The information you need to end workfare

Alex Hern presents the data you need to join the campaign to end workfare.


The campaign against workfare has already scored a number of hits, with Tesco, Waterstones, Sainsbury’s, and many others backing out of the government schemes forcing the unemployed to work to keep their jobseekers allowance.

We first reported on this scandal in November, and awareness has grown since then, with anger hitting a tipping point last week. Since then, the successes have come thick and fast, and it is within our power to end this scheme for good.

Left Foot Forward and Political Scrapbook have put together a factsheet, containing information compiled by the campaign group Boycott Workfare from freedom of information requests and personal testimony, showing companies known to use workfare.

Along with Political Scrapbook and Liberal Conspiracy, we urge you to contact the companies below by phone, email or Twitter (with the hashtag #workfare), and explain that you won’t be using their services until they stop using forced labour.

A few notes on the data:

• Due to the nature of some of the FoI requests, there is a focus on companies in the south east.

• The DWP has sent incorrect responses to FoI requests before, so our information is only as good as theirs. If your company is incorrectly included, please contact Boycott Workfare to ensure you are correctly credited as using fair labour.

• To keep track of our successes, companies which have joined the campaign are kept on the spreadsheet with a note next to their name. Please check this before you call them!

You can get the information here

There are five government programmes which can be described as workfare, and all have a compulsory element to them:

The work experience programme

Citizens Advice describes the work experience programme as a “compulsory program”, saying:

If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, you must take part … if you are advised to do so by a personal adviser. Your benefit may be affected if you refuse to do so or leave a scheme before completing it.

Mandatory work activity scheme

The clue’s in the name, and Citizens Advice clarify:

If you are required to take part in the scheme, but you don’t without a very good reason, you will be sanctioned.

The work programme

Citizens Advice detail the groups who have to take part in the work programme; although further groups can volunteer, it is compulsory if:

• you are aged 18-24 and have claimed jobseeker’s allowance for nine months

• you are aged 25 or over and have claimed jobseeker’s allowance for 12 months

• you are seriously disadvantaged in the labour market, for example because a disability has made it hard to find work. When you qualify and whether you can choose to take part will depend on which area you live in and what your circumstances are

• you have recently claimed incapacity benefit, after claiming jobseeker’s allowance for three months

• you are claiming income-related employment and support allowance, are in the work-related activity group, and are expected to be fit for work within three months.

Sector based work academies

Directgov explains:

Taking part in sector-based work academies is entirely voluntary, but once you accept a place you must complete the process.

Community action programmes

The DWP’s guidance booklet states (pdf):

Mandation is there to use as a tool to ensure that claimants do what is required of them… Claimants who are mandated to undertake activity may incur a loss or reduction of benefit should they fail to comply without good reason.

To see the full information collated by Left Foot Forward and Political Scrapbook, click here

See also:

Chris Grayling should respond to criticism of workfare, not smear the criticsIzzy Koksal, February 21st 2012

Tesco’s unpaid labour shows the flaw at the heart of workfareAlex Hern, February 16th 2012

Five reasons Clegg can’t stand on his social mobility recordAlex Hern, January 12th 2012

2012: The year ahead for young peopleAlex Hern, January 7th 2012

Why workfare won’t workStephen Evans, November 8th 2010

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