Jobseekers have been volunteering at a Poundland shop after being told that they’re likely to lose their Jobseekers’ Allowance if they don’t do voluntary work.

A new leaflet from the Department for Work and Pensions includes private sector companies on a list of places people can volunteer. Heather Allen, manager of Volunteer Centre Dacorum, said:

“The voluntary work being done by these people is mainly stacking shelves. At best, that is work experience rather than volunteering. At worst, it is exploitation. When these unemployed people appear at our door, they are demotivated and they are volunteering only because they are afraid of losing their benefits.”

One of the businesses that actually benefited from the recession is now exploiting the unemployed.

Everything’s £1 at Poundland. Except the wages.

UPDATE: Poundland is now denying that it uses volunteers to stack shelves in its shops, but claim that it does take people on “unpaid mandatory work experience placements”. In a statement given to Third Sector the company claim:

We work in partnership with JobCentre Plus and other government-funded organisations to implement a comprehensive Work Placement Programme designed to provide on the job training for those looking to retail as a career opportunity,” the statement said. “A placement lasts for four to six weeks, and during this time jobseekers continue to receive benefits.

  1. Former Councillor Jenny Jones was asked last month about this and responded that Jobseekers benefit from some light work. “LIGHT work,” I gasped. Someone replied “It’s slave labour.” and Jenny said “Alright it’s slave labour.”
    The notion that these pseudo-third-sector business are helping Jobseekers get a foot in the door is a lie.

  2. As an unemployed worker myself this story does not surprise. “Work Trials” have been abused by employers ever since the Labour government introduced them. In my area a local factory owner used several unemployed workers on “Work Trials” as free temporary labour while moving premises. Local employment services were fully aware this employer offered no prospect of paid work for those forced onto the scheme.
    I would rather lose my benefits than work for free.

  3. My partner did volunteer work for the council. He was told that, as the council don’t normally use volunteers, it was assumed that he was paid and ‘notional earnings’ would be deducted from his benefits. End of volunteering, even though he’d been told that it might lead to a job. How does this fit in with that rule?

  4. Why is this a disgrace? there are a million junkie wasters out there sitting raking in benefits on JSA, disability (wrongly) and child benefits. Get them out there and make them work, even if it is for nothing. They’ll soon realise that it would be better to get a job.
    I started on one of these schemes and I stood out because I was willing to work, it was a route into training and employment for me. A friend of mine started one of these schemes not 4 weeks ago being unable to find a job because of lack of experience and today was offered a job because of the experience she received through this.
    Human rights laws are to protect abuse, no abuse is being done here. Lighten up sad sacks.

  5. Ross – why is it being a ”sad sack” to want fair treatment for people, even if they’re unemployed?
    Yes, there are a lot of scroungers on benefits, but there aren’t a lot of jobs about right now, simply due to cutbacks and Boy Cameron’s daft ”Big Society” ideas. This is slave labour, pure and simple. Have YOU ever been out of work Ross?

    Does anyone know if Poundland or its directors are Tory Donors?

  6. Did you actually read my post? in which I said that I WAS out of work?!? I was out of work for a year and a half and one of these schemes actually helped me back to work, as by that point I’d settled into unemployment…having no real qualifications or experience (through which -incidentally- I ended up working in teh job centre and had the pleasure of meeting many many many people who feel it’s their right to sit back and be paid by the government until they can figure out how to get on disability). I now have a degree and a very successful career which I credit a scheme much like this one where I had to work for nothing more than travel expenses.
    Fair treatment of people is a very general term which I’m sure is relative for you like it is for everyone else. If someone is unemployed and being paid by the government then why does that mean they get to do however much job search/voluntary work that they like?

  7. Ross, with respect I think you’re missing the point. Volunteering is something you do for the community, it’s a manifestation of altruism. Stacking shelves is a job. Jobs should pay. It really is that simple.

    I’m sorry you’ve had to suffer to get into work, but with respect I hope that no one has to go through what you’ve been through because getting paid ‘travel expenses’ and not a proper wage is entirely unfair.

