DWP letters say “voluntary” workfare scheme is compulsory

The standard workfare letters being sent out by Department of Work and Pensions cast the scheme as compulsory and do not explain that claimants can leave their placements without sanction in the first week, a Channel 4 News investigation has confirmed.

Backing up what workfare campaigners have been saying for some time, the programme had obtained multiple documents threatening claimants with losing benefit if they do not undertake a placement they have “volunteered” for. DWP have confirmed this is a standard letter wording:

“Please not that if, without a good reason, you fail to start, fail to go when expected, or stop going to the [placement] … any future payments of Jobseeker’s Allowance could cease to be payable”

The film also nailed the suggestion that opponents of workfare are “militants” and/or SWP:

The claimant in Jackie Long’s film said he voted Conservative at the last election.


  1. Posted February 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Big Society

  2. Tim
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Exactly what I’d expect from this despicable Government.

  3. Charl
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    The government are now blocking FOI requests, in an attempt to keep the businesses exploiting the unemployed for profit anonymous.

  4. Geoff
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink


    I can see the word “could” in that letter.

    If it had said “will” I’d have believed you. But it doesn’t.

  5. Steve
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    It is voluntary. Once you agree to do it, you must honour that agreement. What about this is so difficult for you to understand?

  6. Steve
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  7. Posted February 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    @Geoff: Imagine you received a “could” letter from your bank — with that paragraph in bold. Would you sit there in your smugness or act in the way they suggested?

    And would you play the “could” vs “will” semantics game with your only £50 per month?

  8. Biz Miller
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Laurence, for pointing out to Geoff the bleeding obvious!

  9. Rick Santorum
    Posted February 29, 2012 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    The very concept of voluntary work is that it is consistently voluntary.
    If I voluntarily decide to help out at a business, the business has no contractual requirement for me to turn up and actually do anything and I have no contractual arrangement that requires the business to give me work, otherwise I would be an employee or worker, not a volunteer.
    The voluntary act of signing a contract has nothing to do with whether the work itself is voluntary otherwise every legal employee in the UK would be classed as a volunteer purely because they voluntarily signed their contract of employment, which is obviously ridiculous.

    Or to put it in very simple terms, I suspect you are a bit of an arse-griblet.

  10. Geoff
    Posted February 29, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    @Laurence, nice straw man there. You are deliberately comparing apples with oranges.

    Are you seriously equating a voluntary 2 week work placement with a mortgage? Really?

  11. Derpy
    Posted February 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    But Geoff, its not exactly clear is it. Its about as close as you can get to saying these ‘oportunitys’ are mandatory as it is possible to get without using that word. The average person reading that letter would have no idea that the position is in fact voluntary.

  12. Rab Hawe
    Posted March 3, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    This is the usual Gobbledeygook you come to expect from the anally retentive wordsmiths of the Civil Service! I expect , in the near future, we will be advised to read the small print before agreeing/or not!

  13. Lindyloo
    Posted February 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Geoff In my opinion I think its says could and not will/would because it is to deliberately mislead people that will never be involved in the scheme into thinking it is fair when it’s not. It’s free labour and the only people it helps are the rich companies, which is who the tories always help. Tories have always been very harsh on the poorer in society and penalise them instead of helping them.

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