The Government has scrapped a deeply controversial ‘work for your benefits’ scheme, which has seen thousands of jobseekers forced into ‘unpaid labour’ since it was first introduced in 2011.
Buried away in the small print of George Osborne’s Spending Review, the government has announced not to renew the ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ programme and compulsory ‘Community Work Placements’.
The move means that the widely condemned schemes will begin to be abolished from next spring, with the last referrals made at this time.
Campaigners have welcomed the announcement, with Joanna Long of Boycott Workfare describing the placements as “finger-twiddling work that should have been done by real employees or real volunteers”.
“But the main reason we opposed it was that it didn’t work”, said Joanna Long.
The 30hrs per week “slave labour” scheme takes away vital time that could be better used looking and applying for jobs, say campaigners.
The Mandatory Work Activity scheme and Community Work Placements will be replaced by a new ‘Work and Health Programme’, but the DWP is unable to confirm whether the new schemes will include mandatory elements.
‘Work Choice for disabled people will also be replaced, but the controversial Work Programme will remain in place.
Miss Long said: “We’re concerned about any trend towards making unemployment look as if it is a symptom of mental illness rather than a symptom of the economy.
“It does seem quite sinister that they’re shifting towards health interventions.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “Our welfare reforms are fundamentally about delivering greater opportunity through life change: supporting everyone who is able to work to do so, while at the same time maintaining the valuable safety net for those that need it.
“This government has made remarkable progress but there’s more to do,” he said.
“This Spending Review will see the start of genuine integration between the health and work sectors, with a renewed focus on supporting people with health conditions and disabilities return to and remain in work.
“We will increase spending in this area, expanding Access to Work and Fit for Work, and investing in the Health and Work Innovation Fund and the new Work and Health Programme.”