    There are a lot of things you could do for no pay which would spruce up your CV that don’t involve working for free for a private sector corporation that recorded profits of £20m last year.

  8. You were on a scheme and you got a job- you must be one of the very few who did.

    At the moment, my daughter is in the process of leaving a job in the NHS which she hates. She’s had to leave without a job to go to as it’s causing her too much stress if she stays. She’s trying extremely hard to get a job as she’s qualified in secretarial/admin work but finding it very hard to find anything in her field which will pay her a decent wage.

    I’d like to see anyone tell her to go and work in Poundland for bugger all.

  9. Well see then your daughters problem isn’t that she can’t find a job, it’s that she can’t find the job she wants. If everyone waits for the job they want then no one will be working, I had to go through some crap jobs for the sake of my career, as did most people. As she has experience I’m sure she could find a job to tide her over just fine in a hundred other industries for a temporary pay cut. I doubt very much your daughter will be in a situation where the government decides she should do this, it’s aimed at the chronically unemployed.
    Matt I think you’re actually missing the point, they ARE being paid and HAVE been paid for doing absolutely nothing. The unemployed ARE getting money from the government, money that you, I and every other person who tried so hard to get work is ultimately paying for. It’s a major problem in this country that there are millions of people paying taxes for millions of people who refuse to do anything for the good of the country…and then defending their delicate sensibilities. We’ve gone soft in the head.

  10. Why do you direct your anger at people on benefits and qualified people who cannot find a job their skills deserve when over £100bn in tax was avoided last year by TNCs? Sometimes it’s better to look up rather than down.

  11. Who said I was angry? I’m only giving an opinion.
    However, it’s typical of someone without an argument to try change the subject. Yes I agree with you on the completely off topic debt. Are you saying we should let wasters be wasters because big companies aren’t paying tax? I know that the tax I work hard for and pay -or at least a good portion of it- is paying for the children of people who sit and play xBox all day.

  12. Ran out of arguments then have we? while we seem to be allowed to go off topic- perhaps before I head home for the night is that you are preaching in favour of human rights yes, yet aren’t you the same guy in support of a very questionable threat to human rights, the DNA database?

    …it scares me that you are the type of person who pursue politics Mr Labour.

  13. lol so the few English people I’ve seen working at Poundland amongst the sea of Poles are actually only on work experience. It’s worse than I thought.

  14. There are so many problems with this it’s difficult to know where to start.
    1. It’s exploitation, pure and simple.
    2. If the jobs exist, why not EMPLOY someone to do it – for a real wage ?
    3. Those who are out of work but actively looking for work don’t need to be forced to stack shelves – its also pretty hard to find a job while you are being forced to do something else.
    4. If its aimed at people who really don’t want to work it won’t work either. I’m pretty sure even the most committed layabout (if they exist), would make the effort for two short weeks, in order to be left alone.

  15. It’s nothing to do with Human Rights, Ross. And I apologise for inferring from your use of semantics that you’re angry, but it’s difficult not to. My point is that work should pay. Volunteering is, by definition, voluntary.

    ‘Mandatory work experience’ is akin to slave labour. Don’t work, don’t eat. What happened to the welfare state?

  16. Ross- I have no doubt that some ‘wasters’ exist.
    On a recent edition of Look North the reporter visited a ‘benefits family’ in Barnsley. The man, about 30 years old, hadn’t worked for 7 years, suffering from an unspecified ‘back problem’. He didn’t appear to have anything massively wrong with him- but even giving him the benefit of the doubt he could probably have done something non physical – he clearly didn’t want to.
    The wife, on the other hand ‘wanted to work’, but when challenged ‘why don’t you get a job then’ answered, with a straight face, that she couldn’t ‘because she had 2 kids and a dog’ to look after….. now surely thats why she SHOULD be working…..

    Even so, forcing either of these two to stack shelves for a month won’t put them back to work. They’ll do the bare minimum and then continue being ‘wasters’.

