‘Workfare’ scheme ‘holed below the waterline’, says Unite

‘Workfare’ scheme ‘holed below the waterline’, says Unite

05 June 2014
The opposition of nearly 350 charities to the government’s new ‘workfare’ programme has ‘holed the scheme below the waterline’, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 5 June).

Unite has welcomed the news that 345 voluntary sector organisations, including household names such as Shelter, Crisis, Scope and Oxfam, have pledged not to take part in the Community Work Placements (CWP) programme.

The indications are that the flagship scheme of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been delayed yet again

This week was meant to be the deadline for organisations to start the new mandatory CWPs which require that jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) claimants do six months work placement – or risk losing their benefits.

Unite, which has 60,000 members in the voluntary sector, has branded the scheme as “nothing more than forced unpaid labour.”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “The mounting opposition from the not for profit sector has holed one of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship projects below the waterline. More waves of opposition will sink this scheme once-and-for all.

“This obscene programme is nothing more than forced unpaid labour.

“Unite welcomes the fact that so many charities have given this scheme the thumbs down as they can see that it is grossly unfair and a perversion of the true ethos of volunteering.  

“Questions have to be asked about the government’s slavish reliance on the controversial private sector contractors, such as G4S, to implement the CWP programme.

“It was G4S and its security shambles that was the only blot on the London Olympics two years ago.   

 “We are against this scheme wherever Duncan Smith wants to impose it – in the private sector, local government and in the voluntary sector.

“It is outrageous that ministers are trying to stigmatise job seekers by making them work for nothing, otherwise they will have their benefits clawed back.

“What the long queues of the unemployed need are proper jobs with decent pay and a strong structure of apprenticeships for young people to give them a sustainable employment future.”

Unite is opposing workfare in local government and will be raising it as an industrial issue with local authorities which do not sign the pledge. So far, 13 local councils have signed up not to implement any workfare programmes - and more are actively considering doing so.

With so many council cuts, Unite is determined that workfare placements are not used to replace paid jobs.

Unite’s growing community section will be on hand to support unemployed people forced onto workfare schemes.


For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.

Notes to editors

1. Find out more about Unite’s charity sector by visiting the Unite for Our Society Campaign page:

2. Unite is organising unemployed members as part of our Community Membership:

3. The Community Work Placement (CWP) scheme, part of a set of measures branded “Help to Work”, was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at Conservative party conference in 2013. Costed at £300 million and aimed at 200,000 Jobseekers Allowance claimants, was due to  begin on 28 April 2014 (See 1.22 and 1.23 here). The government's own description of the scheme can be found here.

4. Sanctioning of benefits claimants has massively increased under the coalition government, with 897,690 sanctioned in the year to September 2013, the highest figure for any 12-month period since jobseeker's allowance was introduced in 1996.

5. The Trussell Trust reports that 83 per cent of its foodbanks when surveyed reported that benefits sanctions, have caused more people to be referred to them for emergency food.

6. The new Community Work Placements require unemployed people to do more than twice as many hours of unpaid work (maximum 780 hours) than criminals doing community service (maximum 300 hours).  Community sentences can be given for crimes such as damaging property, benefit fraud, and assault.

7. Studies into existing UK workfare schemes in the UK have found them to have zero effect on helping people find work. See a survey of the evidence here.


Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.