Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Cait Reilly and the History of UK Workfare.


Support this Campaign (see Box Bottom Right for link).

The Cait Reilly case has brought workfare (unpaid work for benefits)  to people’s attention.

Some seem to think this is a new policy.

Red Pepper reports,

Karina was mandated to work in Primark under New Labour’s Flexible New Deal. She had been sent to a private ‘welfare to work’ provider whose regime included putting claimants to work without pay in businesses, charity shops and public sector workplaces. Although regulations meant that she could only be obliged to work for up to 12 weeks without pay, she worked for 24 weeks, fearing she would have her benefits stopped if she did not agree. She had signed up to and paid for a college course that would help her find work but she had to give it up to do the placement: ‘They told me they would stop my JSA, so I stopped my English course.’

This sytem  began with the New Deal in 1998.

This is what the programme offered, (Wikipedia),

The NDYP begins with an initial consultation session, referred to as Gateway, that focuses on improving job search and interview skills. This training is provided by an external organisation such as a4e, CSV or YMCATraining. If the search for employment is still unsuccessful after the Gateway sessions, to continue to receive unemployment benefits, one of four options must be chosen:

• A subsidised job placement. The subsidy is £60 per week, and lasts 6 months; a £750 training allowance is also available to participants. Clients are paid a wage from the employer.

• Full-time education and training, for up to 12 months.

• Work in the voluntary sector, the client is paid JSA plus a £15 training allowance. This is called Community Task Force.

• Work with the Environmental Task Force.(DWP website; Peck, “Workfare” 304; Glyn 53)

Participation in one of the four options is mandatory to receive benefits, refusal to participate will lead to the benefit being stopped and will be referred to a Decision Maker who will decide whether a recipient should receive a sanction should they decide to reclaim.”

Gateway normally meant some CV writing (highly useful) job application and interview techniques (also useful).

It could also included less useful ‘courses’ including those based on the kind of self-help manuals that made Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus school of thought.

Despite appearing to offer a number of ‘options’ most people were put, without any choice, on the 3rd (I know nobody who did the first, which meant they got paid). Placements were rapidly extended beyond the ‘voluntary sector’ and the ‘Community Task Force’. They included working in local government, and private companies.

Why did people participate?

‘Work experience’ might be useful (for your CV for example). There was always the possibility of paid work. But more important perhaps was that getting an extra £15 and doing something was preferable to sitting in a room being hectored and told, 5 days a week, to do “job search”.

These Placements lasted from 13 weeks to 26 weeks.

I know personally cases of people of working in Ipswich warehouse-mega-stores shelving and carrying stuff around. One told me that his boss bought him a couple of drinks at Christmas – as well he might.

Charities and the ‘voluntary sector’ might seem a good idea. The Labour Government began farming out welfare services to them. The unemployed were used instead of paid employees – when they were not working alongside people sentenced to do Community Service.  Or, in Ipswich, working alongside prisoners on day release from Hollesley Bay.

Without the rights of salaried employees the unemployed were open to a wide range of abuses. Charites (often with highly paid executives) and the Third Sector are not always good employers.

I know of a number of significant cases where people felt ill-treated.

In nearly all cases when the Placement ended there was no job.

The attitude is thank you very much and now for the next placement-person.

The Flexible New Deal was introduced in October 2009.  James Purnell Work and Pensions Secretary was behind the change, though he had to resign that years when his expenses claims were found out.  

The Flexible New Deal reduced the time of Placements to 6 weeks. It got rid of the ‘sitting in front of a computer doing job search’ (though not the ‘courses’). It abolished the £15 bonus.

But the slide towards using the unemployed as free labour became more explicit.

They also used ‘volunteers’ from the Dole in place of genuine volunteers.

The Work Programme was introduced last summer. On this site Worky has explored its details.

Cait Reilly appears to have got into one of its programmes, a 2 week placement.

There is already the Mandatory Work Activity to punish people – which we have discussed here.

The plan now to make everyone who is unemployed for over 2 years participate in the Community Action Programme.

This is full-time unpaid workfare.

When it’s introduced it will be used to fill the gaps in public services – caused by the Liberal-Conservative Coalition cuts.

That is “picking up litter”  tidying up parks, and no doubt carrying all kinds of tasks not getting done because of government cuts.

It will be US style workfare.

There is conclusive evidence against workfare – here.

But, as reactions to Cait Reilly show, there are people in this country who simply want to order the out-of-work around, and make them sweat.

Something that Lord Freud, a former banker and wheeler-dealer, the man who advised the Labour Government on the Flexible New Deal and now, the Coalition on the Work Programme, has only ever done in a Sauna.