    This idea doesn’t solve anything, its a stunt that only benefits the business owners by providing them with slave labour.

  17. I agree with Ross. I have spent most of this year volunteering at Age UK, a pressure group and another company and it hasn’t done me any harm at all. I’m a student at the moment and my studies end in May and I’m finding it very difficult to find work.
    Quite frankly if someone offered me £50 a week to work then I would snatch their hand off. There’s no such thing as free money. If you want money you work for it. It’s about time people realise this. If you want to achieve you have to put some effort in. Jeremy Kyle isn’t going to climb out of the TV and offer you a job if your unemployed. So you have to get out there and find it yourself.

  18. So let me get this straight – our tax money is going to pay ‘wages’ for people to work for a private company who made £20million last year, meaning that private company needs to employ *fewer* paid staff in an already limited job market, while not shelling out so much as a penny for the people doing their work?? How is that not exploitation? How is that a valuable use of taxpayers money? I’m amazed how Matt or Ross can claim that this is a good idea, while simultaneously decrying wasting taxpayers money on benefits…??!!!

    If the argument is that there are jobs to be done and hence people shouldn’t be unemployed (it’s a limited argument, given that statistics show clearly that there are far fewer jobs than benefit claimants) then surely we should be arguing that people should be made to take paid employment or risk having their benefits stopped? Not that the welfare system should be paying out to feckless irresponsible private companies who would rather sponge off government money for their wage bills than employ people fairly and honestly for the work they need doing?

  19. Jenny Abbott says:

    Well said, Helen.
    Something I’ve always wondered about – if people recieve tax credits because they’re low paid, doesn’t this mean that the taxpayer is funding private companies?

  20. The key is in the word. If you are forced to do something, you are not volunteering.

    Ross, quite frankly, your argument is boring and unoriginal. It’s all too easy to point a finger and say that this country’s employment problems are being fuelled by the collective monster that is benefit claimants in the UK. A majority of the people who raise this age old argument have no actual basis for entering a debate, and wish only to appear informed and intelligent. You my friend, are neither.

    In reference to your accusation of JSA claimants figuring out how to get onto disability benefits; I actually laughed at this.
    The DLA (Disability Living Allowance) has the lowest fraud rate of any other benefit available (0.5% of claims are fraudulent( source: ONS, 2009). Why? Because it entails the claimant undergoing stringent character and medical tests, and can take up to six months to be approved. I suggest that you do some reading up on facts and figures before you continue to fill my screen with ill-conceived solutions to problems you know nothing about.

    I commend you for volunteering, and I am pleased that it all seems to have worked out for you (or so you say). However, You have failed to mention whether or not you were at risk of losing any benefit you may have been receiving at the time. Were you made redundant? Were you dismissed? If the answer is thse questions is no, and you were’nt at said risk, then I’m afraid your argument is completely blunted. I sincerely believe that you would be of a completely different mind, if you were placed in such a situation.

    What you must bear in mind, in order to be of any use to a reasoned, informed debate, is that a vast amount of people are claiming out-of-work benefits through no fault of their own. Job losses are part and parcel of a recession, and you are to be condemned for your harsh judgement of the ill fortunes of the honest workforce.

    I’d also like to inform you, as a Human Rights LLP, that I could get a case like this settled out of court in less than two weeks. Any half-brained defendant will know that their arguments would not stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. If any case of this nature actually made it to court, the government would lose. Badly. The law defines such activities as exploitive in nature, and would emphatically fail to find in favour of the DWP.

    There’s some information for you, boyo. This degree of yours must have been in textiles, or fine art, I’m guessing? You certainly don’t seem able to debate at the level of a serious professional degree, anyway.

  21. I can’t wait! I am unemployed – or semi employed/unemployed. I have so far managed avoid the work-trials because of the nature of my highly-skilled work and experience means that I am constantly working and not working.

    I just hope my constant employment-unemployment cycle carries on and I don’t have to be forced in unpaid labour against my will.

