Bexley Council defends workfare scheme criticisms

PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 January 2014

Bexley Council has hit out at claims it took advantage of young people on government work schemes.

An investigation into unpaid labour schemes across the UK reported that the council took on more than 100 people in unpaid placements since September 2011.

Boycott Workfare, an organisation which campaigns against government backed workfare schemes, made Freedom of Information requests to each council in the UK on their use of the schemes.

Workfare involves young people on JobSeekers Allowance working for free to gain experience and skills.

Joanna Long, of Boycott Workfare, accused the council of “failing young people” and “trying to plug the gaps left by government cuts with unpaid work”.

She added: “Of the 100 placements, 50 were unable to complete the scheme and are likely to have had their benefits stopped for either one or three months as a result.

“Research shows that workfare doesn’t improve people’s chances of finding work. If there’s a job to be done, Bexley should be paying people to do it.”

But a council spokesman said the claims were “incorrect and extremely misleading”.

She said: “Of the 41 placements hosted in the front line library service, only 14 young people completed the programme. The remainder left for a variety of reasons, including new jobs or more suitable placements elsewhere.

“Bexley has been in partnership with Job Centre Plus since 2011 to provide non-mandatory pre-work support for local unemployed young people.

“The government’s work experience scheme is voluntary. The objective is to help young people build up employability skills and fill gaps in their CV.”

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