The Work Programme is having more placements withdrawn by charities as they add sick and disabled people on benefits to the scheme.
People with disabilities and with long term illness could now be forced to work indefinitely for their out-of-work benefits, as a result of new government rules.
The Work Programme is the workfare scheme which offers “tailored support” to people who have been out of work for a long time.
Those who fail to co-operate with the periods of work experience arranged for them could have their benefits cut, and adding people receiving Employment and Support Allowance to this has brought anger and criticisms.
Charities such as Age UK, the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK have already stopped offering mandatory placements in their shops, and now Scope has also been added to the list of withdrawals.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said:
We have always been very conscious of concerns about mandatory work experience.
The news that ESA claimants, often out-of-work disabled people who need specialist support to get back into work, are now being included in the scheme, has forced us to once again review our involvement.
These moves do not feel like they have been designed around what disabled people need to find work. Added to that, we also have concerns about the test that disabled people go through to establish how fit they are for work.
Labour's Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, says that including ESA claimants shows that the programme is failing:
The Work Programme was specifically designed to incentivise providers to assist those furthest from the work place, but the appalling performance for ESA ex-incapacity claimants demonstrates how this experiment simply is not working.
Between June 2011 and July 2012, of the some 9,500 ex-incapacity claimants referred to providers, I am astonished that only 20 people have been placed in a job that has lasted three months.
The work programme has also received criticism this week for taking advantage of local charities and unemployed people.
Following the governments progress report, Joe Irvin, chief executive of the local infrastructure body NAVCA, has called on the government to undertake an urgent review of the Work Programme:
The paper acknowledges difficulties with the Work Programme for civil society organisations. We believe urgent action is needed to stop some of the large companies who are prime contractors from abusing local charities and short- changing unemployed people.