    I volunteer, but I doubt any work will be given that make my skill-levels nor my interests in conservation.

    This is slavery – and I am sure that we have laws against this type of thing.

  22. People volunteer for many reasons, sometimes purely altruistic, sometimes to help themselves advance in their chosen careers. I volunteered for 3 months in a third sector organisation to break the ‘no experience-no job’ cycle I was at the mercy of.

    My volunteering experience gave me valuable skills, training and contacts which helped me find work. I would argue that if a volunteering programme is offered to a benefit claimant, it must provide some skills and training that would help them get long term work.

    It might be useful to hear the experiences of claimants who had to volunteer at Poundland to see if their experiences made them more able to find work. This would better enable us to judge the scheme.

  23. private business has no business in interfering in the welfare system but thats what you get when you have a political elite who slavishly follow Clintonomics.

  24. Ross your taxes ?? well I’m unemployed but I have worked more often then not so no I ve paid my own taxes to cover me for tough times never had any sick leave for five years and worked like a blue collar mug when I was in employment so I owe you and every other working hypocrite a big fat 0! I’m unemployed and spend at least five hours a day looking for work. I have applied for 100000000 of jobs since first claiming in July last year I have had two interview and loads of assembly line responses from some bat winged old bat in many a HR department. Where are these so called unemployed people siting on their arse playing the x boxes where the evidence for your re has tabloid bile about the unemployed in genarel or are you just another Murdoch parrot. You are one of the lucky ones don’t try and fob everyone of that it was down to hard work alone that you got ahead when in realty these things have as much to do with luck ,background color etc all play apart in increasing ones chances in the job market.
    people like you do not mention the scroungers who are in paid employment chiefly in the public sector once they’ve passed there 12 month probation it becomes about cheating the system ,long sick term leave “oh my manager shouted at me sign me off doc on depression so I lie on my fat arse eating sweets and watch repeats of Diagnosis Murder etc while drawing a full time wage.”) , shirking your restorability at work( retail workers teachers job center staff and council bureaucrats (bull shitters) you know who you are. There are many employed scroungers happy to draw there wages despite not putting in a hard days work.
    Any way aren’t people entitled to play x box or chill out once they have spent sufficient hours each day looking for work? or maybe in your twisted world the unemployed should be kept on a life size hamster wheel while foot solders like you crack the whip and repeat the ill considered philosophies of the elite at news international and Downing Street.
    ha,ha,ha ha ha

  25. Whether while employed or unemployed, I have volunteered (alot – globally) over the years and it shocked me to the core the first time I came across this frankly dubious and fuzzy line….Volunteering in a for-profit organisation, is morally and ethically wrong on so many levels. But, so is almost everything that is being introduced to the UK right now.

  26. i think you are all missing the point because pounland are useing FREE staff they then cut the hours of the PAID STAFF so the only ones winning is POUNDLAND

  27. I think MattZarbs opinion on poundland is very sensible. It is interesting that the poorest people of Britain who take only 1.3% of the wealth of the country have to resort to this kind of philanthropy towards poundland and shop there also. The richest people of Britain take 31% of the wealth and I imagine they wouldn’t shop in poundland. An excellent book written by Robert Tressell – The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist – in 1900 sums up the big society. One would hope that we would have moved on from then over 100 years later, but still huge inequalities in the the distribution of wealth continue. Working for Poundland for free is just another example of this. Why do we allow it to happen? I should like to see our society have a more equal distribution of wealth like Denmark which has the lowest level of unemployment in Europe and far less social problems than Britain.

  28. I wouldn’t agree with mandatory free labour, it does sound a little too close to slavery. On the other hand, if the government were to set up mandatory schemes which did actually give people valuable skills and experience then I wouldn’t have a problem with those being mandatory.

    I do however agree with them when they said that if you’ve been out of work for a long time, then you’re not allowed to refuse a job offered to you just because you don’t like it. If the taxpayer is paying your benefits, you have no right to sit around simple because you can’t find the job you like when most people have to do jobs they don’t like at some point in their life.

