Ending Workfare – aka State Mandated Slavery

Workfare - Anything but fairWorkfare is, unfortunately, anything but fair.

Workfare is a catch-all used to describe government sanctioned schemes that require benefit claimants to do unpaid work in return for their benefits – in many cases unpaid work for profit-making, private sector companies.

The Tories say that Workfare is not compulsory – the reason they give is that if benefit claimants do not want to participate in workfare then they can cease their benefit claims – of course this pie-in-the-sky justification of fairness is one that I’m sure I don’t need to explain.

Why am I opposed to Workfare?  Well, because it doesn’t work for any of us.  It doesn’t work for the benefit claimants, it doesn’t work out for a number of companies and it certainly doesn’t work out for the hard working tax payers of the UK.

Is there an alternative?  Of course there is – in fact, it’s nigh on impossible to find a worse alternative than workfare.

So, why not workfare?

  • Workfare involves full time work (30+ hours a week minimum) which leaves less time for benefit claimants to seek an appropriate permanent or temporary position.
  • Hard working taxpayers are paying a stealth subsidy to corporate enterprises – private profit making businesses are reaping the rewards of forced unpaid labour, contributing nothing and leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab.
  • This Tory government classes benefit claimants, who are being forced into workfare, as ’employed’ in a cynical attempt to distort and massage the employment figures to claim success which simply isn’t happening.
  • Workfare stigmatises benefit claimants and encourages the creation of an underclass in our society.
  • Some companies are using workfare to replace paid positions and undermine wages of hard working full time staff, whilst also stifling recruitment of full time staff into positions occupied by workfare ‘participants’.
  • Workfare is placing hard working tax payers jobs at risk – after all, why pay someone when you can get someone for minimal expenses only?
  • Workfare reduces the already reduced chances of paid overtime for hardworking staff – paid staff at Asda have reported being send home early over Christmas with the traditional paid overtime covered by workfare staff, Argos explained that Christmas is their busiest time of year and we’re pleased to provide the opportunity of work experience (read: workfare) during that time and a staff member at Holland & Barrett reported that workfare had replaced overtime for paid staff that used to be available.
  • Some people on Workfare (understandably) don’t like where they are placed or are not suited to the role that is assigned to them – businesses have complained that staff, paid or otherwise, that don’t want to be there aren’t productive – indeed, many businesses and charities have pulled out of the Workfare scheme and have chosen to advertise voluntary positions as they only want people there who actually want to be there and take an interest.
  • Our current Conservative government aim to utilise workfare to ‘plug the gaps’ in our public services, as 500,000 public sector jobs are predicted to be lost over the next 5 years.  Local authorities and the NHS have already started using Workfare.
  • Recent studies show that participating in a Workfare scheme has no impact on your ability or likelihood of gaining employment.

Over a month ago, I wrote to Bury Council, to encourage them to pledge to not use Workfare.  As of today, they still haven’t responded – presumably indicating that Bury Council is unwilling to not use, what is in effect, modern day slavery.

Attacking benefits claimants doesn’t work.  Workfare doesn’t work.

So here’s my pledge:

I would pledge to end all Government mandated ‘Workfare’ schemes.

Benefits sanctions issued for Workfare reasons would be lifted with immediate effect.