Lord Prescott attacks 'exploitation' of unemployed young people

 

Lord Prescott has attacked the “exploitation” of unemployed young people encouraged to take on unpaid voluntary work in the hope of getting a permanent job.

The former deputy prime minister hit out at “mafia-like” contracts where young people were effectively offered work they cannot refuse.

A “massive pool of cheap labour is going to be exploited”, he said, suggesting that this extended to fire marshalling work during the London Olympics.

Lord Prescott spoke out in a Lords debate on the voluntary sector and social enterprises after a row erupted earlier this month over claims that jobseekers were bussed into London to work as unpaid stewards for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

At the time the Labour peer demanded a government investigation into reports that they were left stranded in the night and forced to sleep in the cold under London Bridge.

He now told peers that “dangers” were beginning to develop, with voluntary labour being brought into the commercial sector, governed by contract.

There were “real problems” with a big pool of people being asked to do so-called voluntary work under mandatory government schemes.

“It's all about contracts and sub-contract work. It's no longer coming along and working voluntarily in the community.”

For many young people, “it's almost like the mafia-kind of contract: I'm going to offer you a contract you can't refuse”.

Lord Prescott said: “If more and more people are put into this situation, and you are hoping to get from welfare to work, we shouldn't just exploit this situation by saying it is unpaid.”

Big companies were getting millions of pounds to get young people into work, and the motivation becomes profit rather than public service.

He said unemployed people were now to be offered the job of fire marshals at the Olympics, adding: “I get worried about that.”

Opening the debate, Liberal Democrat Baroness Scott of Needham Market urged ministers to "nurture" the "enormous contribution" made by the voluntary sector and social enterprises.

Every year more than 20 million people across the UK volunteer for work covering millions of hours and equivalent to £40 billion to the economy, she said.

Lady Scott also raised concerns about making voluntary work a conditional part of receiving benefits, insisting: "The idea of enforced volunteering is anathema to most of the voluntary sector."

Baroness Byford (C) said that even before the current period of austerity, the sector had been facing difficulties with not enough new young volunteers coming forward to replace those leaving.

But she said the Diamond Jubilee celebrations had shown young people how "uplifting" the work could be and urged ministers to tackle "stumbling blocks" to volunteering, like CRB checks.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Application Support Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company has a fantastic opportunity for a...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - OTE £150,000

£60000 - £150000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you looking to take your ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Exciting career prospect for ...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935