Please read the following article and Blog your views on the government's decision to drop the controvercial

Ministers drop work experience scheme sanctions Employment Minister Chris Grayling said the changes had not been made because of criticism

Ministers have dropped the threat of sanctions for unemployed youngsters on a controversial work experience scheme.

It follows a meeting with dozens of firms with concerns, after criticism it amounted to "unpaid forced labour".

Some employers had pulled out of the scheme - in which 16- to 24-year-olds on jobseeker's allowance do up to eight weeks' unpaid work but keep benefits.

It is voluntary but those who dropped out after the first week risked having their benefits docked for a fortnight.

The government says that only 220 cases out of 34,200 people taking part between January and the end of November 2011 were sanctioned, and mostly for misconduct, not for dropping out.

But following Wednesday's meeting with firms and charities, it said that rule would be dropped - although sanctions would still apply in cases of gross misconduct.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said it would help companies but insisted that critics were "completely misguided".

Critics say the scheme amounted to "unpaid forced labour" for many young unemployed people and the Right to Work campaign group had led protests - including a sit-in at a Tesco store.

'Trotskyites' The work experience programme is one of a range of placement schemes run under the government's "Get Britain Working" policy.

It allows unemployed youngsters to accept short-term work experience placements, which were unpaid but could include travel or childcare expenses, and keep their benefits.

But those who dropped out of the scheme after a probationary period of one week could have had their benefits docked for two weeks.

During Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron said 200 small- and medium-sized companies had expressed an interest in joining the scheme in recent days.

Continue reading the main story “Start Quote People volunteer to do it and we have a queue of kids desperate to do it”

End Quote Iain Duncan Smith Work and Pensions Secretary He urged firms to "stand up against the Trotskyites" protesting against it.

And Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said protesters were "completely out of touch" and the scheme was "brilliant", adding: "People volunteer to do it and we have a queue of kids desperate to do it."

Chief executive of Barnardo's Anne Marie Carrie, who was at the meeting on Wednesday, told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "We discussed frankly what has gone wrong in public perception about this scheme.

"Work experience is a vital lifeline for some of the most disadvantaged young people in this country. They've been failed by the education system, they've been failed by the care system and they cannot easily find employment in this tough climate."

'Free labour' She said she was "delighted" at the news that the sanctions would be dropped as she was worried that they could threaten the future of the scheme.

SWP's Michael Bradley on Tesco and McDonald's work experience protests

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said he welcomed the government's "climbdown" on the issue - and making clear that work experience was voluntary would help safeguard against it being used for "free labour for employers".

And John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said short work experience placements were a "critical" part of finding a job for thousands of youngsters: "The biggest sanction anyone could face is losing the opportunity to gain experience in the world of work, and this announcement will ensure businesses continue to have the confidence to offer these opportunities."

But Mark Dunk, an activist from the Right to Work campaign, said it was "one battle won but the wider fight goes on".

"Forced unpaid work still continues in the form of the mandatory work activity and community activity programme... There should not be any young person anywhere forced to work for no pay. Everyone on any training scheme should receive minimum wage or above."

Burger King, bookshop Waterstones and electrical retailer Maplin have left the scheme, while Sainsbury's says individual stores which took part are no longer doing so, as it is not company policy.

Tesco says it will start to pay those on work experience and guarantee a job when placements go well, and baker Greggs says it does not want people to lose benefits if they fail to complete their placements.

Fashion chain Matalan has suspended its involvement pending a review.

For Labour, shadow employment minister Stephen Timms said he backed the theory behind the scheme - but said there was a "complete muddle about whether this is a voluntary scheme or not because job centres are telling people it's compulsory".

In a separate development, Boots has stopped some of its stores participating in a different scheme - the government's flagship work programme - aimed at helping the long-term unemployed find jobs. Some stores had been approached locally to provide placements but would no longer be doing so, it said.

Boots said under the terms of the scheme people could lose benefits if they refused to join or did not fully comply, which was in breach of its company policy never to participate in schemes which compel people to work.

3/3/2012 09:36:17 pm

Edward Hardy
3/4/2012 01:38:17 am

Personally I agree with the work experience scheme, I feel that it offers free labour to firms and gives those on job seekers allowance, a chance to gain skills, that will help them get back into the labour market. I believe that this scheme should be compulsory for all those on job seekers allowance, as it will help to put an end to hysteresis by teaching the unskilled workers skills that they can apply to jobs in the current labour market. As for firms who believe that it is “forced unpaid labour” I believe that they are ether being naïve or using “human Rights” as a front so that they do not have to let unskilled inexperienced labours work within there firm.

Noah D'Aeth
3/4/2012 02:14:43 am

With regards to the work experience scheme I believe in its sound in economic principle. Allowing the unemployed to contribute to the economy whilst giving them experience, which could lead to future careers, is a bonus for the government. As such the scheme helps to combat the dangerous economic problems of hysteresis and youth unemployment. However I believe the scheme should be voluntary, as it could perhaps lead to larger firms using the unpaid labour to undermine the position of their paid staff, when free labour is readily available to them. As such I believe the workers placement should be a mix of 2-3 weeks training and work in a larger firm, and then spending the rest of the 8 weeks in a smaller firm in the community to help it grow. This thus allows for the unemployed to still gain skills for employment, whilst avoiding the potential issue of providing firms with large turnovers free labour.

Reece Gohil
3/4/2012 04:42:00 pm

I believe the work experience scheme, could be beneficial to firms and employees. This is because the firms are provided with free labour, allowing them to decrease their costs. Also the people recieving benefits are provided with work experience, allowing to be more qualified. This increases therer chances of being employed after this shceme. However the firms could take advantage of this scheme and not employ full time workers, and take on volunatary workers. This would lead to a decrerase in quality form the firms, and a decrease in the taxes provided to the government.

Oli Spence
3/4/2012 04:42:51 pm

I personally agree with eds first point as it is good to give free labour to people who aren;'t as skilled or who are lacking the skills with new technology and that it gives good new experience for people who are seeking job seekers allowance as this allows them to become more employable as they have the required skills of the basic level within a company/firm. However, this scheme can be a disadvantage to the government as well because as these unskilled unemployed people get free labour the government will miss out on getting taxes from these people and as well still be paying benefits so they are giving labour out for free with no return, but in the long term this all may rectify itself as they may get employed and obviously will tsrat paying taxes.


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    March 2012