Revealed: the reality behind Workfare and why it doesn’t work


8:45 am - February 22nd 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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The government has spent all this week defending its exploitative Workfare programme, which forces unemployed people to get ‘work experience’ at companies for short periods of time. The ‘experience’ pays nothing and is usually mandatory – they risk losing even basic benefits unless they sign up.

But how effective is this programme really? Liberal Conspiracy was contacted by a consultant working in this industry. He told us the Workfare programme was, in his own words, “the biggest scam since records began”.

Here is roughly how it works.

The Dept for Work and Pensions sub-contract the ‘Work Programme’ to a provider called “Rehab Job Fit”. That company then gets other companies to tender for the contracts.

Job centres refer long term unemployed people (1 yr +) to these companies, who put them on the programme for the next 2 years and call them “customers”. Even if they get a job, they do not leave the programme; they only leave if they die, according to the company.

The Customers are told what is expected of them and set targets and goals. They are told that non-compliance will lead to a loss of benefits.

Our source gave us two examples of these ‘placements':

Example 1:
She was put on a work placement with Superdrug over the Christmas holidays, unpaid. Just JSA and travel expenses. After the new year she was told by Superdrug not to go back, without any explanation.

Example 2:
Poundland requested two candidates a week to be “inducted”. They then spend the next two weeks stood up on the tills for JSA plus travel. At the end of the two week placement they are no longer needed and sent back to us.

The consultants are given weekly targets to hit. They don’t get paid for putting people on placements, but hope it will lead to a job (and payment for the company).

He told us:

I can’t say for definite that a candidate will be used for two weeks and then got rid off – but what I can say is… they are using the system to get free labour.

They make the new starters work on the tills for 7/8 hours a day, they don’t get to sit down and only get a small time away. After the placement we are being told that they can go and work within different parts of the store, but some candidates don’t even last the 2 week placement.

His thoughts on the Workfare Programme more broadly

The work programme is an expensive mistake in my opinion, completely unfit for purpose and the sooner it is scrapped the better.

The money spent on it (billions by now) would have been better spent creating jobs for people, not forcing them into unpaid jobs and being set unachievable targets.

The placement scheme is a disgrace, some employers are using it as a way to get free labour legally and it has to stop. Sure, some people do get jobs on the back of it but it’s only so the companies can turn round and say “look, we’ve taken on a placement. Smile for the PR guys”.

“The reality,” he told us by email, “is completely different.”

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Economy ,Westminster

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Reader comments


The really interesting thing on yesterday’s news coverage on the BBC was the interview with the young man who’d used the scheme to start training as a cabinet maker. This scheme doesn’t make any distinction between learning a viable trade as he was and stacking shelves for nothing. Tesco, to its credit, has seen sense and started to pay people for their time – I hope many others will follow suit and that the Government recognises this well-intentioned but ludicrous idea for the invitation to exploit people that it has become.

“Even if they get a job, they do not leave the programme; they only leave if they die, according to the company.”

ATOS would still declare them fit for work.

That isn’t how I thought the system worked – i thought that if they got a job – even a temporary job – the work programme provider got paid. This created a whole set of other incentives as it meant there was a mery go round of people coming onto the programme – getting 2 weeks work before starting the cycle again. Frankly paying the providers only if somebody finds a permanent job seems a better way of doing this.

“Even if they get a job, they do not leave the programme; they only leave if they die, according to the company”

Jason Bourne

So hang on. What that means is the money ‘saved’ in public sector cuts have been used to subsidise some of this Country’s richest companies? People like Poundland and Superdrug have been given free labour from a pool of state induced unemployment?

And these cuts are not idealistic in nature?

Yeah, typical Tories. Dirty scum, more like.

I think this is a great article Sunny, but the reason that claimants are not taken off the programme when they get a job is that the payment model is based on “sustainable outcomes” i.e. the provider is meant to provide in-work support to the participant for 12 months or so. The aim of this is to prevent the unsustainable jobs that were claimed on New Deal (Providers got a full payment, even if the claimant was in work for 1 day). They are taken off the programme after two years.

I’m not saying that this is effectively done by any means, or that the programme is not exploitative or suitable for private providers to deliver.

I can’t say for definite that a candidate will be used for two weeks and then got rid off – but what I can say is… they are using the system to get free labour.

They make the new starters work on the tills for 7/8 hours a day, they don’t get to sit down and only get a small time away. After the placement we are being told that they can go and work within different parts of the store, but some candidates don’t even last the 2 week placement.

Excellent.

I’m looking for a couple of small ‘uns for my new chimney sweeping business.

Sounds just the ticket.

