Workfare: we are the opposition!

protesters outside bhf

Edinburgh’s actions shut two workfare exploiters down!

Last week thousands of people around the UK took action against workfare, and it’s already had results! Superdrug have declared that they are pulling out of workfare. The pressure on those charities and businesses still profiting from unpaid work stepped up massively. Online actions saw Debenhams decide to cancel a live Facebook Q&A, and the Salvation Army respond to visits to its headquarters and online pressure by claiming “workfare does not exist”!

Action on high streets across the UK saw shops that use workfare closed down, letters delivered to workfare users, and chalking appear on the street pointing out workfare profiteers. Read more about actions in Edinburgh, Bristol, BirminghamLondon and Nottingham – just a few of the many cities that took part in the week of action.

It was a week where, with the exception of only 57 MPs who voted against it, both the Government and the Opposition supported a bill which denied justice to 300,000 people. They rushed through a retroactive law to rob £130 million from people who were due repayments of unlawful benefit sanctions. Shamefully, the Labour Party are now lying to justify their actions: pretending that people could not have appealed wrongful sanctions without the bill; and that no sanctions were possible without it.

It was a week where what everyone already knew was revealed: Job Centre staff have targets to sanction people, to make thousands destitute. 827,660 people were sanctioned between April 2011 and October 2012, and the number of sanctions for single parents has increased 1500% in four years. Some job centres have even offered easter egg incentives to advisors who ruin the most lives.

It was a week when Christians boosted the campaign by mobilising with Christianity Uncut to challenge charity workfare, where one in five people are sanctioned. While the Salvation Army boast that they are helping sick and disabled people to “emancipation through employment”, stories have emerged of what this can mean in practice. One person contacted us to tell their brother’s story:

My brother was sent to work at the Salvation Army shop. Whilst working in the shop, he picked up scabies. This was diagnosed by his doctor who told him not to go back there. He was sanctioned by the DWP for 2 months. Up until last year this man had worked for most of his life, losing his long term job after being laid off. This has to stop.

We would like to thank all those who have taken part to help stop people facing the impossible choice of workfare or sanctions.

The campaign is growing and you are making the difference. In the last month, your action means nine more organisations will no longer take part in workfare: Sense, PDSA, Shoe Zone, Wilkinson’s, Superdrug, Capability Scotland, Sue Ryder and the Red Cross have all pulled out. The Children’s Society has pledged “All volunteering at The Children’s Society should be done by choice and under no obligation from any other agency.” Elsewhere we saw a housing association pull out of the Work Programme bringing it yet again a step closer to collapse.

And it doesn’t stop there. Yesterday, campaigners in Edinburgh let Iain Duncan Smith know what people think of his ‘welfare reforms’. Liverpool have already called a week of action in April. The charities and companies profiting from workfare still need to hear from you. When you win, you win for others so keep up the great work and let’s keep winning!


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The Labour Party must have reckoned that by the time of the next General Election either voters will have forgotten how Labour supported a piece of especially repugnant legislation or that poor and disadvantaged voters (if they vote) will vote for Labour regardless. Betrayal, leaves a bitter aftertaste. Maybe some welfare rights campaigners will stand against Labour in the next General Election. Politics being politics the Conservatives are probably already working on the idea!


The problem is that a vote against Labour will just let the Tories in because of the voting system.

Michael Digney

Poundland have laid off staff then taken on WORKFARE people. In one case there has been one staff member laid off then taken on under WORKFARE