Boycott Workfare targets charities that support government's mandatory work scheme

The pressure group is running a week of events at the end of March; charities including Sue Ryder (pictured), PDSA and Sense have already withdrawn from the programme

Sue Ryder
Sue Ryder

A wave of protests pressuring charities to withdraw from the government’s "mandatory work activity" scheme has been organised for the end of March by the pressure group Boycott Workfare.

The group is campaigning for the end of compulsory work placements for unemployed people, which can require them to work for up to 30 hours unpaid or risk losing their benefits.

The list of charities that Boycott Workfare wants to withdraw from the scheme includes Barnardo’s, the RSPCA, the Salvation Army, the YMCA, the disability charity the Papworth Trust and the conservation volunteering organisation TCV.

A week of action, from 18 to 24 March, will involve sit-ins, protests and letters delivered to shop managers protesting against the activity, the group said.

Several high-profile charities have withdrawn from the scheme this month, including Sue Ryder, the PDSA and Sense.

Sue Ryder said in a statement that it was withdrawing "with a heavy heart" because "recent online lobbying using strong and emotive language and making misleading claims about our volunteering practices" threatened to damage its work, and because it needed to protect staff and supporters "from any further distress".

Other charities said they had withdrawn because they were uneasy about the mandatory nature of placements.

In a statement, the Department for Work and Pensions, which runs the mandatory work activity, said: "It is deeply regrettable that a small number of people have targeted charities and subjected them to intimidation and abuse in an effort to disrupt the operation of this scheme. 

"In so doing, they deny many people the opportunities and help they need to get back into work."

Boycott Workfare said in a statement: "It is deeply encouraging that a large number of people have contacted charities and made the perfectly reasonable request that they withdraw from this scheme, which does not help people into employment.

"We're grateful to those charities that have left the scheme."

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