Workfare is not voluntary

Alex Hern repeats what needs repeating: Workfare is not voluntary.


In Prime Minister’s Questions today, right-wing-even-for-the-Conservatives MP Priti Patel used her space on the ballot to launch a defence of workfare, attacking “the militant hard left” who oppose it.

She was supported by the prime minister, who defended the schemes by saying they were voluntary.

It was buried slightly at the bottom of our last post on the topic, so this bears repeating:

Workfare is not voluntary.

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. Your benefits may be affected if you do not complete the process. Taking part in sector-based work academies can last up to six weeks.

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:

The information you need to end workfareAlex Hern, February 22nd 2012

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

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