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Charities declare new ‘workfare’ redundant

02 May 2014

by a staff reporter 


On the spot: David Cameron and the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith (right) talk to former job-seekers at Colchester Job centre, on Monday

On the spot: David Cameron and the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith (right) talk to former job-seekers at Colchester Job centre,...

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 Ekklesia.

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."

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