Workfare – how the different government work experience schemes compare

James Ball has gathered some information on the government’s work experience schemes over on The Guardian’s Reality Check, along with some useful context. The schemes are split into the following:

  • Work Experience (34,000 people as of November 2011): “an unpaid work placement for two to eight weeks, working 25 to 30 hours each week. They continue to receive jobseeker’s allowance throughout, and may get a contribution towards travel or childcare costs […] anyone who cuts their placement short after more than one week will have their benefits stopped for two weeks.”
  • Sector-based work academies (3,400 people between August and November 2011): Participation is voluntary, but anyone who doesn’t complete their placement will face sanctions to their benefits.
  • Mandatory Work Activity (24,010 people between May and November 2011): “Jobseekers can be given mandatory work activity at any point,” says James, “but it is typically for those who have been unemployed for three months or more. The scheme mandates six to eight weeks unpaid work for up to 30 hours a week.” Failure to “participate/fail to complete/or lose a place due to misconduct will be sanctioned for 13 weeks. A second failure in a 12 month period will lead to a 26 week sanction.”
  • The Work Programme (370,000 people referred between June and November 2011 – no figures on placements undertaken)): private providers are “incentivized” to get people back into work or training. They “are not able to directly sanction jobseekers who refuse such support or end placements early, but can refer people back to the Jobcentre Plus, who is able to do so.”
  • Community Activity Programme (no figures): being piloted; “intended to be mandatory, and failure to participate results in a sanction on benefits, as with MWA.”

There’s plenty of other useful information in the piece, such as what types of work are supposed to be undertaken (making a contribution to the community for example, and not displacing paid jobs).

This is particularly important given the confusion listed later on in the piece on some schemes being wrongly described as “compulsory”  by official advisors and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

The piece also links to a useful analysis of government statements on the ‘success’ of these schemes by Jonathan Portes, the director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, who points out that the 50% ‘success rate’ quoted by government politicians needs to be compared with what happens to people not on those schemes:

“Off-flows from JSA remain high – almost 60% of claimants leave within three months and almost 80% leave within six months of making their claim.”

“Moreover, the same document also points out that young people leave JSA even faster

“Jobseekers aged 25 and over are significantly more likely to have claims lasting more than one year than jobseekers aged 18 to 24”

“So well over 60% of young jobseekers leave JSA within three months, suggesting that the record of the Work Experience programme – 50% off benefit in three months – is pretty unimpressive at best, comparing poorly with what happens to young people on JSA in any event.”

Do you know of other useful documents and data on this subject?

2 thoughts on “Workfare – how the different government work experience schemes compare”

  1. As I understand it, “work experience” is compulsory, EXCEPT that you can give up between the second and fifth day, inclusive, without losing benefits. But you must attend if an advisor directs you to do so, and you must complete the first day.

    Apply that line of thinking to other realms of consent, and see where you get to. It ain’t a pretty picture, and it doesn’t fit any definition of “voluntary” I’d be prepared to put in a dictionary.

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