15 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Lord fraud has written a piece for the Guardian.

    The man makes my skin crawl.


    January 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    • Have you got a link Wishface?

      Andrew Coates

      January 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm

  2. Our welfare reforms will help create a sustainable, fairer system David Freud

    Welfare is out of control. This government faces tough choices, but helping those most in need is at the heart of our proposals

    Coming into office we knew that radical strategies were needed to reform our broken welfare system. The Centre for Social Justice, established by Iain Duncan Smith, began that radical thinking which we have carried into government. Now a key part of our reforms in the welfare reform bill, the universal credit, which replaces a complex myriad of means-tested benefits, has the support of all parts of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

    Like us, the British public firmly believe we need a welfare state that provides support for those who need it, ensures work always rewards more than a life on benefits and encourages progression once in work. The underpinning principle for any reformed welfare state is that it will always be there for people with genuine need; and that principle is clear in the welfare reform bill.

    But through this reform process we must not lose sight of the fact that we currently have a welfare system whose cost has spiralled out of control, in good times and bad, and has now trapped generations into worklessness.

    Ensuring the system is sustainable has required some very difficult decisions – such as limiting the contributory employment and support allowance to one year. I regret the decision taken by the House of Lords last week to amend the welfare reform bill to lengthen this time limit to two years. This will cost the state £1.1bn over the next three years alone – which, as the leader of the opposition has acknowledged, means “finding the money from somewhere else”.

    The difficult reality is that, especially in these financially testing times, we have a duty to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent on those with the most need – those who are too sick or disabled to work and those with the least money. We have already made clear that the time limit would not apply to the most severely disabled people.

    This week the House of Lords will debate our plans to replace disability living allowance (DLA) with the new benefit personal independence payment (PIP). The PIP will include a new face-to-face assessment with a health professional and regular reviews – entirely reasonable requirements, which are absent from the current, lax system.

    We spend around £12.6bn a year on DLA, which has risen 87% since 1997, but cannot guarantee the support is always going to those who need it most. Most people who claim DLA have conditions that change over time, yet the vast majority of people get it for life without any inbuilt checks. As a result, figures show that in just one year, over £600m was paid out to individuals whose condition had changed and were no longer eligible for the benefit they were receiving. Equally concerning to me is that £190m is underpaid, despite individuals experiencing a deterioration in their condition.

    Under this new benefit, support will be focused on those who need it most to be able to live an independent life.

    Throughout the development of our reforms we have listened to disabled people and have acted on their feedback. We have announced that we will no longer be removing the DLA and PIP mobility component from people in residential care homes. We have made significant changes to the criteria for the face-to-face assessment. And we have decided that we will not be increasing the qualifying period for PIP to six months. All these changes are a direct result of the comments we received for disabled people and the organisations representing them.

    We will continue to work with disabled people to develop the important new benefit and I urge disabled people and disability organisations to get involved in our further consultation, which ends on 30 April 2012.

    • To take part in the consultation please visit http://www.dwp.gov.uk/pip

    Comment and articles here

    The Guardian

    January 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm

  3. Yes, workfare is nothing new. Seven years ago I had to do six months of workfare for 34 hours a week – all I got was an extra £6 per week and a local bus pass.


    January 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    • Same here, a “placement” with a large nameless 🙂 multinational for 26 weeks, Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm and all for the princely sum of Jobseekers + £6. Almost forgot the travel pass. Was all of seven years ago.


      January 17, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      • I get it… IBM?


        January 17, 2012 at 10:50 pm

  4. According to Stop the Traffik at least 12.3 million people are victims of forced labour worldwide


    January 17, 2012 at 9:21 pm

  5. I get it… IBM?


    January 17, 2012 at 10:50 pm

  6. I would also think Cait has grounds for recourse regarding this
    experience being absolute contradiction with regulations
    The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Mandatory Work Activity Scheme) Regulations 2011
    (S.I.2011 No.688)

    2. Where Jobcentre Plus Personal Advisers believe a jobseeker will benefit from experiencing the habits and routines of working life, they will have the power to refer the recipient to the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme.

    3. The intention is that the placement will last four weeks and will be aimed at helping the customer develop the labour-market discipline associated with employment such as attending on time and regularly, carrying out specific tasks and working under supervision.

    4. Mandatory Work Activity will help customers who may have limited or no experience of employment, or have little or no understanding of the behaviours required to get and keep work. The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme will address this by helping customers discover for themselves the expectations of work; turning up on time and every day, following instructions, working in teams, and many other elements of employment.