  29. Article in todays Independent stating that Poundland is expanding into Europe – no doubt saving money by hiring slaves from JC +!

  30. I was on a scheme like this and ended up gettin a job in poundland, why do i see people on here complaining that a company is giving those on long term unemployment the chance to gain experience and a job? Sure alot of the people put on these schemes dont get a job from it but thats down to the individual not the company, I worked hard and showed id rather be working than on benefits and got the job others who were on placement with me would rather sit at home on benefits and do nothing.

    well done poundland for trying to sift through the pile on wasters and junkies to find those who want to work but have been unable to get any and giving them a hand back onto the job ladder, if you think work placements for the longterm unemployed is a waste then im sure your pleased with the huge benefit bill this country has.

    and just so you know i was unemployed for 6 months when i went on my work placement and iv been in employment ever since, slave labour? your joking right

  31. oh and the thing i see written alot is this

    “because pounland are useing FREE staff they then cut the hours of the PAID STAFF so the only ones winning is POUNDLAND”

    wrong those store i work in gets a few people on work placements every 4-5 months and usually only 2-3 people at a time, this doesnt affect the hours of the paid staff what so ever.

  32. If you are on benefits and for jobseekers then you are on it because you want to find a job. So if a company give you the opportunity to prove that you want to work then why wouldn’t you like this kind of scheme? in my own opinion i think that if you can’t find a job then you should do volunteer work, which doesn’t always mean working 24/7 but a few days a week so the rest you can look for a job. If you don’t turn up for the volunteer work and would normally get the sack for this then you should loose you’re job seekers allowance (unless there’s a reasonable excusse (sickness, someone close dieing)). People on benefits could see it that they are not getting paid for this work but in actual fact the government are paying them. You may dissagree with what i am saying, but if you don’t work what are you getting paid for? There are hundreds of people that would love the opportunity to prove to a company that they are a hard worker. If you refuse volunteer work you’re basically telling the government you don’t want a job and so you shouldn’t receive these benefits. But as said before this is only my opinion and everyone is entitled to have one.

  33. I have been on five of these schemes in total and I still have no job. I don’t mind doing this work if they would give me at least an Interview. They tell me at the start of the six weeks that there is no possibility of a job but if I don’t attend my Jobseekers Allowance will be stopped. People on Disability who say they are stressed never get sent on these schemes it’s pick on the unemployed again.

  34. Currently employed says:

    After completing training which resulted in qualifications – City & Guilds level 2 in Animal Care and NVQ Level 2 in Horse Care & Management, my granddaughter is now looking for paid work. She has also done unpaid voluntary work to gain experience prior to the NVQ 2 course. The latter qualification alone qualifies my granddaughter to work as a groom, stable hand etc. She is looking for work in the animal care sector, so the jobcentre have sent her to Poundland for two months to get unpaid work experience. Where is the sense in this? What is being used to keep shelves tidy in Poundland going to do to help her get the job that she wants? She is not long term unemployed, she has finished school and further education followed by training for specific work areas. I thought that jobcentres were there to help people find work, not to exploit them in order to get their name off the unemployed list. I have nothing against work experience, if it is going to be useful and offer a job at the end, but pushing someone into something that is totally alien to their qualifications and experience, that will do absolutely nothing to help them find that job, nor even offer them a job at the end of it is so ridiculous that it should be scrapped before the rot is allowed to set in. I read one similar post on another forum about a qualified teacher with years of experience who was returning to work and had been pushed into one of these ‘work experience’ places at Tesco. How is that supposed to get her back into her teaching job? Work experience is fine if it achieves the goal of getting the person into the right job, but the jobcentre staff need training in helping the person to find that right placement.

  35. ..././/..//..// says:

    This is absolutely disgusting.

    The Conservative Government does not care for the working class. The fact is that the majority of people in this country are poor and working class. It is scum like Jeremy Kyle, The Daily Mail and the Government who like to generalise all people who go on JSA as benefit frauds. Remember, not everyone on JSA is a benefit fraud. There are honest hard working individuals who have lost their jobs in this economy that go on JSA because they need the money to help their families out.

