Voluntary groups have been warned that they could end up exploiting the people that they exist to help if they fall for a new government scheme that is misrepresented as “volunteering” or “work experience”.
The “Community Work Placements” (CWP) will force unemployed people to work with a charity or faith group full-time for six months for no wages whatsoever. Their benefits will be cut if they fail to accept. The scheme will begin on 28 April.
The warning comes from the Boycott Workfare campaign along with the National Coalition for Independent Action (NCIA), who work to keep the voluntary sector free of government interference.
CWPs were a flagship policy announced by George Osborne at the last Conservative Party conference as part of “Help to Work” measures. But the policy is already in trouble, with two of the largest charities to use existing workfare programmes – the Salvation Army and YMCA England – saying they will not join CWPs.
Joanna Long of Boycott Workfare said:
“Osborne is relying on charities and community organisations to make this scheme possible but who wants to police forced work? Which charity would want to be responsible for pushing someone into the hardship, hunger and insecurity of benefit sanctions? Osborne’s vision of mass forced unpaid work won’t be easy to implement – claimants are taking direct action and charities will not risk the damage participation would do to their reputation.”
Andy Benson of the National Coalition for Independent Action said:
“With CWPs, charities that have a genuine desire to help people could end up exploiting them instead. We must not be naïve. The CWP scheme is the latest attempt to co-opt voluntary groups into doing ministers’ dirty work for them. We want real jobs and real volunteering not real exploitation.”
The Community Work Placement (CWP) scheme was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at Conservative Party conference in 2013. It will begin on 28 April 2014.
The pilot of the CWP scheme was found to have no effect on helping people find employment. Seventy-one percent of people sanctioned on the scheme reported going without food; half went into debt.