Workfare: challenging Urban Futures in Ilford

November 28, 2014

A couple of us from Haringey took a trip to the Urban Futures office in Ilford this morning. We were there to protest the use of the Community Work Program, talk to anyone attending Urban Futures who maybe on the scheme and to inform local people as to why we were there.

The receptionist/housekeeper didn’t seem to happy with our presence and tried in vain to remove us from the entrance, throwing one placard to one side whilst telling anyone entering the building not to take any of the leaflets we were offering. This tactic seemed to work in our favour as people passing were intrigued to know what was going on, lapping up the leaflets.

Inevitably the police were called and after illegally parking their vehicle approached us and asked why we were there. They both perused the leaflet before entering the building to find out what the problem was. When they emerged we were asked not to obstruct anyone entering the building which we weren’t, and to ensure we didn’t enter their private space. They retreated bidding us a good day.

It didn’t seem very busy although it was a main shopping street about 100 yards from the station, perhaps it was too early, 9.30 am. People were taking leaflets especially when there was a commotion and when the police turned up but not many wanted to stop and talk (it was cold).

We spoke to two youngsters who were on CCS training for the week before undertaking apprenticeships, they had no problem being there although they agreed that the CWP was wrong in principle. Two others said it was their first week at urban Futures but hadn’t been placed yet.

Another couple informed us that their son who has learning difficulties was placed in a call centre for two weeks, before the company decided he wasn’t up to the job. His benefit was then stopped and then reinstated three weeks later after they complained about his treatment and the unsuitability of his placement.

One woman told us that she has been assigned a placement in a local school for the last three months, where she does admin work. She was not happy about being exploited, working for nothing and went on to say there were 20 CWP people at the same school.

We felt it went ok, although it was pretty quiet and no-one from Urban Futures came down to challenge us. We are sure they knew we were there. If we went again a bigger presence at a different time may be better. The housekeeper didn’t seen that excited when we suggested we would see her again soon.

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