Work experience : a victory but much more needed

Article by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty for distribution at today’s demonstration.

As we write the government have been forced to make a concession to try and save their Work Experience scheme, where young people work for their benefits. Before, if young people left the scheme early, their benefits could be stopped. Now the government say people CAN leave Work Experience early without being automatically penalised.

The government only made this change due to the growing public outrage. The companies profiting from young people’s free labour were so worried at the opposition that they told the government they had to do something – or they would pull out.

Much of the media has presented this as the end of the compulsory “work-for-your-benefits” schemes. Unfortunately this is just not true.

Work Experience is only one of five workfare schemes. Sanctions remain the same in all the other schemes – including the new plans for COMPULSORY work-for-benefits on the Work Programme for many sick and disabled people on Employment and Support Allowance.

What’s more, George Osborne has stated “Young people who don’t engage with this offer [of work experience] will be considered for mandatory work activity” where severe benefit sanctions (starting at 3 months!) can be imposed. So the scheme’s only voluntary as long as you volunteer for it! (Catch 22!)

This all means we need to step up the pressure to get rid of ALL compulsion and ALL workfare schemes.

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty