Poundland take part in the Work Experience Scheme, which sees 18-24 year olds work unpaid in their shops. This is what happened to Cait Reilly who took the government to court as she was made to leave a voluntary role in a museum to work in Poundland. Cait, along with Jamie Wilson who was sent on the Community Action Programme, won their case against the government, a verdict that should have seen £130m of sanctions returned to people on some of the workfare schemes, except that last week the government, with no opposition from Labour, retroactively changed the law so they did nothing illegal, in order to avoid repaying this money.
Companies hide behind the technically voluntary nature of the Work Experience Scheme, but some sanctions remain and if you turn it down, this can and is used as a reason to send you on the not even pretending to be voluntary Mandatory Work Activity scheme.
The taxpayer is giving a steady supply of free workers to companies like Poundland and Debenhams. However, public pressure can come to bear, as Superdrug and Shoezone have pulled out in recent weeks. Charities like Sue Ryder and British Red Cross have recently left workfare schemes, and the DWP are worried that they cannot find enough placements, despite the continued support and involvement in workfare by charities like the Salvation Army and YMCA.
Workfare is unfair – None of the workfare schemes increase the number of people finding a job.
Workfare threatens paid work – A steady supply of free labour? Of course it threatens paid jobs and hours.
Workfare increases unemployment – There is no job creation mechanism in workfare, all it can do is change who gets a job from one person to another. But by taking away paid hours and jobs, it increases the number of people looking for work.