THE Salvation Army and the YMCA have refused to take part in the
Government's new scheme to force the long-term unemployed into
unpaid community and charity work for six months (News, 28 March).
The programme, which came into force on Monday, introduces
sanctions for those who have been unemployed for more than two
years. They will now have to visit a job centre every day, work for
free for six months, and undertake training, or else they will face
benefit sanctions. The Salvation Army and the YMCA have been
involved in other "workfare" schemes for the Government, but have
refused to take part in this latest programme.
The Salvation Army said that if someone had failed to find work
after two years, then their lack of work experience was not likely
to be their only barrier to employment.
Campaigners launched a "Keep Volunteering Voluntary" pledge this
week, and many charities and groups have already signed up,
including Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty, and the think tank
A spokesperson for Keep Volunteering Voluntary, Symon Hill, said
it hoped that YMCA and the Salvation Army would pull out of all
workfare schemes. "There has been internal pressure - particularly
in the Salvation Army - for them to pull out altogether from
offering work placements.
"We have no objection to unemployed people doing voluntary work
to gain skills and confidence, but we object to the compulsory
element, and the sanctions attached to it."
He urged Christian groups and individual churches to sign the
agreement. "We want to say to those Christian leaders who signed
the letter in Lent over the foodbanks and benefit sanctions, to
make the link with workfare and ask their churches and charities
not to participate in the scheme."
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, has criticised workfare
publicly in the past, but is now the president of YMCA and has
stayed silent on the issue in recent months.
The head of volunteering at Oxfam, Daniel O'Driscoll, said:
"These schemes involve forced volunteering, which . . . undermines
people's belief in the enormous value of genuine voluntary work.
Oxfam does not offer placements for participants in the mandatory
work activity, or compulsory elements of 'work for your benefits'
schemes. These schemes impact unfairly on the support people
receive, and so are incompatible with our goal of reducing poverty
in the UK."