Following nine months of protest from Haringey Solidarity Group, North London Hospice (NLH) has agreed to stop taking part in workfare and exploiting people on benefits. This is a victory for the anti-workfare movement and a blow for workfare provision in Haringey.
Until this month NLH was using Community Work Placements, a kind of workfare, to staff its charity shops. Under Community Work Placements any jobseeker who hasn’t found a job for two years can be forced to work for free for six months or be sanctioned - losing their benefits.
We know that sanctions leave people unable to pay for basic things like food and electricity, and we know they’ve caused deaths. Telling someone they must work for half a year, for free, or have all their money taken from them for up to three years - that’s downright exploitation, and it’s only right that NLH have pulled out.
Over the last months we have been in talks with NLH, picketing their shops to let passers-by know what they’re doing. Recently we had a few occupations of their charity shops (you can read more about this here and here), resulting in a lot of disruption for NLH and one of their shops being forced to close.
The pressure must have worked because this month their CEO, Pam McClinton, got in touch to tell us that NLH is dropping workfare. She said,
“The Board have decided that North London Hospice will no longer initiate any new placements through the CWP scheme. We are committed to honouring existing placements… The last of these placements concludes in December 2015.”
We’ll be keeping an eye on NLH to make sure they keep their word and completely leave the scheme by December. We’re disappointed that they haven’t decided to end all the placements this month, as it means they’ll still be benefiting from people’s free, forced labour until the end of the year. But their commitment to not taking any new placements on from now onwards is a major step towards ending workfare in Haringey.
- Published: 29 July 2015
Activists from Haringey Solidarity Group and Boycott Workfare today held a demonstration against the use of workfare by the Finsbury Park Business Forum. Under the Tories workfare initiative recipients of benefits are being forced to work at least 30 hours a week of unpaid labour as community wardens or face harsh sanctions. Workfare placements last up to six months and refusal to take part in such unpaid labour can lead to the suspension of Jobseekers Allowance for up to two years. Community wardens are facing tough monotonous work, having to be out in all weathers and risk assault as unpaid security. Additionally as Islington council no longer allows workfare schemes many community wardens do not come from the area, and so struggle to be able complete basic duties such as giving directions. Ultimately the Finsbury wardens have become nothing more than window dressing, giving the illusion of security whilst being untrained for the task at hand. Workfare schemes such as this one take potential jobs away from people who need them and allow companies, charities and other groups to unfairly profit from this labour.
Activists gave out leaflets at all entrances of the station as well as running a stall at the main Station Place entrance and had positive reactions from both passengers and passers by. Tomorrow (Thursday 18th of June) there will be a communications blockade of Finsbury Park Business Forum between 12pm and 3pm (numbers/addresses below) to protest about the use of workfare. Such blockades and publicity campaigns have been successful in the past in forcing companies to withdraw from workfare schemes.
A representative from Haringey Solidarity Group said "The use of workfare exploits and preys on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. All voluntary work should be voluntary, not forced. Finsbury Park Business Forum should withdraw from the workfare scheme as soon as possible and pay all their employees a proper living wage."
The event has been reported in Freedom News
- Published: 17 June 2015
Last Sunday, 7th June 2015, about 10 of us met at North London Hospice in Turnpike Lane, to picket the shop in our ongoing campaign against Workfare and Community Work Placements - the use of unpaid and forced labour (see Boycott Workfare web site). We fully support the work North London Hospice are doing, but are trying to persuade them not to replace genuine volunteers with people on benefits who risk loosing benefits through sanctions if they do not put in 30 hours unpaid labour a week at their shops. (For more info, see our article 'Why North London Hospice should keep its word and pull out of workfare').
To increase the pressure on NLH, as well as our usual picket outside the shop, this Sunday, 6 of us also went into the shop with a banner and leaflets, to inform customers of the campaign to keep volunteering voluntary. Others talked to people who were coming in to shop, most of whom changed their mind after a brief chat.
The manager asked us to leave, saying we could not demonstrate inside the shop, only outside. When we stood firm she said she would call the police. Meanwhile we chatted to the guy at the till, he did not say if he was a genuine volunteer or workfare victim, but he seemed sympathetic to our point of view. The manager told us it was useless occupying the shop, the real managers weren't there - they were in downing street, that is where we should demonstrate. She would not let us take film or photos inside the shop. She was firm but not aggressive.
After some 20 minutes, two boys in blue turned up. They asked the manager to ask us to leave, which she did, they then told us that we would be committing the crime of trespass if we did not leave, we did so calmly. Outside the police asked to talk to our leader, we explained we were a collective with no leader. We refused to give them our names, contact details, or the name of any organisation we might belong to. They explained if we went back into the shop we were to leave immediately if asked to by the manager or we would be committing trespass, this would be true the following day as well.
