Many of the UK's largest charities have been named on a list of providers of mandatory work activity, or workfare, released by the Department for Work and Pensions after a four year legal battle.
The 534 organisations named are those who were using the government’s mandatory work activity scheme, in 2011-12. The programme is one of several 'workfare' schemes in which benefit claimants are required to work for free. The MWA scheme itself has now concluded.
Charities featured on the list include Age UK, Barnardo's, Cancer Research UK, the National Trust, and Oxfam. The list also includes councils and corporates such as Tesco, Nandos and Asda.
Many of the organisations featured in the list have already stopped taking part in all workfare schemes.
The information has been released following a Freedom of Information request submitted to the DWP by Boycott Workfare member Frank Zola in 2012.
The DWP had resisted an order from the Information Commissioner’s Office to publish the names of all charities and businesses that provide these mandatory work-experience placements.
The ICO had ruled in 2012 that the names should be released but DWP appealed, arguing in legal documents leaked to The Guardian that publishing the list would render the programme unworkable because of likely protests against the organisations involved.
The case was taken to the First Tier Tribunal, then the Upper Tribunal, then to the Court of Appeal.
Writing on Boycott Workfare’s own website, Zola said of the participation of charities in MWA schemes: “Why, for instance, should the myriad of charity shops on our high streets, often within the most deprived communities, be free to pursue their grubby commercial interests via a DWP guaranteed supply of forced unpaid workfare conscripts?
“These Janus faced hypocrites so often claim to be relieving poverty, whilst they are actually responsible for causing destitution and despair by facilitating cruel benefit sanctions for anyone who refuses to comply with workfare. The communities they claim to serve are the very ones they exploit, workfare conscripts are so often actually engaged in making money for many of these abusers to pay their staff wages.”
Read the full list here.