Youth Workfare: Direct Action and Campaigning Against

Suggested actions and considerations, from the 2016 Welfare Action Gathering workshop on The Future of Workfare, specific to the Youth Obligation/Workfare for 18 to 21 years olds:

Undertake a Welfare Action Gathering dedicated to young people, whilst caution expressed about dividing people and anti workfare campaigning on generational grounds.

Organise direct action, campaigns and awareness with schools and colleges

The possibility that the Platform for Life programme, may be rolled out for young needing accommodation, but including a tenancy condition of accepting any job offer.

Tenancies should be time limited and linked to participation in work, further education or vocational training, with the aim of assisting residents into long term employment and independence, and thereby improving their prospects for a successful and healthy life”

Engage with youth workers and teachers/ educationalists

Learn from and look back at the 1985 schools strike against the workfare style Youth Training Scheme

Make creative use of social media, particularly used by young people. snapchat mentioned

Engage with orgs/groups working with and run by young people

With regards ‘voluntary’ Jobcentre Work Experience, being undertaken on the basis of fully informed freely given consent, reference was made to the DWP’s ‘viciously dsyfunctionalculture of threats, sanctions and coercion.

Issues affecting rural communities, poor transport and transport costs

The growth of zero hour contracts

Lower national wage rates for under 25 year olds

Engage with community councils and young people’s assembly’s

Investigate the place young people meet and get together, activist/campaign orientated discos mentioned

Look at how Forces Watch works with schools and Funky Dragon




Charter Against Workfare: A Statement of Principles

For any workplace based scheme for benefit claimants

“First, it must be entirely voluntary.

Secondly, there should be real training so that people go away at the end with skills that are relevant to their future employment prospects.

Thirdly, those concerned must have employee status so that they are protected by health and safety and equal opportunities legislation.

Fourthly, they must be paid the rate for the job—not benefit-plus—and,

finally, projects must have trade union approval.”

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:11 pm on 14th December 1987.

Labour Joins Chorus of protest over workfareLabour protest over workfare 1988.png
The Glasgow Herald – Jan 8, 1988

Welfare Reform Act 2009
Part 1 Social security  “Work for your benefit” schemes etc.

Welfare Reform Act 2012 [Universal Credit]
16 Work preparation requirement
(3) (e) undertaking work experience or a work placement;

Workfare: Why did so many Labour MPs accept this brutal, unforgivable attack on vulnerable people? Labour’s leadership is failing to uphold its party’s values
Independent, Wednesday 20 March 2013

2017 Youth Workfare





Tory plans: “benefits should be removed” if ‘treatment’ refused?

During the 2015 election campaign David Cameron commissioned Dame Carol Black to undertake a rapid review of making engagement with a “treatment plan” mandatory for people on sickness benefits or “face the threat of a reduction in benefits”, referencing drug and alcohol addiction, obesity and stress.

Requirements for consent to treatment* within an ethical framework should mean actual  treatment cannot be made compulsory, but whether that would still mean benefits could be reduced for declining treatment is not clear.

However, the DWP could revive plans to impose schemes akin to a “treatment plan”, specifically making psychocrat “education and motivational**schemes mandatory.

Similar mandatory treatment plans, involving “a doctor or registered nurse”, did get proposed under the 2009 Welfare Reform Bill, for drug use, then in 2010 the coalition government decided:

“In light of today’s report by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), Ministers have decided not to take forward previously proposed Welfare Reform Drug Recovery pilots”
17 June 2010

More recently the DWP has proposed that Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services be co-located in 350 Jobcentres, alongside a DWP contract tender for digital Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): A key question concerns the interplay between DWP commissioned ‘therapeutic’ schemes and the role of the NHS, Councils, Mental Health and IAPT services making referrals.

