‘Workhouse’ deal is signed between council and charity

Workhouse: A former bus depot in Blackburn which is set to become a workhouse for up to 10 inmates.

Workhouse: A former bus depot in Blackburn which seems set to become a workhouse for up to 10 inmates.

Yes, you read the headline correctly. As originally reported on this blog in November last year, a former bus depot in Blackburn seems set to become the first new workhouse the UK has seen since before the Second World War.

Amazingly, Labour-controlled Blackburn with Darwen Council has approved in principle the sale and conversion of the Transdev/Lancashire United garage in Manner Sutton Street in Eanam on the edge of Blackburn town.

SENIOR councillors have approved the framework of a deal to transform a semi-derelict former bus depot into a charity and recycling centre.

Under the scheme, up to 10 otherwise homeless people would live at the site under supervision.

A charity calling itself Recycling Lives would run the site as a recycling centre for metal, scrap cars, tyres, plastics, televisions and redundant household items.

The claim is that money raised from selling these items would provide the homeless and others on the margins of society with training, education, work experience and employment.

The dictionary definition of ‘workhouse’ is “a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment”. Doesn’t that description fit the proposed new use of the Blackburn bus depot?

Several questions arise. Firstly: What kind of training and education? Will it be any good to the people getting it?

We can work out for ourselves the kind of work experience and employment it would provide, but this leads to another question: What kind of remuneration would the otherwise-homeless inmates of this workhouse receive?

If it’s just bed-and-board, then we’re looking at a very cynical plan to exploit some of the most vulnerable people in British society.

This writer hopes to see evidence that the Blackburn Workhouse will be paying the Living Wage (the real version, not the Conservative Government’s fake), from which only the cost of a room for the night – a cheap room – is removed. Alongside useful education and training, anybody living and working there might actually get a chance to rebuild their lives.

I expect to be disappointed.

Source: Former Blackburn bus depot ‘will house homeless’ (From Lancashire Telegraph

UPDATE October 29, 2015: Council finance chief to investigate ‘workhouse’ scheme

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96 thoughts on “‘Workhouse’ deal is signed between council and charity

  1. Joanna

    Mike I am really happy to see your comment on the article, no-one even saw what you saw, I also would hate to think what the “supervision” would be. Unless they are supervised during working hours, then all other supervision would be like having a prison guard, with the assumption that all homeless are criminals and deserving of no respect!
    If it is to run by a private firm then the potential for abuse is enormous!

    1. A-Brightfuture

      Joanna you are right.
      Only “inmates” are to be under supervision.
      Welcome back to the world of “Institutions. ”

      Give it another 5 years and they will be filled with immigrants with nowhere to go, and MH “patients” that the NHS have abandoned because of cuts in funding.

  2. Helen

    I feel sick and very annoyed. I have always supported Labour, however I’ve been disappointed with them for a number of years until Jeremy Corbyn became leader. This “workhouse” proves again why I was disappointed. I would very much like Jeremy Corbyn to become involved in this matter to either prevent this happening if the poor and vulnerable are going to be exploited or to monitor the situation to ensure not one person is exploited. At the moment I would like to give the Labour Council involved the benefit of the doubt. Time will tell.

  3. jamesakirkcaldy

    Yes, I am currently looking at Bradford Council and the employing of people who are mentally challenged to work in a variety of positions. The problem is despite being of similar productive worth it looks like they were paid under the minimum wage. As the Council voted to implement the living wage for all Council employees except, apparently, for the aforementioned ‘class’ of ‘workers’, I feel it is like saying they are sub human and not worthy of the minimum wage.

      1. jamesakirkcaldy

        Yes, there was an article in the local rag on the Glass house closing down and where the status of the two people with learning difficulties (downs in one case) as sub human labour resource was not cited and brushed over. However, we know about it because we have insiders within the council and ‘Parks and Services’ which was the department under which said two individuals worked.

    1. Christopher Bonney

      This has been common practice with many Councils. Now a Retired Social Worker, I have seen many examples of people with a ‘Learning Disability’ formerly known as “Mentally Handicapped”, have worked for little or no pay whatsoever. I fought against it throughout my career.

  4. The Porcelain Doll

    Getting my pills ready to off myself when the time comes, this is ridiculous now. They are going to have a debtors prison soon and have children working.

    I’m fed up with this, we need to get together and get the Tories out of parliament now!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Please don’t offer the Tories the satisfaction of being able to add your name to the list of suicides for which they will not be accountable. It’s much better to stay alive – that really annoys them.
      I’ve deleted all the profanities from this comment, by the way. Please do NOT swear on this site – you will put people off.

      1. Maria

        Mike’s right you don’t do yourself in, it’s a waste of a good life. You’re worth more than the Tories, don’t listen to anything else, they will try to make you feel like rubbish, it’s one of their tricks and I should know.

      2. Joanna

        I get what you are saying Mike, So everyone should live with intolerable suffering, which is not living, it is barely existing, just to prove a point? We can’t fight or do anything about it so what is the point, they have already won!!! Many times over!!!

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        That is not what I am saying at all. Your attitude is defeatist. There’s no guarantee that ‘they’ will stay on top forever and the situation is likely to change immediately after ‘they’ lose power – but nobody will benefit from that change if they have already killed themselves, and the taking of their own life will help to ensure that the change doesn’t happen because it’s one less person to vote against ‘them’ and one more opportunity for ‘them’ to say the death was nothing to do with ‘them’; the deceased was wholly responsible for the death (which would also be untrue).
        I take it by ‘they’ you mean the Conservatives?

