Unemployed graduate Cait Reilly lost her high court claim against the government work placement scheme yesterday (6th August 2012).

Reilly claimed that her unpaid work placement at Poundland was enforced slave labour and therefore in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Following the bad press at the start of the year some companies, such as Tesco, refused to take part in the work experience scheme for fear of being branded unethical or promoting slave labour.

The government finally breathed a sigh of relief yesterday, as the judge ruled that the placement was not a human rights violation.

Scheme Opinion

Bristol MP Kerry McCarthy spoke on the topic in the Big Issue:

“If a sub-contacted charity is trying to put people through an NVQ and wants to get people work experience, then another company can see the chance to use them for work without paying them,” she says.

“The charity ticks its box… and the company gets cheap labour.  But for the people on the programme, are they actually getting decent training? Are they getting decent opportunities? If people are working and the company can afford to pay them, why not put the hand in the pocket and actually pay them? There’s very little scrutiny about quality here.”

Former boss of M&S Sir Stuart Rose is one of the leading figures that has spoken in favour of the scheme, as well as leading politicians and other business figures.

The answer?

With unemployment figures for the period March-May 2012 showing 1.02 million 16-24 year olds are out of work, on balance it is probably better to be learning new skills and meeting new contacts.  Nothing will discourage young people seeking work more than sitting at home reading another rejection letter, with no other focus.

What do you think?

Emma Hughes

http://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/

http://money.aol.co.uk/2012/02/28/should-the-government-scrap-its-work-experience-scheme/

http://www.parliament.uk/topics/Unemployment.htm

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  • Hi Emma

    Of all the acronyms in the English language the one I dislike most is “NEET”. Approximately one in four 16-20 year olds are Not in Education, Employment or Training. In economic terms they’re doing nothing. Many of them are desperately trying to find something gainful to do with their time and many of them would doubtless agree with your good advice about seeking new skills and contacts. I don’t believe young British people do themselves or this country any credit, though, when they bandy about terms such as “slave labour” or “human rights violation” in connection with an eight hour supermarket shift that they’d prefer not to do. In years to come I think Cait Reilly will look back on her public “stand” with shame, particularly if she visits any of the dozens of countries where young people have to contend with genuine slave labour and human rights violations every day of their lives.

  • Thanks for your comments David. I think you’re right that some people in this country need a bit of a reality check and a bit of perspective.

    I think Cait’s main complaint was that the Job Centre did not make it clear enough that she did not in fact need to carry out the work placement in order to receive her benefits. So I guess she wants something for nothing. Good luck to her I say.

  • Richard Crampton

    Some interesting comments and opinions on this, and I think David you are spot on when you say that the language that Cait used is not doing the reputation of the “youth of today” as workshy any good at all. Normally, I would advocate any attempt to provide young people with work experience as a good thing, but this particular case made me uneasy for a couple of reasons:

    Cait wasn’t just sitting around at home doing nothing – she wanted a career as a museum curator and was already engaged in unpaid voluntary work experience in a museum. So what actually happened was she was removed from a placement relevant to her future career aspirations and placed on one which would not improve her skills or chances of gaining employment in her sector, only to satisfy the narrow requirements the jobcentre had set out for receiving JSA.

    In a nutshell, the placement she was doing wasn’t for one of the large companies that had signed up for the Government scheme, so she was forced to change and work for Poundland. This makes it look simply as if the Government is agreeing to provide big business with a stream of free labour, at the expense of smaller businesses, the voluntary sector and young people alike. How many of these young people do the likes of Tesco and Poundland actually take on for paid employment at the end of the scheme? I suspect not many.

    At the end of the day, if there is sufficient work for these people within these companies, and they are capable of the work, actually employing these young people and paying them a wage would do much more to counter unemployment than this scheme.

  • Richard you make a very good point. I do agree that each case should be assessed on individual merits rather than forcing all job seekers to go on these arranged placements. As Cait had already found herself a relevant placement, it would have made more sense for her and the government to get the Museum to sign up to the scheme so that she could continue with them.

    However I can testify to the fact that it is not only the big companies who have signed up to the initiative as Wolfestone has actually volunteered to provide work experience to 16-24 year olds via this scheme. I will be making sure that any job seekers we take on have not already arranged their own placements that may be more beneficial to them! I think the government does need to make more of an effort to publicise the scheme to smaller employers who are probably not aware of how they can help.