What is workfare

If you are claiming certain benefits and are deemed to have been out of Work for too long, you can expect to find yourself in a work placement. This means you will continue to receive your benefits providing you turn up every day, for as long as your placement lasts. If you don't turn up your benefits will be stopped.

So what's wrong with that?

The issue appears to be the fact that the person on the work placement is not getting paid.

Some people might argue that they are getting paid because they are in fact receiving benefits. However I did a quick calculation on how much a single person would receive if they were claiming JSA (jobseekers allowance) based on the information available on the Direct Gov website. For example if you're aged twenty five or over and are working thirty five hours a week on a work placement and your JSA is £73 a week, with £80 a week paid to cover your rent as well as £10 a week paid towards your council tax, it equates to approximately £4.60 per hour.

If you're living with family or some other situation where you don't claim housing benefit and you just receive the £73 a week it's the equivalent of £2 per hour. This falls well below the minimum wage. In addition you would not be entitled to working tax credits, although someone in paid employment doing the same hours would be. Meanwhile the taxpayer is still funding the benefits which people on the workfare scheme receive, so it doesn’t solve the problem and seems to lessen the need for paid staff in certain organisations.

Does it lead to paid work?

From the comments on the Boycott Workfare website and their social media sites, many people who have been on workfare have not been successful in gaining paid employment with the company after their placements have ended. Some have even stated that the employer has simply gone on to make use of more unemployed people rather than hire paid staff. The danger here is that if more organisations sign up to use workfare then there will be less of a requirement for paid staff. Therefore any experience the jobseeker would gain from workfare could be wasted, as there would be limited paid work available with more applicants going for each role.
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