Myth #1: The unemployed are lazy so they need to be forced to work - if they tried, they could get jobs

In reality, the vast majority of the unemployed can't get work, because there's no work for them to go to!  There are now more than 2.6 million unemployed people in the UK, chasing around 450,000 jobs. The unemployment total is at its highest in nearly 20 years and will rise even further because of the government's austerity programme.

Unemployment is not caused by the individual failings of the unemployed, but by capitalism. It will always be profitable for bosses to make sure there is a pool of desperate people they can use to make their workers fear for their jobs and accept lower wages and worse conditions; and it will always be in the interests of workers to unite with the unemployed to stop this.

Myth #2: Workfare placements lead to full time work

There is no evidence showing that workfare placements tend to lead to full time jobs.  A study by the DWP into workfare in the USA, Canada and Australia found that workfare 'can even reduce  employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers'. The same study also found that workfare is particularly ineffective at leading to work during periods of high unemployment. 

Myth #3: Workfare is necessary to save money in the recession

Workfare doesn't save money, and it predates the recession. Workfare does nothing at all to reduce the costs of welfare - the only people to gain from it are bosses who rake in free labour to bolster their profits. If there's work that needs doing, why shouldn't companies pay the people who do it? Millions of pounds are paid out to private companies, and people on workfare are still paid their benefits by the state. The employers making greatest use of workfare are hugely profitable companies like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Primark and Poundland.

Tesco reported half-yearly profits of £1.9bn in the first part of 2011, while receiving a gift of 3,000 free workers from the government. Directors of the FTSE 100 companies have seen their pay rocket up by 49% in 2011, and the 1,000 richest people in the UK pocketed another £60bn for their enormous fortunes, but the rest of us are told that we need to make sacrifices.  The government would rather hammer ordinary people with austerity than see their own class pay a penny.

Myth 4: Workfare is a 'Tory policy'

Workfare was introduced under Labour with the New Deal in 1998, which became the Flexible New Deal in 2009. The Tories are now expanding it with a range of workfare programmes. Labour, Tories and Liberals alike are all implicated in workfare. Workfare is an attack by the ruling class on the working class (including the unemployed). By definition, whichever party is in power is part of the ruling class, so it's no surprise they all back workfare.

Myth #5: I’ve already got a job, so this doesn’t affect me

Workfare provides bosses with a powerful tool to push down wages and worsen terms & conditions, because they are given free labour.  In New York, where workfare was introduced in the late 90s, many local government workers were simply sacked and their positions filled by those on workfare, who did not receive a wage and were not entitled to sickness pay, holidays, or any other rights. The same number of people did the same work, but received far less. If the drive to workfare is not stopped, every boss in the UK will be free to follow suit.

Adapted from a leaflet by the Brighton Benefits Campaign.