Last year, the Minister for Employment boasted that he had reduced the 8-page Health and Safety guide for the “Work Experience” workfare scheme to one paragraph. Story after story shows that when people are made to work without pay for fear of losing benefits, companies and charities think they can get away with putting people at risk.
We were recently contacted by a mother concerned about her teenage son’s placement at British Heart Foundation. She told us:
About a month ago my son was placed on the Work Experience Scheme with a British Heart Foundation Furniture Store where he works 4 days a week. I was surprised as I had read they didn’t take people unless they were happy to volunteer. I don’t believe these JSA claimants have much choice in the matter.
My main concern is one of Health and Safety. As far as I can work out the only thing my son is doing is moving furniture – anything from chairs to wardrobes. He is also moving these between floors. He hasn’t had any training in the proper moving and handling procedures. He is not in contact with members of the public or learning any retail skills like the cash handling. If he is unable to move furniture due to size he is either sent home or mills around… there seems to be no alternative work should this occur. The only benefit seems to be to British Heart Foundation who are monetarily rewarded. My son is now beginning to suffer shoulder problems. These young JSA claimants do not have the confidence or knowledge to challenge the work ethics of their placements.
This placement if for 8 weeks and he still has to be looking for work and its seems that if he stops going he will lose benefits. Work experience placements in school are monitored but it doesn’t appear that is the case with JSA work placements. I think other parents should be aware that Work Experience may not be experience at all.
British Heart Foundation have used workfare on a massive scale – at one point their website stated that they had 1500 placements at any one time. Following occupations and pickets across the UK, they announced they were “moving away” from workfare. But they are openly declaring on their website that they are still participating in the Work Programme – despite the fact that in December mandatory work placements on this scheme were extended, so that many sick and disabled claimants on Employment and Support Allowance can be forced to work for nothing, or face sanctions.
BHF state on their site: “Our supporters are welcome to contact us directly if they have any questions about our participation in the scheme. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org“. Don’t disappoint them, get in touch!