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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Former charity employee ordered to work for previous employer for free

This news post is almost 8 years old

Worker forced back to charity on no pay as part of controversial scheme

A former employee of a Motherwell-based social enterprise has had his benefits stopped for refusing to return to the organisation on an unpaid placement.

John McArthur is having to live off 16p tins of spaghetti and has no heating after being sanctioned by his local jobcentre for refusing to work unpaid for LAMH Recycle.

A social enterprise which repairs computers and recycles tin and cardboard, it helps dozens of people each year who are long-term unemployed, many of whom have health issues.

The 59 year-old former electronics engineer previously worked for LAMH under the Future Jobs Scotland scheme – the forerunner to Community Jobs Scotland which creates six months posts with third sector groups.

McArthur is now surviving on a £149 monthly pension after the DWP stopped his unemployment benefit until January for refusing to go on the 26-week community work placement (CWP).

He has been mounting a daily protest with placards outside the LAMH’s offices for the last three months with a placard stating: “Say no to slave labour”.

He said: “My trade is electronics, but I’ve been applying for every kind of job. I make around 50 applications a week, but I refuse to work for nothing.

“The government deny it is forced labour, that you can say no, but forced doesn’t always mean physical, it can be psychological or economic.

“The person who is trying to survive already on subsistence level welfare has absolutely no choice in the matter … especially if they’ve got young children to look after.”

CWP is part of the UK government’s controversial welfare-to-work scheme which has come in for huge criticism.

Unemployed claimants are told they are required to attend the six month schemes or risk losing their benefits for an arbitrary duration.

LAMH confirmed it has 16 people working for six months without pay under CWP saying that six had progressed into paid employment since the end of June.

Joe Fulton, operations and development manager, said he believed the scheme “worked for people who want to make it work for them”.

However he added that the facts of the case had been misrepresented, claiming that McArthur "has never been referred to us for the CWP programme".

Some of the UK’s biggest charities, including the British Heart Foundation, Scope, Barnardo’s, Sue Ryder, and Marie Curie have already withdrawn from the scheme because of adverse publicity.

The DWP is currently embroiled in a series of battles with the information commissioner as well as hostile court judgments ordering it to reveal CWP employers.

However it says if the public knew where people were being sent on placements political protests would increase, increasing risks to other employees of these firms.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: "Community Work Placements help long-term unemployed people to gain work experience which increases their confidence, helps them to gain vital skills and crucially, improves their chances of getting a job.

"These placements do not replace existing roles."



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Kathy Bird
over 6 years ago
How can I send some money to this poor man? I know other people who would like to do the same. It's an absolute disgrace!