Tales of unpaid toil: sanctioned by the Samaritans

Though the Samaritans don’t appear on the recently released lists of workfare exploiters from 2012, we’ve had a report of a Mandatory Work Activity placement in their shop in Hove in 2014. Recently, a claimant has also contacted us about Community Work Placements at another Samaritans charity shop in May 2016. Our correspondent writes: “I would like to point out that, even though I wasn’t placed at the Samaritans, other people sent by Interserve were.”
Like some other claimants who told the truth when questioned about health considerations during an interview and were not taken on, this individual has been sanctioned.
So a claimant who replies honestly about a health condition is alleged to be ‘negative’? Given that the upcoming Work & Health Programme targets claimants with disabilities and long-term health issues, we’ll greet this with a shudder and then get very, very angry.

Tales of unpaid toil: Sanctioned by the Samaritans 1

This doesn’t seem to apply to claimants conscripted to work for free in Samaritans shops

Sanctioned by the Samaritans

I was sent for a CWP placement interview at a Samaritans charity shop. Due to my health issues, the store manager decided that I wasn’t suitable. On returning to Interserve I was removed from the CWP program and ended up with a four-week sanction.

I complained and tried to appeal but the provider Interserve and later the Jobcentre claimed that I had been very negative during the interview and refused to do the placement. This was a lie! The store manager had asked me early in the interview if I had health problems and I had only told her the truth.

The manager at Interserve admitted that it only had placements at charity shops and it knew I was unsuitable for these types of placement. Interserve had already received money for me being put on the program initially. The manager implied that because they didn’t think they could get me a suitable placement, the company wouldn’t be getting a second lot of money from the government – so it was looking for any excuse to force me off the programme. No one cared that this would put me on sanctions.

The Samaritans claim that they want to help people – sadly I have discovered this is not the case. In fact, the Samaritans are a business that only cares about making money for the people who run the business, the senior management of their organisation.

Tales of unpaid toil: Sanctioned by the Samaritans 2The Samaritans claim they want to help people who are vulnerable and have suicidal thoughts. This is not true! The Samaritans have been actively taking part in the Conservative government’s mandatory Community Work Placements program. This is a scheme where unemployed people are forced to work as slaves for disgusting ‘charities’. The charities benefit from taking in this free worker and sometimes receive a fee (depending on the contract). There is no consideration as to how disgusting and inhumane the whole scheme is.

People in work please note: you might not think that this affects you but ‘charities’ are spreading into more and more areas every year. How long would a firm survive if it had to compete with a company that paid no tax and no wages? In many cases these so-called charities get their premises rent free as the lease-holder can offset the rent as a tax deduction. ‘Charities’ are not just second-hand clothes stores any more. They can include cafes, gardening services, house clearances, gyms… even grocery stores.

So why is it so bad that the Samaritans are taking part in the CWP program? It is simply because the Samaritans claim that they are there to help people who are suicidal and yet they are taking part in a government programme that has directly been linked to many suicides and suicide attempts.*

I guess this is the Samaritans way of drumming business up for themselves!

*See below for further information on benefit sanctions, suicide and mental distress:
DWP benefit conditionality and sanctions in Salford – one year on
Researchers – benefits sanctions have ‘profoundly negative consequences’
DWP staff given suicide guidance ahead of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms: Benefit decisions have previously been linked to suicide cases
Benefit sanctions lead claimants to suicide, crime and destitution, warns damning report
Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review
Boycott Workfare submission to Benefit Sanctions Policy Beyond the Oakley Review
Britain’s top psychiatrists warn Tory benefit cuts are making mental health conditions worse
Let them eat inquiries

If you know of a relevant link that isn’t included here, please let us know and we’ll add it to the list.





Comments (4)

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jon parker

Interesting article - since it illustrates a trend which I have come across with various other charities before. One question I would ask of the author, though, is this: - are the Samaritans up to speed with the reality of the CWP participants (and any other DWP welfare programmes they may be involved with)? What I mean is, do the Samaritans realise that the people they get coming onto the CWP placements are not volunteers? I had a similar experience with 2 charities - Martin House Hospice & one of the leading cancer charities - a couple of years ago. When I questioned their involvement with the MWP programme the shop managers involved - both placements involved work in the relevant charity shops - both claimed that the information about the participants they had been given by DWP suggested everyone they would be taking on was a genuine volunteer. Until I pointed out to them the actual facts of the MWP programme - eg that there are no 'volunteers' in any of DWP's welfare programmes since non-attendance would be punished by sanctions - that is, following which they immediately withdrew support completely from both the MWP & all other DWP programmes. If this is the case with the Samaritans - ie that the Jobcentre had told them they would be sending them willing volunteers - then your conclusion may be, in retrospect, unwarranted.

Jeff Smith

These workfare schemes were never primarily about finding jobs. They were always simply a tool to put additional pressure on claimants to get off benefits. The DWP have never really been concerned about the 'failure' of these schemes. No great amount of success was ever expected, as their own DWP targets for employment from these schemes indicate. The main purpose of workfare is to make claiming benefits as unpleasant and as demanding as possible. So that any sort of long-term claim becomes increasingly difficult to sustain.


Jon has a point. As a recruiter of volunteers - real volunteers - I used to get frequent calls from workfare providers offering me "volunteers" all keen to to do 30 hours a week for 26 weeks.

Fortunately, I was up to speed on the issue from day zero and had some "frank" conversations :-)

I had been a customer of DWP and remains a keen observer of their "business".

The average volunteer recruiter didn't know about workfare


My partner had shocking experience in the Samaritans charity shop in Hove. Treated with contempt as a benefit claimant , badly and rudely by the manager who seemed to treat him as slave labour and when he protested , to want to get rid of him before the placement was up and make him destitute , as the DWP would have sanctioned him. It is a disgrace that a so called ' charity' is involved in this. And a tragic irony that it's meant to one helping people with mental health and suicidal feelings. I complained to the Head office of Samaritans, they didn't bother to respond.