The UK government's new job scheme forces unpaid labour says trade union Unite
This is a warping of the true spirit of volunteering and will force the public to look differently at charities with which they were once proud to be associated
The UK’s largest trade union, Unite, has appealed to the bosses of every registered charity in the country not to take part in the UK government’s new Help to Work programme.
Launched today, those claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) will have to complete a six-month work placement and go to the job centre every day to receive intensive coaching if they haven’t found employment by the end of the existing two-year Work Programme.
Those who refuse will risk losing their benefits for four weeks.
Unite, which has 60,000 members in the voluntary sector, branded the work placement element of the scheme as forced unpaid labour, adding there is no evidence it gets people into paid work in the long term.
“We are against this scheme wherever ministers want to implement it – in the private sector, local government and in the voluntary sector,” Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said.
“The government sees cash-starved charities as a soft target for such an obscene scheme, so we are asking charity bosses to say no to taking part in this programme.
“This is a warping of the true spirit of volunteering and will force the public to look differently at charities with which they were once proud to be associated.
“The hours demanded by "workfare" are greater than a community service order you would get for a criminal offence, such as punching someone in the street – this is just bonkers.”
Unite has thrown its weight behind a group of voluntary organisations, which includes Oxfam and Anti Slavery International, that has launched the Keep Volunteering Voluntary petition to have the programme abandoned.
The trade union’s reps in the not-for-profit sector will be raising what it sees as the exploitative nature of the scheme and asking the managers of the UK’s 200,000 charities not to sign up to it.
Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, which is also backing the petition, said: "The so-called Help to Work programme is only going to make a bad situation worse.The vast majority of unemployed people need and want a real job. Punishing them for something they have little or no control over is pointless and damaging.
"Approaches like this are demeaning, counterproductive and undermine genuine volunteering. There are so many better ways to help unemployed people.
“We need to see more initiatives like Community Jobs Scotland, which has already created more than 4,550 paid jobs for young unemployed people in charities and third sector organisations across Scotland.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions told TFN the scheme was aimed at the very small minority of claimants who have been unemployed for a number of years to help them increase their confidence, gain vital skills and experience and increase their chances of getting a job.