debt / welfare benefits

Reel News footage of our Urban Futures occupation as part of the Boycott Workfare week of action against workfare. 

Anti-workfare protest at North London Hospice

About fifteen people, turned up at the North London Hospice Shop in Wood Green today, to protest at their use of forced labour, and to ask them to sign up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary pledge.

North London Hospice has been staffing some of its 18 shops across Barnet, Enfield and Haringey with people on Community Work Placements. These people are forced to work for their benefits, or they face having their benefits stopped - four weeks for the first breach, and 13 weeks for the second.

We had some lengthy chats with people working inside the shop - mainly those lucky enough to be paid - and were surprised and saddened to hear the view that the people on CWP had a "choice", that they were not forced to work there. 

This "choice" is not a choice at all - it's the choice between working at the shop, or facing having your benefits stopped, leading to possible destitution or starvation.  Hardly a choice at all.

Article 4 of the Human Rights Act protects the right of humans to live free from forced labour - this is work which is carried out under threat of physical or psychological harm.  In many people's eyes, six-month workfare comes pretty close to contravening this right.

This is one of the many reasons why we are asking charities like North London Hospice to reconsider their involvement in the scheme. It's why we want them to pledge not to staff their shops with anyone other than those who are paid a (living) wage to be there or who have genuinely offered to volunteer their free time.

Have a look at our earlier articles for more info on how to contact North London Hospice, if you have any views on their involvement with workfare.

No future for bullying at Urban FuturesToday members of Haringey Solidarity Group and Boycott Workfare paid workfare provider Urban Futures in Wood Green a visit. Fifteen people occupied the office with banners and a soundsystem – challenging Urban Futures on their treatment of claimants and speaking to people on enforced jobsearch about their experiences and sharing info on their rights.

We'd already heard that the managers are aggressive and bullying towards claimants, so expected the same. But the short occupation revealed the nasty attitudes throughout the staff team – about ten staff tried to hassle people out and came out with some revealing lines, taunting a number of us that we should "get a job" (yawn). When one of us replied that he had a job, they replied, "I can't believe you have a job, looking like that."

Staff tried to make sure claimants didn't access info on their rights. They confiscated leaflets and tore them up, and blocked doors to claimants inside the job search rooms. They grabbed phones and bags off people and tried to take the banner too.

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Workfare is forced labourWe all know Community Work Placements aren’t about helping people find work. Instead, forced unpaid work and supervised job search treat the unemployed like criminals. Six months of workfare is more than twice the maximum community service sentence!

CWP forces claimants to work for 34 hours a week – most of the time doing pointless and menial tasks. And all for £72 a week – that’s about £2 an hour. CWP is forced labour.

Placements with no relationship to our experience or what we want, bullying and mistreatment, and pointless and menial placements - all under threat of benefit sanctions - are totally wrong.

But together we can fight them. Know your rights, name and shame placement hosts and get involved to help end all workfare!

Urban Futures: breaking the rules?

Urban Futures is making money out of making people’s lives a misery. CWP shouldn’t exist in the first place, but are Urban Futures even following the rules?

DWP guidelines state that:

  1. Placements must be of clear and demonstrable benefit to the community.
  2. Placements must give work experience and develop skills.
  3. Support for claimants should include appropriate help and workplace training.
  4. Work placements must be supervised with tasks similar to those in a normal working environment.
  5. No more than 25% of the placements they arrange should be in charity shops.
  6. Provider must establish claimants’ current job goals.
  7. Placements must not displace existing jobs.
  8. Claimants must start placement within 20 working days of Jobcentre Plus (JCP) referral.

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On Saturday, 11 October, from 12pm, we'll be outside North London Hospice's Wood Green shop, as part of Boycott Workfare's week of action against workfare. And once more, we'll be asking them, why they are still involved with Community Work Placements and other workfare schemes.

Join us from 12pm at North London Hospice shop, 19 High Road, N22 6BH. Three minutes’ walk from Turnpike Lane tube station.

Hundreds of people in Haringey are being forced to work for six months with no pay under threat of sanctions under the new scheme.

Urban Futures have a contract for Community Work Placements and are busy finding placements in charities and “community benefit” projects across north London. But these schemes cannot work without charities making the placements possible – charities like North London Hospice.

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