Faith groups urged not to be 'tricked' by new workfare scheme

By staff writers
18 Apr 2014

Faith groups and charities have been warned that they could end up exploiting the people that they exist to help if they take part in the government's new "Community Work Placements" (CWPs).

CWPs will force unemployed people to work with a charity or community group full-time for six months for no wages whatsoever. Their benefits will be cut if they fail to accept.

Two organisations today warned voluntary groups not to "fall for" attempts to portray the scheme as "work experience" or "volunteering".

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.

They said that the voluntary groups should not be tricked into seeing workfare schemes as a way of helping people in poverty.

"With CWPs, charities that have a genuine desire to help people could end up exploiting them instead," said NCIA's Andy Benson. "We must not be naive."

CWPs were a flagship policy announced by George Osborne at the last Conservative Party conference as part of “Help to Work” measures.

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.

“Osborne is relying on charities and community organisations to make this scheme possible but who wants to police forced work?" said Joanna Long of Boycott Workare. "Which charity would want to be responsible for pushing someone into the hardship, hunger and insecurity of benefit sanctions?"

Andy Benson described CWPs as "the latest attempt to co-opt voluntary groups into doing ministers' dirty work for them."

The pilot of the CWP scheme was found to have no effect on helping people find employment. Seventy-one per cent of people sanctioned on the scheme reported going without food; half went into debt.

Joanna Long predicted that "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 added, "We want real jobs and real volunteering, not real exploitation.”

[Ekk/1]

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