"The Secretary of State may select a claimant for participation in a scheme"

The title of this post is the sole criterion set down in the new workfare regulations regarding whom and under what conditions a person might be required to undertake one of the Government’s forced labour schemes (with the exception of MWA). Gone is the much vaunted ‘voluntary’ aspect that was used to defend the schemes for the last year; now, if you are a claimant it is now completely arbitrary whether you're forced to chose between wageless employement or the loss of your benefits. 'The benefits system has entered the State of Exception.'

These are schemes that are specifically aimed at providing free labour to parts of the private sector whose profits are hit by crisis. 

Workfare sanctions extended from today

The governement has today significantly increased the sanctions for non-compliance with the benefits regime, including the controversial unpaid, forced work 'workfare' schemes. Under a 'three strikes' policy, benefits will be stopped for three months, six months, and then three years for failing to meet a series of conditions, many of which relate to workfare. According to a notiification letter given to all JSA claimants, this includes:

The Youth Contract: Rescuing the Work Programme

The Youth Contact was launched at the beginning of April amidst much fanfare and empty talk about helping young unemployed people, whose numbers now stand at record levels. The initiative includes not only the expansion of workfare but also the much anticipated means by which the government will seek to salvage its flagship employment scheme, The Work Programme, from the consequences of its unsustainable funding model.

Abolish workfare - the Solidarity Federation's guide to the government's unpaid work schemes

Workfare is a term used to describe a range of schemes in which people are forced to work without wages in order to receive their benefits. After recent controversies the government has sought to obscure the nature of its workfare policies; this pamphlet will set out clearly and concisely the details of all the programmes and why we need to work together to oppose them.

If workfare was about getting people jobs, the government might have paid heed to its own research which states: “There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers.”

Download the pdf below.

Don't forget the Work Programme

Workfare is a catch-all term that refers to a range of state sponsored wage-less work schemes. Recent withdrawals by high-street firms that had been involved in  the Jobcentre’s nominally voluntary ‘work experience’ scheme has put politicians on the defensive forcing them to emphasise the (dubious) voluntary nature of the scheme. However the same defence cannot be made of the coalition’s flagship Work Programme, a compulsory scheme with a ‘mandatory work related activity’ component. But aside from the recent controversies surrounding workfare provider A4E relatively little has been said with regard to the Work Programme, which forces jobseekers as well as many sick and disabled Employment Support Allowance claimants into mandatory unpaid work through a number of private companies.

The Community Action Programme - replacing jobs with unpaid labour

A new compulsory work scheme for the long-term unemployed was announced by the government in November 2011. The Community Action Programme (CAP) is currently being trialled (or ‘trailblazed’, in the government’s terminology) in four regions with the intention to implement the scheme nationally in 2013.

The CAP will be organised through private companies and in many ways resembles the Work Programme but with a greater focus on community work. Participation in the scheme is mandatory – refusal to take part will result in loss of benefits. Placements last six months at 30 hours a week of work with an additional 10 hours of job search under the supervision of the provider (source).

Disciplining the workforce: Mandatory Work Activity

Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) is one of the Government’s five unpaid labour schemes in which unemployed people may be required to participate or lose their benefits. According to Chris Grayling Mandatory Work Activity “is something where people have no choice but to participate, otherwise their benefits will stop until they do”

MWA is not voluntary and people of any age can be mandated to take part, even if they have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for a short time (source). Job seekers are referred to the scheme at the discretion of a Jobcentre Plus advisor and placements are organised through private companies who arrange for the participant to work 30 hours per week for four weeks for no wage.