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Posted in Candidates, Employers on Mar 13, 2012 by Richard Hayden

Of late there has been much debate over the governments’ workfare initiatives.  Whichever side of the line you find yourself on, it is an issue people rightly feel strongly about and in many cases vocal.

The term Workfare is most commonly used to refer to the Governments Work Experience initiatives.  The Work Experience scheme is aimed at anyone aged 16 – 24 who has been unemployed and claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) for a period of thirteen weeks or more.  A Work Experience placement can last between two and eight weeks and if you are eligible for the scheme you can find your own Work Placement.  This can give anyone who is young and unemployed the opportunity to get relevant experience in a working environment or industry that they may be unfamiliar with.

The real controversy arises if after nine months you find yourself unemployed and aged between 18 -24 or after twelve months of unemployment and aged 25 or over you may be asked to take part in the Work Programme.  Not to be confused with the Work Experience scheme.  The Work Programme is targeted at helping the long term unemployed gain work experience and stay in the ‘employment loop’.  Participants continue to receive their JSA in lieu of wages paid by the ‘employment provider’.  This has led to accusations that major employment providers are using participants of the Work Programme in a manner akin to ‘slave labour’ or to replace real vacancies.  Whilst some participants feel that they are being undervalued not everyone’s experience has been negative.   Some participants have found the experience beneficial and it has helped them to gain full time employment.

So is workfare worthwhile?

Being unemployed can be demotivating and lower your self-esteem.  Creating a vicious cycle in which it can seem impossible to break free.  A work experience placement can help to re-build confidence and in some cases add valuable experience to your CV.   However feeling undervalued or taken advantage of creates real animosity and a negative working environment for all concerned.

The real question is; If a Work Placement is to offer real benefit and value to all parties should it be mandatory and should JSA be received in lieu of wages?


We would like to hear your views on the points raised in this article, please feel free to leave a comment or email us directly at


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