Work scheme a shameful practice

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The LibCon government has introduced workfare programmes for the unemployed which force people to work for their benefits.

This undermines the ethos of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay as well as encouraging employers to use claimants for free instead of paying wages.

One would not necessarily be surprised by some companies exploiting people in this way but imagine my shock to find out that Age UK East Sussex are involved in at least one of these schemes. Although Age UK East Sussex states on its website “We are respectful – We treat others as they would want to be treated”, I would suggest that being involved in workfare is anything but respectful to those involved. Not only that but some of those being exploited may even be the clients they are supposed to help.

I have been in touch with Age UK East Sussex and left numerous messages for someone to contact me to discuss this but to no avail; no one has called me back. I would ask that everyone concerned about this should get in touch with the chair or chief executive of the charity and make their concerns known and hopefully this shameful practice can be stopped.

Tony Rowell

Lewes

Response from AGEUK: Age UK East Sussex provides vital services and support to older people in the local area. We have a brilliant and diverse team of paid staff and volunteers involved in our work, all of whom play a vital role in improving the quality of later life across the county.

Included in this team are a small number of people on four-week work placements who are in receipt of benefits. Everyone on such a placement with us is given a choice of areas to focus on – whether that’s sorting donations for our shops, assisting with stock collection or project-management in our fundraising team. We ensure that everyone involved has good quality training and on-site support from paid staff. After starting a placement, each individual is given the choice about whether or not they wish to continue with us – some people arrive and leave on their first day but most enjoy their placement and value the sense of purpose it brings.

Some people have left early in order to take up jobs elsewhere. A number have stayed on as volunteers after their four week placement period has ended and, in a couple of cases, people have applied for and been successful in job opportunities with us as these have come up. We really value the support these individuals give us in helping local older people.