The mandatory elements of the drug use pilots included:

  • Mandatory referral to Substance Related Assessments (SRAs) and a Treatment Awareness Programme with a specialist drug treatment provider for PDUs on JSA and ESA who are not already in treatment.
  • The power for the criminal justice system to supply data to aid both the identification of PDUs not in treatment, and the take-up of in-treatment support for those who are.
  • The power to refer to the mandatory SRAs where a Jobcentre Plus adviser has ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion that problem drug use is a barrier to work’. Should claimants in this group refuse to attend two successive SRAs they can be required to take one or more drugs tests.
  • The power to impose a mandatory rehabilitation plan where the adviser is satisfied that drug use is a barrier to work, requires treatment but the customer has yet to engage with treatment services.

*The DWP makes liberal use of the word “treatment” in many of it’s pilot and established back to work schemes, meaning those mandated are considered by the DWP as part of a ‘treatment’ group. Compulsory treatment of a medical or psychological nature would engage professional ethics and codes of conduct of bodies such as the BMA, BASW, GMC, BPS, HCPC, NMC, and BACP, let alone that compulsory Tory punchbag known as the Human Rights Act.

BACP opposes mandatory #CBT as part of UK #workfare in job centres

**A lack of ‘motivation‘ is a key criteria for being mandated to 6 months of full time unpaid Community Work Placements (CWP) workfare, in ‘charities’, councils and businesses.

#FOI Watch: 243 pages of 11393 Jobbridge #workfare exploiters named and shamed in Ireland

Whilst the UK’s DWP, has for years, refused to disclose the names of #workfare exploiters, 243 pages of 11393 workfare exploiters has just been published in Ireland.

The #WorkMustPay Campaign is made up of a small network of young activists who take part in a series of actions to directly challenge the acceptability of employers taking on unpaid JobBridge interns instead of providing even the basic respect of a minimum wage for workers.

UK: Name & Shame #workfare exploiters

DWP loses another 3 FOI tribunal hearings, must release names of workfare exploiters

Workfare schemes: What information do you need?

Below is a suggested list of information that is needed for every workfare scheme in the  UK, which could help map the extent of UK workfare, enable people to secure and know their rights better, pursue complaints from an informed point of view and facilitate more informed advice and guidance provision to people conscripted into workfare. As well as enable advocacy organisations and activists develop more informed strategies and goals.

Provisional list of information needed, in an accessible format and location, for each and every workfare scheme, like Mandatory Work Activity:

  • Jobcentre guidance to it’s staff, including template letters, documents and forms
  • DWP produced Provider/Contractor guidance
  • Names of all DWP Providers contracted or subcontracted to set up workfare placements and jobsearch facilities
  • Complaint procedures, forms and policies, for:
    – All DWP Providers and subcontractors
    – Jobcentre Plus
    – Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
    – DWP’s Independent Case Examiner (ICE)
  • Benefit Sanctions
    – DWP Decision Maker guidance, tribunal and court decisions
    – self advocacy info, such as via JSSA, AskCPAG and Appeal Tips @
    – sources of immediate welfare assistance and food banks
  • Information on how to challenge and appeal against any scheme or it’s specific conditions
  • Details of advice and guidance organisations and law centres
  • Newspaper and online media coverage
  • Freedom of Information requests, disclosures, tribunal and court cases.
  • Local Authority (Council) policies, debates and decisions. (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales)
  • Trade union policies
  • Debates, Questions, Answers and Inquries in the parliament’s of England and Scotland and the Assemblies of Northern Ireland and Wales
  • DWP Data Protection/Security
    – All DWP contractors and subcontractors Data Protection/Security policies, forms and leaflets relating to the sharing and obtaining of claimants personal data.
    – DWP policies on Data Protection/Security
  • Digital services, consent to use and permission based means of communication with claimants
    – DWP and contractor/subcontractor policies and guidance
  • Freedom of Information
    – All DWP and it’s contractors policies of each others mutual Freedom of Information Act duties
  • All DWP contract tenders and specification documents
  • Contact and named person details for:
    – Every DWP contractor and subcontractor, including website, social media, email addresses and  street addresses for local branches and head office’s
  • Claimant forms, letters and documents
    – Specimen copies of every contractor and subcontractors template letters, actions plans, mandatory activity noticies and forms that have an option for a claimant to sign
  • Links to relevant regulations, legislation and case law

If you have any suggestions to add to above list, or comments, please send them to: in complete confidence.