    9. The Department has been clear throughout that the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme will be delivered by contracted providers. It has outlined that providers will have responsibility for requiring customers to carry out specified activity, and that failure to complete this activity will be subject to a sanction imposed by Jobcentre Plus. In the form they were presented to you, the proposed Regulations did not allow the providers to operate in this way, and therefore the Government has inserted ‘Part 6’ of the Regulations, in order to provide this power.

    12. However, the Government does not accept the Committee’s key recommendation that the introduction of this scheme should not continue. The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme is designed to have a positive impact on those who participate and this is the right approach to take to help those who need this type of experience and motivation to get them better equipped to find employment.

    The Purpose of the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme
    15. The Committee, along with some respondents, set out a concern regarding the intention of the scheme, likening it to a punishment, rather than a supportive employment programme.x

    16. The Government does not accept this position. The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme is targeted at those customers who have demonstrated that they require support to gain work related disciplines and re-engage with their search for work, as well as failing to voluntarily engage in the support that is offered by Jobcentre Plus. The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme is not a sanction, or a punishment, but has been developed in recognition that some customers require additional support.

    18. Through the introduction of these regulations, we are not looking to amend the parameters of ‘actively seeking work’, as was suggested in the Committee’s report. A large number of the Welfare to Work programmes offered to customers are mandatory, and customers that have failed to attend receive sanctions. In all of these cases, the requirements on a customer are being increased with the explicit intention of improving their employment prospects. The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme is not intended to be any different.

    20. The Committee indicated it was not persuaded that the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme would have a significant impact on the employment outcomes for people who are out of work.

    21. ……………more discretion to support to customers according to their individual needs. The small number of customers who participate in the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme will be referred because they require extra support to re-engage with the system and refocus their approach to job search. ………………………….

    Please note the regs are not in their entirety


    January 18, 2012 at 2:29 am

  7. Please note the above is an extract of
    Report by the Social Security Advisory Committee under Section 174(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 and statement by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in accordance with Section 174(2) of that Act
    below is the guidance given to Jobcentre staff
    Mandatory Work Activity
    Identifying claimants suitable for MWA
    1. A JSA claimant potentially suitable for MWA is one identified through the
    work targeted interview process, supported by use of the Customer
    Assessment Tool, as lacking ,or failing to demonstrate, the focus and
    discipline that is necessary to effectively:
     seek out and pursue job opportunities
     secure and retain employment
    2. MWA may be beneficial for a claimant that has recently received a labour
    market related sanction/disallowance, providing an opportunity for them to
    develop the skills, disciplines and behaviours sought by employers.
    3. Given the policy intent of MWA, the following claimants must not be
    considered for referral to MWA:
     currently working (paid or voluntary)
     undertaking employment related study / training
     taking part in or recently completed* another employment measure
    (contracted or non-contracted) aimed at helping them move closer to
    the labour market
    (* A claimant ‘dropping-out’ of an employment measure prematurely may, or
    may not, indicate a lack of focus and discipline on their part; it is for Advisory
    Teams to consider the merits of MWA referral on a case by case basis).
    4. MWA must not be used as an alternative means of addressing
    conditionality doubts. If there are doubts about a claimant meeting JSA
    conditionality (i.e. availability and actively seeking) those doubts must be
    addressed appropriately.
    5. If a lack of recent work experience is proving to be a barrier to finding work
    for an otherwise well-focused claimant, Advisory Teams must seek to address
    this through appropriate measures eg Work Together; MWA is not an
    appropriate measure in such cases
    6. The final decision on a claimant’s suitability for MWA is one that must be
    made in consultation with an Advisory Team Manager eg through a ‘case
    conference’ approach.
    7. To provide the necessary audit trail, a record must be kept of the
    consultation meeting (e.g. as an LMS conversation).


    January 18, 2012 at 11:20 am

  8. Charity slams David Cameron’s Work Programme for unemployed

    Firms hired to help unemployed get jobs accused of ‘profiteering and cherry picking’ cases

    David Cameron’s Work Programme, the training scheme the prime minister claims will tackle the country’s unemployment problems, is facing a crisis after charities involved warned ministers they may pull out over concerns of “profiteering” by private firms.

    Serco, A4E and security firm G4S, among others, are being paid between £4,000 and £13,700 for every unemployed person they get into long-term work. When the firms were bidding for the contracts, potentially worth £5bn, they said they would co-operate and pass money down to charities and voluntary organisations to give the unemployed training and work experience.

    But the voluntary sector says money is not being paid quickly enough. It is also claimed that by “cherry-picking” unemployed people most likely to gain employment and passing on the least employable to them, private firms are starving the sector of funds. Groups say they cannot afford to help the most vulnerable people they are being sent.

    These concerns were echoed in a report published this month by the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary sector, a watchdog.

