Workfare Comes to the NHS in Birmingham & Sandwell

Sandwell and Birmingham Hospitals trust have begun using unpaid workfare labour to cover for £125m of cuts to the “ringfenced” NHS budget.

First reported by Eoin Clarke, the story has been picked up by the Guardian, and Right to Work have called a demonstration at Sandwell Hospital on Thursday, from 5pm.

6 people, forced under threat of having their benefits stopped, have taken part in a trial scheme, which has seen them undertake a number of duties including cleaning and running errands but also extending to patient care in non-clinical areas, helping with meals and drinks.

Ravi Subramanian, the head of Unison, West Midlands, said:

Far from Tory claims to protect the NHS, Birmingham and Sandwell hospital trust is being forced to find savings of £125m over the next five years.

Thousands of staff are facing the prospect of losing their jobs and wards are closing. Now the hospital is making moves to deliver healthcare on the cheap, by using people on work experience to help with patient care. Patients and staff will rightly be very worried about the standard of patient care as this scheme is rolled out.

When we signed up to the Boycott Workfare campaign, we did so on the basis that we believed that workfare would be used to cover for cuts, with people on benefits being forced to do unpaid work in order to keep the money they need for food, fuel and rent. People who refuse to take part in workfare schemes face benefit sanctions of up to 6 months, although pressure on the government from campaigners and legal challenges has seen sanctions removed from some of the schemes.

With unemployment remaining at high levels, no sign of economic recovery and a continued commitment to austerity from the ConDem coalition, we can expect to see more of this, unless we make such a huge outcry now that it is not politically viable for public sector organisations to continue to take part in workfare schemes.

Today the Telegraph has reported that the £5bn work programme is failing, as employers are reluctant to expand their workforce in the face of economic uncertainty. The Telegraph reports that only 20% of people sent on the Work Programme find work, and there is no data as to whether these jobs are temporary or permanent. One thing is clear, that the work programme does not improve people’s chances of getting a job, and is an expensive waste of taxpayer’s money.

The issue with the NHS is not just about the exploitation of unemployed and disabled people, or about the fact that this is taking the place of paid positions, it is also about threats patient care and cuts to the NHS. We implore everyone who can to come along on Thursday and say No to Workfare and No to NHS Cuts.

Thursday 24th May at 5pm

Sandwell Hospital, West Bromwich, B71 4HJ. Assemble at the corner of Little Lane and All Saints Road, outside the A&E dept.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Workfare Comes to the NHS in Birmingham & Sandwell

  1. Pingback: Boycott Workfare » Blog Archive » Workfare in hospitals

  2. Pingback: Birmingham Trades Council » Workfare in hospitals

  3. The Tories have TOTALLY lost the plot with this ridiculous régime of cutbacks in public sector spending under the false premise of so-called “austerity”.

    People who work for no wages therefore have no money to spend elsewhere and are no better than indentured slaves – which is a breach of the UK’s legal obligations under international law and Treaties we’ve signed.

    When people have no money to spend in a money-based economy, it wont help the economy recover because they can’t exchange cash for goods, so the goods just sit on shop shelves gathering dust whilst an increasing number of our population work for ZERO wages.

    It’s just daft – not to mention cruel, inhumane and very likely a Crime Against Humanity.

    For example, see Article 23 of United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states –

    Article 23.
    (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
    (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
    (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
    (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
    https://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a23

    Click “Like” if you agree or simply approve (feedback is good, so feel free to also leave a reply too).

  4. Pingback: Boycott Workfare » Blog Archive » Workfare in The NHS – Not Voluntary, Not Successful

  5. Reblogged this on Representing the Mambo and commented:
    There has been a proliferation of ‘volunteer’ and free labour schemes at hospitals across the Midlands of late. What is happening in Sandwell is merely the logical conclusion of that process.
    It’s probably necessary to point out something that many Conservatives think but dare not say: they like mass unemployment. It depresses wages and conditions, makes staff less likely to strike and creates reservoirs of free labour that can be exploited in schemes such as workfare. These can be used to further undermine the pay and conditions of existing employees.
    These schemes are nothing to do with helping people back to work. The trade unions and the Labour Party need to be very clear about this. If people work, they must be paid for that work. It’s quite a simple capitalist principle but one apparently lost on the class warriors in this government.

  6. Pingback: NHS Workfare demo & Save Your Railway meeting reports | Birmingham Against The Cuts

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