debt / welfare benefits
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