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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

TFN poll: is it justifiable for charities to use workfare?

This poll is over 8 years old

Is it justifiable for charities to use workfare?


Major charities have come under scrutiny recently because of their involvement in the government’s controversial workfare scheme.

Protestors from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP), alongside campaigners from the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, blockaded the entrance to the Salvation Army shops in Edinburgh and Broughty Ferry with a huge banner saying: “If you exploit us we will shut you down” before mounting a similar protests outside a shop run by skin charity Debra in the capital.

Both organisations use so-called workfare - the free labour of unemployed people compelled to work for their benefits on the government’s Work Programme scheme.

ECAP says workfare is exploitative – and argues that charities should show a lead in distancing themselves from the project.

Over 500 charities, including the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Edinburgh Volunteer Centre, Oxfam, Christian Aid and Shelter, have signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement which states: "Workfare schemes force unemployed people to carry out unpaid work or face benefit sanctions that can cause hardship and destitution.”

However, both the Salvation Army and Debra have defended their stance, saying the Work Programme helps people experience the benefits of being in work.

What do you think? Is it justifiable for charities to use workfare?

Vote in our poll and join in the debate by leaving a comment.

Voting in this poll has now closed


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Lynne Friedli
over 8 years ago
Workfare is never justifiable.
0 0
over 8 years ago
I don't necessarily agree with the workfare. However I do also think it is wrong for people to get something for nothing. Especially when so many people are struggling to get who pay their taxes but never get any help
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Joy Boyd
over 8 years ago
Its never ok to exploit people.Since The Salvation Army became involved in workfare I have stopped my direct debit to them. I will never support them until they stop. Other firms are using workfare as a ready reserve of workers. They are used instead of employing people so how does that help people get back into work. The whole system is a con for businesses to get unpaid workers and reep the benefits at taxpayers expense. Wake up people!!
0 0
over 8 years ago
Workfare as a policy is wrong. However, if the Government insists on forcing claimants to work for their benefit (which it does), I would far rather they were doing so in supportive, third sector organisations, than stacking shelves in Poundland. Before Christmas, I was aware of a claimant who got sanctioned while on the Community Programme while based with a small charity (the activity that caused the sanction was before she started there). The staff and other volunteers there cooked her family meals for weeks, bought toiletries etc. to get her through, and made sure she was properly supported to get the sanction overturned. She would never have received such support in a placement outside of the charity sector.
0 0
Beth Cook
over 8 years ago
As a 'volunteer' I enjoy my work and serve my local community which, I do for mental stimulation otherwise I'd go mad. Forcing people into unpaid work is exploitation, doesn't matter who it's for.
0 0
over 8 years ago
I understand the concept: give long term unemployed skills, recent experience and up to date reference which is what they need (myself included) but full time is an absolute joke - being mandatory is even worse. But being referred to this scheme after asking for a placement via the JCP itself is insulting.
0 0
over 8 years ago
Charities exploiting unemployed people is unacceptable, especially when they are able to sanction a persons benefits. Charities should be protecting vulnerable people, not starving them.
0 0
over 8 years ago
We have the same thing here i Australia, but I opted to do volunteer work of my own back not because the government said I should. I like what I do and as no one will employ me because of my medical issues, it makes me feel good as I feel less of a burden on society and have the option of paying tax on my dole money, which makes me feel like I am doing paid work anyway. a win win for me. Having said that I do not think it should be forced on anyone as we all have various reasons for not being in paid work.
0 0
almost 7 years ago
Gave up volunteering in charity shops due to the attitudes of managers and area managers in stores. Remember work scheme placements who were placed in shops.Nearly all didn't want to be there which wasn't a pleasant feeling for volunteers. The fact that they were forced and could be penalised upset many volunteers who felt guilty and angry at the charity and the placement workers. These placement workers often didn't care and spoke to them like 10 year olds