Week of Action Against Workfare April 25 – May 2
Can you help?
Boycott Workfare writes…
As the general election campaign gets underway we are already seeing politicians calling for more of the same policies. More workfare. More sanctions. Yet we know that these policies have been a total disaster. It is shameful that workfare and sanctions are supported by all the main political parties. This is why we are holding a week of action in the week before the election (Sat 25 April – Sat 2 May) We need your help to expose and challenge workfare and sanctions policies and the political lies that underpin them.
Want to know more about Workfare? Here’s some background information (taken Keep Volunteering Voluntary http://www.kvv.org.uk)
What’s wrong with Workfare?
It undermines genuine volunteering
Workfare is forced labour – the opposite of volunteering. As Oxfam has pointed out, “These schemes involve forced volunteering, which is not only an oxymoron, but undermines people’s belief in the enormous value of genuine voluntary work.
It doesn’t help people find jobs
There is no evidence that workfare helps people get real jobs. Even the Department of Work and Pensions’s own research has concluded that “there is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work”.
In fact workfare reduces claimants’ chances of finding a real job – people whose income is less than the equivalent of £2 an hour on full-time workfare schemes don’t have the time or resources to look for work or take up training or volunteering opportunities. Only 3.2% of the 1.5 million people sent on the Work Programme since its launch in 2011 have found long-term jobs, less than would have been expected to find stable employment if left alone to do so.
It puts claimants at risk of sanctions and destitution
A claimant who does not take a workfare placement, or who fails to meet strict criteria during their placement, can have their benefits stopped – be ‘sanctioned’ in the language of workfare. Sanctions can be imposed for absurd reasons and leave claimants without even a subsistence income for between four weeks and three years. Any charity involved with workfare is responsible for reporting claimants for sanctioning.
Sanctions are on the increase and getting tougher – you are twice as likely to be sanctioned on a workfare scheme than get a job at the end of it. Some companies managing workfare placements refer 45% of people on them for sanctions.
The increase in sanctions is one of the key contributors to the huge increase in demand for foodbanks. Religious leaders have condemned the ‘terrible rise in hunger in Britain’ as a ‘national crisis’.
It undermines core charitable values
Involvement in workfare can undermine a charity’s reputation for acting according to its charitable aims and values. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations suggests that charities consider reputational risk, alongside financial risk, before offering workfare placements. The Directory of Social Change has suggested that “charities need to consider the element of coercion involved, and whether treating people in poverty and the vulnerable as free labour and engaging in forced unpaid work schemes is charitable activity.”
It undermines real job creation and supports exploitation
While workfare does little to help claimants find work, it actively increases unemployment by offering free labour to companies who prefer not to pay wages to their employees.
Companies such as Argos, Asda and Superdrug have used workfare labour to cover seasonal demand over the Christmas period instead of hiring extra staff or offering overtime. One company sacked 350 workers in Leicester, then moved production of its pizza toppings to Nottingham, where it took on 100 benefit claimants “to give them an idea of what it’s like to work in the food sector”.
So what can you do for Boycott Welfare Week of Action?
Ask your organisation or organisations you know to sign up to the Agreement to Keep Volunteering Voluntary. Or reply here in the comments with organisations you’d like Unite Community to approach.
The keep volunteering voluntary agreement
“As charities and voluntary organisations we know the value of volunteering. Volunteering means people independently choosing to give their time freely to help others and make the world a better place. Workfare schemes force unemployed people to carry out unpaid work or face benefit sanctions that can cause hardship and destitution. We believe in keeping volunteering voluntary and will not participate in government workfare schemes.”
Do you have any free time during the day to give out leaflets – Saturdays included – between April 25- 2 May?
Unite Community is organising dates for leafleting sessions so do get in touch, email efirman623