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The Conservation ‘Volunteers’ Who Are Forced To Work Unpaid

Keeping up the pressure on British Heart Foundation in Brixton on Wednesday 12th December

The continued exodus of charity shops from the Government’s workfare schemes leaves the Mandatory Work Activity scheme looking perilously close to collapse.

Oxfam, Marie Curie and Shelter, who all refused workfare in their stores, have now been joined by others. Scope say they are ending mandatory work schemes as have Age UK (though not necessarily in their independent stores). Cancer Research UK have said they are pulling out of mandatory work activity placements. Meanwhile British Heart Foundation have said they are ‘moving away’ from mandated work, though have continued to take placements in their stores.

It now seems that the largest providers of mandated workfare are likely to be conservation and environmental charities such as The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), a mis-named charity who have been quietly building an army of unpaid workers.

TCV (formally known as BTCV) , have previously boasted of employing 20,000 unpaid workers on various government schemes since the 1980s. They currently hold lucrative contracts with the DWP to deliver Mandatory Work Activity. The so-called charity have forced 589 people into unpaid work, often for private companies on this scheme alone.

This is on top of the countless people who have been forced to work without pay on their conservation projects.

Sue Pearson, a spokesperson for the charity, even boasts of how they have attempted to get round DWP rules which state placements must have a ‘community benefit’.
Speaking to the Guardian, Pearson explains how claimants forced to work in a food preparation factory had been required to “gather up recycling materials” in order to meet DWP criteria.

TCV are the worst kind of workfare exploiters. As well as bullying people into working for no pay, they also put jobs and working conditions at risk by sending claimants to work for fre in profit making companies.

With such an eager attitude towards exploiting benefit claimants, it seems likely that TVC will be quite happy to make use of new rules which mean that sick and disabled claimants can now be forced into unpaid work. A statement concerning the organisation’s use of workfare was updated on December 3rd, the day that workfare for sick and disabled claimants began.

It suggests they are already salivating at the thought of thousands more people to exploit, stating that they will merely undertake a health assessment of those they intend to force to work. Everybody on out of work sickness or disability benefits has been signed off as unfit to work by their own GP.

As part of the Week of Action Against Workfare Charities contact TCV this Friday 14th December and help expose the charity’s dirty little workfare secrets to anyone who thought they might be an ethical organisation.

TCV are on twitter @tcvtweets.
Find them on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TheConservationVolunteers
You can contact them directly to tell them what you think on 01302 388 883 or email:
information@tcv.org.uk
To find your local TCV Branch visit: http://www.btcv.org.uk/volunteer/index.html

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Ian Beattie

Why do charities feel the need to get involved in this. Are they not instinctively aware of the injustice of this? You would wonder about their ability to represent the people assisted by these charities.

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Razbo

These workfare schemes are totally pointless they offer no real opportunity to get a job and are just designed to bully people just because we have been out if work for a few years its not a crime to be unemployed!

Anna

It's not all doom at gloom at TCV - I go to one of their 'work days' and everyone who I've met there goes because they love spending time outdoors with like-minded people, doing community projects. TCV provide all the tools, equipment and the group leader, which means that anyone can turn up and gain skills and experience doing outdoors stuff that they love. Nobody in my group is forced to attend!! We do nice tasks in a local conservation area, including pruning trees, planting trees and repairing paths.
This article is looking at a very small aspect of one charity and missing some of the huge benefits it provides to people who enjoy the activities.