We continued our picket outside the shop for a further 30 or 40 minutes. It was a lovely early summer sunny day, Wood Green High Road was busy, many people took leaflets, and some stopped to chat and even to share their own experiences of the dole.
We will keep up the pressure on NLH: the best way to beat Workfare is if no organisation is willing to take part in the scheme - as many have already pledged (see kvv.net)
- Published: 08 June 2015
Saturday 30th May, 10.30am-5.30pm (arrive from 10.15am for a cup of tea), London Welsh Centre (10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross station)
Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.
If you are concerned about:
- Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
- Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
- 35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
- ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
- Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
- Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
- Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
- Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…
…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear from other people organising across the UK! Learn about our rights and share ideas and tactics!
Join the Facebook event and invite others to come too!
This isn’t a day for speakers from the front. Party political representatives aren’t invited. It’s a day for people at the grassroots to get together and work out how we can support each other, defend our rights and continue successfully to campaign against workfare and sanctions.
Organised by Boycott Workfare with Haringey Solidarity Group. Workshops and contributions from other groups are very welcome!
- Published: 19 May 2015
'MAKING WORK PAY' is a hypocritical euphemism used by Iain Duncan Smith and the government to justify cuts in welfare benefit payments and make claiming increasingly difficult. With this completely false statement comes no assurance or intent to increase and legally enforce a minimum wage significantly, in line with the massively inflated costs of rent, food, utilities and travel.
Community Work Placements actually undermine job security and the minimum wage. They do not create jobs, they create an excuse for less scrupulous employers to take on free labour and get paid by the Government (tax payer) for doing so. Along with this the increase of zero-hours jobs means the job market has become extremely precarious for many.
You can see other films on similar issues on YouTube.
- Published: 21 March 2015
On Saturday, 7th. February, North London Hospice held a major fund-raising event, "Strictly Dancing", at the Arts Depot in Finchley. This event promised to draw not only senior staff from the charity but also supporters and well-wishers. As part of our ongoing campaign to persuade NLH to withdraw from the Community Work Placement programme, we decided to attend the event with the express intention of alerting attendees to the use of CWP by the Hospice, whilst providing substantive arguments as to why a charity working for the good of the community should not.
- Published: 14 February 2015
"If we want them to tap dance, then they will tap dance," a Whitehall official on government plans for benefit claimants (Sunday Times, 2012)
Take action this week to stop workfare in North London Hospice shops
- From Mon 2 Feb - in a "communications conga" - social media / email / phone action
- Sat 7 Feb, 6.15pm - join our protest at North London Hospice's Dancing Strictly fundraising event in North Finchley to ask "Waltz going on with workfare?"
Since August last year, Haringey Solidarity Group has been campaigning for North London Hospice to stop taking on people on 30-hour a week workfare schemes in their shops. (For more info, see our full web article 'Why North London Hospice should keep its word and pull out of workfare'). The hated and hateful six-month Community Work Placements (CWP) are backed by the threat of sanctions, i.e. having your benefits cut off for four weeks or more.
Many of us in HSG have reason to respect the great work that the hospice does within our local community. So we tried contacting the hospice, to let them know that CWP is not voluntary, and we tried leafleting passers-by outside their shops. Finally, in December, North London Hospice's Chair of Trustees wrote to us, stating their intention to stop using workfare once current placements came to an end. He refrained from giving a date for their withdrawal from the scheme, leading some of us to fear that their "intention" could mean another six months' misery for claimants on CWP.
Then, just a couple of weeks ago, we found out that, contrary to the letter, North London Hospice had taken on a new placement and possibly more. Furthermore, it has been over a month and a half since their letter to us, and not one of the shop managers we have spoken to is aware of this proposed withdrawal from the scheme, and the chair of trustees has to refused to give any indication of a date for withdrawal.
So our campaign against workfare at North London Hospice continues.
This Monday, 2 February, we are asking people to join our North London Hospice "communications conga" and contact the hospice, via social media, phone and email, asking them to pull out with immediate effect.
Then, the following Saturday, 7 February, 6.15pm, we are asking for support at North London Hospice's "Dancing Strictly" fundraiser, when we hope to speak directly to their supporters, and for them to ask the hospice management, "Waltz going on with Workfare?".
North London Hospice "communications conga" from Mon 2 Feb, contact details:
Twitter @NLondonHospice Tweet to @NLondonHospice
Phone: 020 8446 2288 (Fundraising team) or you can find the numbers for their 18 shops online. (NB: We are asking people not to contact the main hospice switchboard number.) Please also remember, if you call them, it’s definitely worth trying to speak to a manager, or someone involved in fundraising and volunteer organising. The person who answers the phone may well be low paid admin staff, or possibly on workfare themselves.
