Statement From the Archbishop of York on Government Workfare Plans

26/11/2013

The Archbishop's statement on the proposed Government's workfare plans on 26 Nov 2013:

As Chair of the Living Wage Commission I have made clear for some time my view that people should be paid a living wage for a fair day's work.

I have spoken about this on numerous occasions - most recently at the General Synod of the Church of England. I have also written about it, and recently I tweeted a link to my column in The Sun on Sunday from February 2012 where I wrote:

"My heart sank this week when I heard of the Government's "Workfare" plans encouraging young people to take on unpaid placements in companies, with no guarantee of permanent posts, by apparently threatening to cut their benefits.

We can encourage people to volunteer, but a worker should be worthy of their wages.

What we need is a culture where young people not only want to work, but where their work is valued, meaningful and contributes to the national good.

By all means pay companies incentives to employ young people, but do not take advantage of the vulnerable by using them as free labour. In this day and age, a Living Wage shouldn't be an optional extra, it should be seen a basic necessity".

Recently some people have questioned whether I still hold that view given that I hold the honorary role of President of the YMCA. 

I am proud to be linked with the YMCA who work with some of the most disadvantaged young people in local communities, providing a place to stay and a range of support services to help young people manage the transition to independence.

The YMCA is the largest provider of supported housing for young people in England, providing over 9000 beds every night.  Every year the YMCA intensively supports nearly 215,000 young people and serves over 530 communities across the country.

The YMCA states it will always seek to support a young person  holistically, whether it be through providing support programmes for those in their residential  accommodation, or by providing access to counselling and training to those who come along to local youth clubs. The YMCA supports nearly 24,000 people every year to engage in education, skills and training to enable them to improve their opportunities in the job market.

The YMCA has received some criticism for providing placements for those on benefits via the Government’s work programme. I believe the YMCA has engaged with those who take a different view and have presented a case which suggests some parts of the Workfare programme can assist young people from a holistic perspective. Whilst I remain to be convinced on parts of the case put forward by the YMCA on this policy, I do not believe their decision detracts from the remarkable and invaluable work they carry out each day in support of the most disadvantaged young people in our country.

I am proud to be President of this inspiring and marvellous organisation. I may not agree with every policy decision they take but that does not diminish the incredible work they do which makes a real difference in the lives of young people.