    The reality is that unemployment is increasing in this country and it will continue to get worse. The welfare system was designed to help the unemployed while they continue to look for work. But forcing someone to do these mandatory work programmes or otherwise lose your benefits, is not “voluntary” work. It is “slave labour.” The fact is that right wing politics is very evil. Politicians are nothing but a bunch of corrupt fat cats, who are only out to look after their own interests and the rich corporations, rather than the working class. Remember the expenses scandal? Remember the bail out plan? Remember the bankers continuing to get bonuses? Remember the HMRC tax scandal where small businesses had to pay whereas the banks like Goldman Sachs were allowed to evade it?

    I would not be surprised to find out that these corporations like Tescos and Poundland have paid a lot of money into the pockets of these corrupt politicians and beauracrats to implement such as facist right wing policy. Politicians get money + corporations getting free labour= win win situation. The losers=the unemployed public.

    The job centre are full of wretched snakes who do not appreciate what the good honest people are going through, but instead treat all JSA claimants as a bunch of criminals. These workers do not have any etiquette or friendly manners at all. Yes, there are a lot of scum benefit frauds out there, but when looking at the fact that there are over 2.5 million young people out of work where a large proportion are well educated individuals and people with work experience, you cannot say that they are all benefit frauds or want some form of handout because they do not want to work. This is what the Conservatives and right wing scums like to believe.

    It is times like these that we need to support each other in good ways, not like this though. This is absolutely ridiculous. I remember the Prime Minister saying that during these tough times, “we are all in this together.” What a goddamn hypocrite! These people can never understand what the majority of poor working class individuals are going through because people like George Osbourne and David Cameron have not earned anything the hard and honest way, but instead have been given and inherited million pound trust funds from Mummy and Daddy or have given big paid jobs through wealthy family connections, rather than having to give out a CV or sitting an assessment centre.

    This mandotory work program is an absolute scandal. If the Government wants people to work for companies like Tescos and Poundland, then give them a goddam pay cheque. The JSA is NOT a pay cheque. It was designed to help the unemployed through the contributions of the working tax payer who has earned a pay cheque by working, not by volunteering. There is a difference between working for Tescos and earing the minimum wage, and being forced to “volunteer” to work for Tescos.

    Instead of this crap, the Government should encourage the corporations to distribute their wealth to create more jobs. But then again, if using free labour can make millions of pounds more for these corporations and helping the government create a nation of slave labours with slavery being developed into a reality so that we can compete against China and India, then what hope do we have?

  36. People explioit the benefit system and think that they can lay back and relax all the time whilst our taxes pay for their living accomadation etc. I think this is a brilliant idea to help people become more motivated into work and can obtian new skills for free. I think that it is a brilliant idea so that those who can work and should be working arent completly abusing our benefit system

  37. i do volunteer work for silver service age concern and i am unemployed getting jsa i have been going to manchester every week to seetec which is a work programme the jobcentre have put me on to help me look for a job every week i go to sit at a computer and search for a job which i do religously every night for 4-5 hours at home then i go for a review every 4-6 weeks also with them, they told me this week that they are putting me in unpaid work doing homecare looking after elderly people in their own homes, the problem i have with this i have a fracture and arthritis in my spine, i dont drive and can not walk for long periods also i can not sit up straight as it is very painful to do so, i dont see the logic in taking me from one unpaid volunteer job to place me in an unpaid job. i have applied for many jobs and the things that go against me is i can not drive and i do not have any qualifications. the volunteer work i do is working in a charity shop they have put me on a course within their own company and when an nvq course comes up in retail they are also putting me on that, i have told seetec this and they still insist on putting me on the unpaid work. so what happens next ….. i am not volunteering, i can not do my coursework with them and i will also miss out on them putting me on nvq in retail which i would get a qualification for. so tell me where is the logic in that.

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