I remember the days when you were allowed to choose where you wanted to volunteer. The Jobcentre actively encouraged you to do this. They said that i
t would encourage you to learn new skills and to improve your c.v.
On the whole it worked. Of course there were times when it didn’t, but if it failed the Jobcentre would send you on a course, you would get an extra few quid on top of your social security payment and you really did benefit from this. Life was much better, there was less conflict and most places could find volunteers relatively easily.
All that changed when the Tory party won the general election in 2010 and along with the Liberal Democratic Party they formed a coalition government, but David Cameron was clearly in charge.
He set about to punish the poor. He wanted to change the whole system, and indeed he did. But he didn’t do it overnight. He did it by stealth, bit by bit. All aimed I’m sure to take any decent quality of life away from the poorest and most vulnerable in society.
He introduced a scheme called workfare, marketed as a “work for your dole” scheme. This scheme operates under various guises, but the end result is the same. If you want to be able to claim your benefit payment then you must undergo the work programme.
It was marketed as the best idea ever. The government cosied up to their friends in the right wing press and they launched a full on attack on the poor. Let’s shame them, let’s treat them like criminals, let’s turn neighbour against neighbour. It’s the best tool in the Tory party tool box and they used it well. Before long the poor were criminalised and criticised for almost everything they did. Television ran countless programmes that actively targeted vulnerable people. This is when David Cameron must have decided that it was time to exploit the poorest as much as possible, and why not? There was no opposition now.
Multi national buisnesses were quick to take up the offer of free workers. I mean why pay someone when they are forced to work for nothing? When their allotted time of enforced volunteering is over the are simply replaced with another victim. No hope of a job, nothing to look forward to except very hard work for no pay. And so modernised slavery was created.
Very strict rules were put in place. Don’t be late, always turn up and you must turn up for work whilst sanctioned. Not easy when you can’t afford to eat and often have to walk miles to get to your workfare provider.
Now this has caused lots of problems, probably too numerous to mention here. Workfare workers turning up to “volunteer” unable to complete their work properly because they are too hungry, weak and demoralised. Many have been forced off their sickness benefits and forced to undergo workfare, many forced to undergo enforced volunteering as a requirement of being placed in the work capability group. Their health suffering to such an extent that they become very sick indeed and many give up.
There is also another side effect of big buisness and multi national charities using enforced volunteers sent directly from the Jobcentre. Small charities are finding it extremely hard to find volunteers. Many refuse to use enforced volunteering due to the ethics of the scheme. They don’t agree with enforcing people to undergo an activity that they may not be capable of undergoing.
They try to advertise for volunteers, claimants ask the Jobcentre if they can volunteer at their shops, but the Jobcentre refuse. They say either you go where we send you or you will get sanctioned. So volunteers become very sparse. Local small charities become at risk of closing or close altogether. These charities are often essential organisations within local communities. But the government don’t care. In their eyes, you should take enforced volunteers. If you refuse, well they must think that it’s the price that you have to pay. And it’s a very big price indeed.
I speak to people who run small local charities and organisations. They are stretched to the limit. They don’t know what to do, they have given their life’s to making it work, to helping others in need. They want to do it honestly without exploitation of any kind. But the dilemma is there, accept enforced volunteering or shut down.
Yes the government are indeed running a cartel which involves people being used as free labour to be exploited. Slavery is not dead, it’s now been modernised under the guise of whatever name the DWP wants to use for enforced volunteering. And the public have accepted this . A good days work deserves a good days pay. A local charity should be able to employ volunteers who actually want to volunteer for them without enforcement. They want their charity to succeed, we want their charity to succeed. Let’s campaign to make this possible.