Dancing Strictly Fundraiser on Saturday 7 Feb, 6.15pm
Join Haringey Solidarity Group from 6.15pm at the Arts Depot in Finchley. The event starts at 7pm. Bring friends and (dance-themed) placards.
ArtsDepot, 5 Nether Street, North Finchley, N12 0GA. Tube: Finchley Central (then bus); Woodside Park and West Finchley (20 mins walk). Buses: 82, 125, 134,221 (from Turnpike Lane), 263, 460. Or see the Artsdepot website for directions.
See our website for more background information on the campaign.
- Published: 01 February 2015
Supported by local community networks, trades unions, service user campaigns, and political organisations
LOBBY: Tuesday 10th February, 5.30pm
Lobby the Council’s cabinet meeting – Outside the Civic Centre, High Rd N22
DEMONSTRATION: Monday 23rd February, 5.30pm
Demonstration through Wood Green
5.30pm Assemble at Ducketts Common – March to the civic centre
6.30pm: rally outside full council meeting
What can we all do ?
* Have your say in the Council’s so-called ‘consultations’ as it’s important that people speak out AGAINST ALL CUTS at every opportunity
* Sign the petition against cuts to day centres and closure of residential homes – online at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-our-autism-services-in-haringey
or on street stalls where you will see around the borough in coming weeks
* Sign the petitions against closure of youth services at: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-bruce-grove-youth-centre-haringey-youth. (twitter at @SaveHaringeyYS) and cuts at Marcus Garvey Library at https://www.change.org/p/tell-haringey-council-to-save-tottenham-s-marcus-garvey-library
* Get involved in the many local campaigns, including defending Council housing estates from ‘redevelopment’, defending Marcus Garvey Library from cuts, supporting community-run community centres, and to end the charging of Haringey’s poorest residents for Council Tax shortfalls. Or set up your own to defend the services and facilities you care about. Support and publicise their petitions and protests.
* Write to your councillors, MPs, and the local press. Get your residents’ group, pensioners’ group, carers’ group, trade union to do so too. Also demand Parliamentary candidates for the 2015 election say where they stand and support the campaigns to defend all services.
- Published: 30 January 2015
The story so far of our continued campaign against the hated Community Work Placement scheme and the ongoing participation of North London Hospice
In May last year, the Department for Work and Pensions launched its latest workfare scheme for the long-term unemployed – Community Work Placements (CWP). Previous schemes met with outrage when corporations, like Tesco and Poundland, were seen to be increasing their profits through the use of the free labour of the unemployed. These schemes were rightly understood as a taxpayer subsidy to employers in much the same way that in-work benefits paid to the low-paid act as a subsidy to employers who pay rock-bottom wages. Consequently, CWP focuses on charities, although private companies can take advantage. The majority of those on CWP are placed in charity shops, where they have to work 30 hours per week for six months in return for their benefits, under threat of sanctions.
CWP serves several functions:
- those responsible for the scheme claim that the unemployed are engaged in worthwhile activity whilst giving something back to the community
- the threat of sanctions intimidates and disciplines claimants with the intention that they will do exactly as they are told without objection, no matter how reasonable
- those old friends of the government, G4S, who forever have their snouts in the trough line their pockets handsomely at the expense of those with nothing. Yes, G4S runs contracts covering half the country, including Haringey. The idea that claimants on this scheme are putting something back into the community is contentious. The fact that these bastards are taking loads more out is beyond question.
- Published: 30 January 2015
This Saturday, 6 December, 12.30pm. Join us on a picket of North London Hospices shop on Wood Green High Road (Turnpike Lane end).
Haringey Solidarity Group continues its support for claimants referred to Urban Futures as part of the hated Community Work Placement scheme.
On a weekly basis, claimants tell us the shameful way in which they are treated by Urban Futures, the local organiser of the CWP scheme and the way in which they are then forced to spend 30 hours per week hanging around in a charity shop rather than using their time constructively creatively or in any other way they choose.
Claimants and HSG have been campaigning against NLH's participation in the scheme for almost 3 months precisely because NLH is Urban Futures' largest partner, providing some 50 placements. We believe that if we can persuade NLH to pull out of the scheme, life will become pretty difficult for Urban Futures and the CWP scheme in the local area as around 20% of Urban Futures' placements are with NLH. They would find it very difficult to replace them quickly hitting them financially, providing some relief for claimants and raising serious questions over the whole project.
- Published: 05 December 2014
A couple of us from Haringey took a trip to the Urban Futures office in Ilford this morning. We were there to protest the use of the Community Work Program, talk to anyone attending Urban Futures who maybe on the scheme and to inform local people as to why we were there.
- Published: 28 November 2014