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.
What will we be doing next?
Well, we’re asking NLH to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary’s pledge never to use any workfare schemes, which has already been signed by nearly 600 organisations including Oxfam and Shelter. Given their commitment to pulling out of the CWP scheme NLH should be happy to oblige.
And we’re continuing our fight against workfare in Haringey - we won’t be happy until it’s completely stamped out. We’re taking a good look at which other organisations in the area use workfare to exploit people - watch this space...
- Published: 29 July 2015