Sue Ryder has withdrawn from the government’s mandatory work activity scheme with a “heavy heart” after protestors hijacked its Facebook page and took to Twitter to condemn the charity for its involvement in unpaid work experience schemes.
In a statement released yesterday afternoon, Sue Ryder said recent online lobbying using “strong and emotive” language had presented a risk to the charity’s work.
“We have taken the decision to withdraw from the DWP’s mandatory back-to-work schemes,” the statement continued. “We do this with a heavy heart as our volunteers, including those on placements, regularly tell us how much they have benefited from their time with us and we are immensely grateful to them for their time and dedication. We will undertake a phased withdrawal from the scheme so as not to financially disadvantage any of our volunteers on this type of placement.
Using the Twitter hashtag #shameonsue, a number of people had attacked Sue Ryder for taking on people on benefits to do unpaid work in their charity shops as part of the government’s mandatory work activity.
People also voiced their opposition to Sue Ryder on its Facebook page, with a number of people vowing to boycott its shop in protest.
Many have criticized the government’s unpaid work experience schemes, which mandate people to work for free or lose their benefits, as forced labour.
But organisations involved in the schemes, including up to now Sue Ryder, have argued that they give people valuable experience to gain employment.
The online protest against Sue Ryder started after campaign group Boycott Workfare urged the public to get involved in an “online rolling picket” of Sue Ryder.
A spokeswoman from the campaign group said it decided to start the protest after Sue Ryder released a statement which it said illustrated its willingness to be involved in a scheme “which forces the disabled and sick” to work for free.
The statement, which Sue Ryder released in response to a recent High Court judgment on the Department for Work and Pension's back-to-work schemes, addressed why the charity was involved in such schemes.
A Boycott Workfare spokeswoman told civilsociety.co.uk that the online protest would continue until they made it “impossible for Sue Ryder to carry on”.
Boycott Workfare is planning a day of protest against charities involved in mandatory work activity in March. Previous protests by the group have included the occupying of charity shops and leafleting outside charities.
Elsewhere, PDSA last week also stepped away from mandatory work activity. A statement on its website says: “PDSA has reviewed its position regarding the government work placement programme and has taken the decision not to participate in the scheme going forward.”