Having done shop work myself, I appreciate that this is valubale employment. But seriously: how long does it take to train someone when they are working (cleaning/stacking) when not doing the hard stuff like tills. Six months? Really?

So this is why they’re called Poundland.

God forbid that a hospital cleaner may get a bit of money on the side or woman has a boyfriend staying with her, Christ almighty the Tories use benefits to look after their own. Twenty six grand benefit cap? Someone better get a grip on theses parasites:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2104539/Emma-Harrison-4-staff-David-Camerons-work-tsar-arrested-fraud-inquiry.html

This bastard and her feckless family been living off the state to the tune of £126 million, which is £125,999,974 above the cap!!!!!!! She is so fucking greedy and amoral she must be donating to the Tory Party.

For the record, the Jobcentre refers to all claimants as ‘customers’ – the implication being that unsatisfied customers can take their custom elsewhere.

There is a report about the welfare to work industry by IPPR and london citizens mentioned in this report:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17112914

I’m having trouble finding it – anyone have a link?

Cheers

Call the Tories dirty scum about this (and you’d be right), but never forget this was a Labour policy first. Labour have indeed renewed that you cannot simply get benefits for nothing in their eyes…the idea of giving away your labour for free just to keep your benefits, rather than being given an actual paying job, is just as much a Labour plan as it is a Tory one.

Good article!

And these cuts are not idealistic in nature?

I think your ‘n’ key may be intermittently broken.

Well done, you’ve probably just got your source fired – the info in your article reveals too much and will greatly reduce the pool of ‘suspects’ for a vengeful employer searching for the leak…

This bastard and her feckless family been living off the state to the tune of £126 million, which is £125,999,974 above the cap!!!!!!! She is so fucking greedy and amoral

Please sit down with a cup of tea in your hand, Jim, but I agree absolutely. Corporate leeches on the public purse are probably the worst type of parasite.

Not sure about the maths, mind!!!!

It’s really workhouse tactics, make it unpleasant and people will go away. Can’t say I’m surprised, the welfare state was formulated on the same ethos as the workhouse. Unfortunately, it was created within an economic system which guaranteed full employment and where jobs were available offering a living wage.

Pagar @ 15

sure about the maths, mind!!!!

Oooops, you are correct, trust you to spot that, though. My bad. You get the idea, though

>>The government has spent all this week defending its exploitative Workfare programme,

Except that it was exploitative Labour’s Workfare idea – only it was called the Future Jobs Fund then and all the Labour politicians cried foul when it was cut back in May 2010 and defended it for helping bring down youth unemployment.

18
A rose by any other name.

If even for two weeks gets those who are long term unemployed into the routine of work/impetus then that seems worthwhile. Surely thats better than being at home?

And till experience is useful too. Some years ago I was looking for temp work locally but the first thing retailers asked was till experience….

21. George Allen

You want someone to do a job. You pay them. Simple.

I was on the dole for two years and the scheme helped me massively.

It’s easy to get stuck in a depressed rut when on the social, and being made to do a job I didn’t particularly want to do gave me the motivation to get a job I did want to very quickly. It kicked me up the ass.

Have any of those people ranting about this as if it’s slave labour ever been on the dole or met anyone who has – rather than just read about them? I doubt it very much as all their opinions seem to have the simplistic insight that working for no money is always bad and almost insulting. Trust me being sat on your arse not knowing what the hell to do today/ tomorrow etc and having no money or motivation to do anything is worse.

I work in the film industry now and will still work for free on a project if I have faith in it, as do many others without complaint. I guess I must just live in a different work than most of the posters

Who is this consultant? I believe you have made this up.

Agreed Richard at 22.

Lots of volunteers also work for free for charity (I did once when job searching to keep busy even though it was not a job I wanted to do) so luckily they do not also only work for money.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  98. Workfare’s Impact on Those in Work « Left Outside

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  99. Cognitive Biases and Workfare « Left Outside

    […] Chris (and Layard) are correct, workfare or active labour market polices can be good things, the positive effects […]

  100. Pete Domican

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  101. David Marsden

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  113. Grayling’s Lies Will Come to Haunt Him | the void

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  114. sunny hundal

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  115. sunny hundal

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  116. These companies are still using Workfare – tell them it’s wrong | Liberal Conspiracy

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  117. These companies are still using Workfare – tell them it’s wrong ››Liberal Conspiracy « SunnyRomy

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  118. Christopher Hindley

    RT @libcon: Revealed: the reality behind Workfare and why it doesn't work http://t.co/spzBV8l0 – its a large scale government funded scam!

  119. Rhondda Rebel

    @rhysthirteen all true but at least #jobsgrowthwales pays #Welfaretowork doesn't http://t.co/JjN7dTUU





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