Friday, 3 February 2012


The Guardian is keeping up its interest in the subject of workfare with an article on those firms which have taken people on placement - including Waterstones, which has decided to make its branch managers end the practice "as it did not want to encourage working without pay".  Other companies involved say that they can't give figures because the placements are arranged locally. One point raised by an anonymous member of Holland and Barrett's staff was that they believe the placements are destroying paid work.  "We have had a number of placements in our store and have noticed that the hours for part-time staff have been reduced. Staff are upset because we are all struggling to make ends meet," the employee said.  "The real benefactors of this scheme are the companies who receive millions of pounds worth of labour absolutely free of charge and the losers are the jobseekers who see potential jobs being filled by workfare placements for months at a time and the loyal part-timers who find their regular overtime hours savagely cut."  The article also updates us on Cait Reilly's action against the DWP.  Court papers have now been filed.  The DWP's defence is "that having benefits docked does not equate to forcing the unemployed to work."  "Where a person is required to perform a task and, if he or she does not do so, loses benefit, that is not forcing a person to work."  Well, yes.  Very interesting.

That appearance by Emma Harrison yesterday on The Daily Politics - I'm still wondering how and why she came to be there.  


  1. Unbelievable.

    As if the choice of receive benefits or starve is reasonable!

    I really hope the government loses its case against Cait Reilly, but I doubt it will. Something tells me they'll play some legalese, throw some taxpayer money at it and hey presto it's not 'technically' working, or it's the claimant's choice.

  2. These articles show the ultimate folly of workfare:

    The ‘arguments ‘in favour of workfare are easy enough to demolish. However, the interesting thing is the comment from the Holland and Barrett staff member who says that workfare is replacing actual paid employment. This should be obvious to a one eyed donkey!

    A whole tier of entry level employment could well be destroyed. Why employ someone on the NMW when you can get someone else effectively for free?

    Whilst many will call Workfare ‘slave labour’, others disagree and make the ridiculous claim that £66 a week JSA is actually a wage!

    I tend not to use the slave labour tag myself. However, workfare IS highly exploitative and self defeating. How can you have workfare trainees do even a half assed job when there is not even the NMW to motivate them? Of course, the threat of sanctions will be there to keep people on the straight and narrow. However, this cannot lead to a happy or even satisfactory working environment. If I had a full time or even part time job in such an environment, I’d be keeping an eye open and looking at whether my hours were being cut back.

    1. Hi iMatt,
      I myself am on my areas version of this (the term workfare has never been used that i can recall) and in my latest 'appointment' with A4E i was told that my JSA is like a wage for Job Search so by that reasoning the additional 30hrs of labour is essentially free.

  3. Whilst I understand the sentiments of those who cry 'exploitation of the poor', can anyone please give a realistic solution to the problem of long-term unemployment and the ever growing social security budget?

    Work placements are not ideal, A4e and other training providers are not perfect; however what is the answer?
    I have personally delivered and ran government funded courses and the pressure on providers to hit targets is huge.

    Lets look at the real facts:

    Most people 'forced' to attend have been signing on for JSA (note Jobseekers Allowance) for over 12 months. That means they have been unable to find employment WITHOUT assistance.

    Many have been out of work for much longer and are not used to maintaining a working pattern. For many clients who fit into this category, or who simply have no work-experience, schemes like Work Fare are totally feasible.

    Now I would not argue that ideally every work placement should end in a job; however again I am a realist. If by attending a placement for an agreed period the client is in a better position to compete for jobs - then the placement has achieved an aim.

    With regards to clients in placements being given menial tasks, I know this is something that needs very little explaining. I will give you a real scenario.

    We placed 5 clients with a retail outlet. Of those 5 there were 2 whose attendance and timekeeping record was so bad that they were asked not to return. Another felt that they were being exploited and not trusted to use the cash register - yet the client was attending the course to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. 2 found the placement very helpful and completed theplacement but did not get a job; however their confidence and self worth had improved sufficiently for them to gain jobs with other employers. And the fifth client was taken on before completing the period of placement.

    The truth is that not every person who attends a MANDATORY programme wants to be there - for a variety of reasons. People are quick to pour scorn on the intentions of providers such as A4e without being honest enough to admit that many clients sent to A4E and other providers have their agendas.

    In the late 80s / early 90s the government ran a programme called 'One'. This enabled jobseekers registered with Jobcentre Plus to access training AS SOON AS they became unemployed. As a result many newly unemployed claimants were allowed access to rather costly courses (the company I worked for at the time delivered LGV, Carpentry, Bricklaying, Painting & Decorating, Plumbing and even the Knowledge taxi training in London). We were allowed to interview clients for suitability. At 1 interview I was confronted by a 'newly' unemployed candidate. When I asked what qualifications he held, he informed me that he had NVQ Level 2 qualifications for Painting and decorating, plastering and carpentry but wanted to get a qualification in bricklaying! Absolutely true.
    Another candidate was placed on and passed his LGV licence yet refused to get a job because he wanted our company to fund him for the higher licence. Yes this is true.

    I no longer work in government funded training; not because I think all the clients are workshy but because the simple fact is those who want to disrupt and ruin productive courses are usually those who have an agenda.

    I understand that jobsearching for 6 hours a day seems like torture, but my colleagues at the time would do our utmost to ensure we ran lively and interactive programmes.

    I would also like to state another fact that is rarely said, A4e and other providers CAN help people into work, but NO-ONE can make someone who is determined NOT TO!

    With regards to Emma Harrison being paid such a 'huge' salary, I wish I could witness a similar protest to the wages of football players. Seems like the working class are quite happy to see their 'working-class heroes' (LOL) handsomely rewarded for their skills!!

    Aye there's the rub.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to post this. Like you, I worked in the industry, but our experiences have obviously led us to different conclusions. And I really take issue with your last two paragraphs! Of course A4e and other providers can help people into work. But you imply that those who are not helped are those who don't want work. Yes, there are some who can't be helped and have no intention of working. They are a minority. As for your thoughts on Harrison's pay - it's irrelevant.


Keep it clean, please. No abusive comments will be approved, so don't indulge in insults. If you wish to contact me, post a comment beginning with "not for publication".