      4. Joanna

        I do apologise Mike I am one person who has fallen through every safety net in life, therefore I don’t possess much in the way of hope. By 2020 we will all have gone through 10 years of Hell!!!!

    2. Phill Evans

      You are right, Porcelain Doll, we need to get together and show these fools how little we need them. We cant do that if you are dead, though, so please, no overdoses OK?

    3. jean lynch

      As soon as people realise were the one’s all in it together, the bottom 90% the sooner civil disobedience will happen! Don’t get disillusioned get angry fight back, England and Ireland united for the same cause !!!! Time for no confidence in the Tory boy’s.

  5. The Porcelain Doll

    So is this there alternative to the factories they closed for people with disabilities.

    It’s sick they feel that they can treat them like that, I worry for my cousin who is autistic and my cousin who has severe autism.

    1. Moira

      There used to be a couple of homeless shelters in Aberdeen The lodging house on East North Street was the oldest one A large Victorian building just off the Castlegate but inevitably it was closed and turned into apartments for people who could afford to purchase Don’t know what happened to the regular residents The Cyrenians also provided desperate people with nowhere to go a bed for the night But these kind of places are not ideal and the powers that be should be working together to ensure that they are not necessary It is a basic need and right to have adequate shelter but profit and greed come before any needs of the many homeless and less fortunate!

  6. Jeffery Davies

    Pd put those tabs down the pan you have a life to live without giving cams and co a homerun by topping yourself please fight this aktion t4 plan they have for those who cant work unemployed homeless now all seem to be cattle for their use nay pd stay and fight otherwise you giving them another one bites the dust jeff3

  7. hilary772013

    Wow Mike I am originally from Darwen & have relatives that still live in Darwen & Blackburn, I will see what I can find out about the workhouse, if as you say that is what it potentially is but it doesn’t bode well.

  8. Bookworm

    All the signs are pointing that workhouses will be the ultimate solution to housing/jobs/benefit cuts dressed up a bit to fool the public. If this is supported by Labour! then we have just slammed the door on any progress Corbyn has made.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It has been supported by a Labour-dominated council. That’s not saying it’s Labour policy because I don’t think it is. I think these councillors haven’t realised what they’ve supported.

      1. Tim Blades

        Hi Mike, It’s sad but true that these Lab Councillors don’t grasp what they’ve signed up to. Given there are not that many initiatives to try to get vulnerable/homeless people back on their feet, this Council may have done appalling damage for anyone else trying to establish projects. As the public assumption will be ‘oh another workhouse opening’.

  9. Richard Paine

    Charities already exist that exploit the unemployed. Trick the general public into donating free goods and services. Albeit, no accommodation provided for workers. Free labour, and free goods..

  10. hilary772013

    Mike this is the Charity based in Preston that is leasing the site.

    The Recycling Lives charity acts as a safety net for vulnerable and marginalised people. We offer accommodation, education, training and work experience to homeless and long-term unemployed individuals, with the aim of helping them back into full-time work and finding them a place to call their own.

    Our charity work is supported by the successful commercial activities of Recycling Lives Ltd, a Queen’s Award-winning recycler and waste management solutions provider.

    September 17, 2015

    We are pleased to announce that Recycling Lives are opening a new FareShare centre!

    FareShare is a national food charity, helping to provide nutritious meals to disadvantaged people throughout the UK. They collect surplus food from manufacturers and supermarkets, which would have gone to waste, and distribute it to charities or community organisations. These charity partners include homeless shelters, school breakfast clubs, day centres and hospices, which create healthy, nourishing meals for marginalised or vulnerable people. Last year, 158,000 people benefitted from FareShare food every week, with 2,029 charities receiving enough food to make 16.2 million meals.

    This essential service provides a unique solution to the issues of food waste and poverty. Currently, 5.8 million people in the UK live in ‘deep poverty’, unable to afford essentials such as food (Joseph Rowntree Foundation), whilst 3.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food and drink industry every year. The North West has one of the highest rates of poverty and deprivation in the UK, which we have seen first-hand working with homeless people in our area. A shocking 70% of long-term homeless people show medical signs of malnutrition.

    Recycling Lives will be opening FareShare Lancashire and Cumbria in October 2015, providing food for charities across the two counties. The centre will be based in Preston, which is where we are initially looking for charity partners, before expanding to serve the whole of Lancashire and Cumbria

  11. hilary772013

    Mike they have a 25 million turnover Doesn’t sound good does it??

    Recycling Lives Limited, formerly Recycling Co Ltd and Preston Recycling Ltd, is a British recycling and waste management company headquartered in Preston, Lancashire.[1] It has over 200 employees and £25 million turnover.[2] The company founded a social welfare charity, Recycling Lives Charity, and is committed to undertaking only commercial ventures with a demonstrable charity or community benefit.[3]

    Recycling Lives Limited was founded by entrepreneur and current chief executive Steven Jackson, OBE, who was recognised for his services to employment and the community in Lancashire in the 2013 New Year Honours list.[4]

    1. Teresa Parry

      These massive companies really worry me. I think they are started with the idea of making money from poverty and Gov. schemes. I cannot see how an altruistic model could grow to such high turnover. Someone just wants to live high on the profits.

  12. NMac

    Forward to the 19th century. It’s not for nothing that Tories seem to delight in using the phrase “Victorian Values”.

  13. wildswimmerpete

    @The Porcelain Doll
    “I’m fed up with this, we need to get together and get the Tories out of parliament now!” