Millions face 6 months workfare

by Caroline Colebrook

MILLIONS of unemployed people could face six moths compulsory unpaid work or face losing their benefits, according to a report from the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (CESI).

This could be the effect of the Department of Work and Pensions Community Action Programme (Cap) to tackle long-term unemployment.

CESI chief executive Dave Simmonds points out that Jobcentre Plus and the work programme will have already been used to try to find jobs for the long-term unemployed.

Currently nearly a million people fall into that category and are likely to be forced to work unpaid for six months if the new work scheme is extended across the country.

Under the DWP’s Cap, which has completed a pilot stage and whose rollout is expected to be announced this autumn, people on jobseeker's allowance for longer than three years must work for six months unpaid or have their benefits stopped.

Under its lowest estimate, the CESI predicts that over a five year period starting in June 2013, 1.78 million people will be unable to find work through the Government's current two-year-long employment scheme, the work programme, even if targets are met.

CESI estimates that of those failed by that programme, 1.35 million will be claiming jobseeker's allowance (JSA) as opposed to sickness and other types of out-of-work benefits.

A further 378,000 people will stop claiming even though they will not have found work. In total the think-tank predicts that between 2013 and 2018, 972,000 will stay on JSA who will have been completely out of work for more than three years and will be eligible to be sent to work for free for 26 weeks.

But if the economy continues to shrink, and current employment schemes fail to reach targets, the number eligible to be sent on the programme could reach 1.06 million.

And the Cap scheme will exacerbate the unemployment figures because it will have claimants doing work that would otherwise be done by regular workers on a wage — who will now be added to the dole queue.

The only beneficiaries will be the employers who will be getting free labour and their profits will rise while taxpayers are sustaining their labour force on a pittance.

The scheme will undermine the minimum wage and all collective wages bargaining if a free army of virtual slaves is available to the employers.

Jamieson Wilson, an unemployed man from the Midlands who refused to attend Cap on the grounds that it was "slave labour" is waiting to hear from the High Court whether he was won a judicial review.

Wilson told the court he was expected to wash and clean furniture for an unnamed organisation for six months unpaid.

After refusing to take part in the "exploitative" scheme, Wilson, who trained and worked as a mechanical engineer and an HGV driver and has been unemployed since 2008, was stripped of his benefits and was now "relying on family and friends" to survive.