    The charities’ concerns were spelled out in a crunch meeting between the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the employment minister Chris Grayling on Tuesday when the private firms were accused of using the charities as mere “bid-candy” to attract contracts. Joe Irvin, chief executive of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, said more needed to be done by ministers to ensure private firms were not simply making big profits from the programme.

    He said: “We all support efforts to help unemployed people get back to work. But the public needs to be assured that some of the big private providers in the Work Programme are not either profiteering, or letting down unemployed people, by failing to make proper arrangements with the local voluntary organisations who want to help people back to work.”

    Ben Kernighan, NCVO deputy chief executive, said he feared cash-strapped charities “may have to withdraw completely” from the programme.

    Gareth Thomas, shadow minister for charities, said: “Like so much about David Cameron’s ‘big society’ rhetoric, government claims that winning contracts such as the Work Programme would be a solution to huge funding cuts have turned out to be a mirage.”

    Minister for employment Chris Grayling, said: “Inevitably in a big programme of this kind not every single organisation will succeed.

    “But at the same time other organisations in the voluntary sector, like Crisis, are now joining the programme for the first time and by April we expect the voluntary sector to be working with over 100,000 unemployed people.”

    Article and comments here.

    The Guardian

    January 22, 2012 at 10:03 am

  9. Lets not be political nor presume that the Work Programme is the Worst Ever. As has previously been commented, the Flexible New Deal was just as bad, introduced under the Tory-Lite Labour Administration, and thankfully, the Government terminated the Gravy Train for those agencies which grew rich at the taxpayers expenses through the Flexible New Deal – such as A4E and Working Links.

    Consider Working Links : Staff employed by the company were doing the same job which had previously been done by basic Admin Clerks within Job Centre Plus. Two distinguishing features arose.

    Firstly, staff within JCP at least offer a commitment towards the Public Service Ethos – plebs within Working Links were deficient in that respect.

    Secondly, staff within JCP were called Admin Assistants and Admin Officers – they didn’t award themselves a baloneous term of “Consultant” as in Working Links because they were never that qualified, competent nor experienced.

    Lets consider the Gateway. Firstly, the Admin Staff within Working Links did not possess the competence to analyse a Candidates Profile effectively, nor speak to any employer on behalf of a candidate with a view to arranging an interview. They were absolutely anal on the subject of “Employment Experience” – ignoring Education, Training, Qualification, Secondly, if the candidate could not be persuaded to do Voluntary Work (which would signify a Positive Outcome to Working Links and hence lead to a nice £bonus), some idiot with pretensions of being a bouncer tried the verbally aggressive approach – which may have worked on some candidates.

    Past the Gateway, and if candidates could not be persuaded to do Voluntary Work, they were assigned to a 13 week stint in a classroom – sharing the room with ex offenders, those with abuse issues, pregnant women, unskilled, skilled, graduates and Senior Executives. They were treat with utter disdain and contempt by staff, and presumed to be less significant than kindergarten students.

    Within the 13 weeks, candidates were expected to attend “Employability Training” – however , Protocol National, recruiting candidates on behalf of Colleges to deliver Employability Training within A4E and Working Links made it clear that candidates need not be qualified teachers, and need not possess any Teaching Qualification.And the quality became clear.

    Candidates were treat with utter disdain and contempt, addressed as if they were in pre-kindergarten, and required to complete exercises on this basis which some candidates through A4E posting their experiences within Youtube using the term “Brain Numbing”.


    Rebecca Pidgeon

    February 1, 2012 at 9:00 am

  10. In my polite opinion any kind of forced labour is wrong. I have worked all my life and paid in my national insurance which is there for the sole purpose of protection from illness and unemployment. It is a compulsory insurance policy not a wage! To refuse to pay out on an insurance policy because you refuse to work for nothing is not helpful. Many unemployed are scroungers, true, but by far the majority are not, however the government, job center and news papers happily assume every single unemployed person is low life lazy scrounger! Looking at it from a different point of view, the government messed up the economy, cost people their jobs then punished them for being victims by forcing them in to working for free “Or else!” It is worth pointing out that this “free labour” benefits these companies because they don’t have to pay actual staff and this does not lead to a lasting of appropriate job for the individual. Basically they get staff for free rather than advertising for a job vacancy, how does this help the unemployed??
    Qualified electrician and service engineer with a BSC Honours degree, Still looking for a job!


    May 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm

  11. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and
    wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

    mobility express

    October 3, 2014 at 3:14 am

  12. this one seems to be like my shower enclosure my family and i got a hold
    of recently, extremely pleased about it for someone found on the fence
    about getting one, do it now, you will not regret it


    October 3, 2014 at 7:17 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: