With the launch of the Scottish Government’s voluntary training scheme last week, it would be nice to think that workfare was a thing of the past, but, as usual, the DWP has another trick up its sleeve – and the Scottish reform isn’t as different as it could be either.
Of course it is a big and very welcome thing that the Scottish Training scheme, branded as Fair Start, is entirely voluntary, and non-sanctionable – and we played our part in arguing for this; but, while people will be free to come and go as they will, we can’t be too optimistic about the nature of the help they will receive. As we reported some time back, the people doing the training are generally from those very same companies who ran the DWP’s workfare contracts. Of course they may act differently if their clients are free to vote with their feet and walk out – we may yet be pleasantly surprised – but we can’t be too optimistic. Further, as the Herald has reported, contrary to earlier rhetoric, there is only limited involvement of charities specialising in helping those with disabilities.
And what about the DWP? Well, the Youth Obligation, which came in last April, stipulates that if you are between 18 and 21 and have been on Universal Credit for over 6 months you can be made to do training or work placements that could last up to 18 months! And if you refuse, that’s sanctionable.