Some of this information is already published by Boycott Workfare:

Securing all of the information would be a significant undertaking, require continual updating and maintenance, but as the UK has become more of a workfare state than a welfare one, could lead to workfare getting more exposure and acting as a
resource to challenge this pernicious form of State sponsored punishment on a more UK wide strategic basis.

refuted has developed similar advocacy and information resources such as those listed above, but this project would need resources beyond it’s present capacity.

DWP publishes official list of it’s unpaid Workfare schemes

Below is an official DWP list of it’s workfare schemes, that involve people claiming benefits being provided to employers as free labour, including what is referred to as ‘internships’. The DWP’s first response to it’s own FOI Act disclosure made today, copy below, after this post was published, was to delete a webpage cited in it’s disclosure letter and hence deny public access to the documents and information therein, forgetting that search engines keep archives/caches of web pages and documents deleted. [ DWP deleted webpage and document therein ]

The DWP letter below neglects to mention unpaid Traineeships.

“Our reference: VTR 205

  20 January 2015

Dear Anne Dwyer,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 16 January
2015. You asked:

Can you provide me with the names of the schemes you run that can include
a work placement 
or work experience? So a JSA or ESA claimant does not
lose any benefits if they take part and whether this applies to self organised
internships on these benefits?

As regards the first part of your request, the schemes we run that can include
a work placement [1] or work experience [2] are as follows:

Mandatory Work Activity
Work Programme
Sector based work academy
Work Experience
Community Work Placement
Derbyshire Mandatory Youth Activity Programme

[Detailed info on above schemes]

Information about these schemes can be found by following the link below:
work-schemes [archive copy and document referred to]

As regards the second part of your request, none of the schemes listed above
can incorporate an internship. Indeed, neither within our schemes nor our
policies do we recognise an internship as a separate entity.

In terms of benefit eligibility and payment, if a self organised internship was
paid, we would treat it in the same way as we would any other paid
employment. If the internship was unpaid we would treat it in the same way as
we would any other voluntary work. DWP publishes a leaflet on volunteering
which contains information on benefit impacts; a link to that leaflet is provided
264508/dwp1023.pdf [archive copy]

At this point, to both put the format of this response into context and for your
future reference, I think it important to explain a little about the Freedom of
Information Act. The Act provides people with a right of access to recorded
information held by public authorities such as DWP (Section 84 of the Act
refers). Importantly, the Act does not require that we generate answers to
questions raised or scenarios posed on a particular subject. 

Also, the interpretation of any information supplied is left to the requestor. The
Freedom of Information Act does not require that we provide interpretation,
explanation, comment or clarification in relation to information supplied. Once
DWP has supplied information relevant to a request, it has met its obligations
under the Act.

With the above in mind, and outwith our obligations under Freedom of
Information legislation, I would suggest if you have questions about how a
particular internship might impact a claim to a particular benefit that you
consult your Jobcentre Plus Work Coach in the first instance.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the
reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team”

[1] The term “Work Placement”, is used by the DWP when referring to forced unpaid labour, which is undertaken on a no choice mandatory basis or face loss of benefits through a Benefit Sanctions, which can last up to 3 years.

[2] The term “Work Experience” (WE) is used by the DWP when referring to unpaid work that that are undertaken on a quasi voluntary basis. They are not voluntary as Benefit  Sanctions can be applied for apparent misconduct and if the Jobcentre considers a lack of WE is a barrier to paid employment and true voluntary work or a WE is declined, then a catch 22 Work Placement can be imposed.