charities are snide organisations when it comes to workfare. They are profiting personally from it so don't want to end it.

Anyway when pulled up about it they say they'll withdraw to get people off their back but they either don't withdraw and hope the flak go's away or sign on again at a later date.

Moral of the story? Be vigilant friends and keep an eye out at all times.


Hey - any more info on this? Did you see Red Cross' reply here: