I was told verbally a few weeks ago by a Jobcentre Plus employee that I would be put on the “mandatory” Work Programme in late October.
In theory, the Work Programme doesn’t sound too bad. Very few people actually want to try making ends meet on a pittance and not make a contribution to society, everyone I know who is on Jobseekers’ Allowance does actually want a job or be economically active in some other way.
If the Work Programme was genuinely there to help jobseekers find work or gain relevant experience to increase their prospects of finding work, that would be fair enough. But feedback from people who have already been on these schemes is not good. They report that they have been forced to work in charity shops or corporate employers like Tesco, doing the same jobs as the paid workers but only receiving benefits and being told at the outset that there would be no job at the end of their sentence. I have also read of people having their benefits cut off for six months for being five minutes late on one occasion. In short, it appears to be little more than a cheap forced labour programme for corporations.
I can’t confirm the truth of any of these things – but what I will be doing is telling my own story step by step.
I understand from the Work Programme Network that it appears to be a “workfare” scheme that may be illegal under international law. It is apparently so shoddily put together that no legislation has been passed to support it and participants will technically be in breach of their jobseeking responsibilities under Section 17A of the Jobseekers Act 1995!
At this stage, I am not committing myself to any particular action or campaign – but I’ll certainly be keeping people updated about how I get on.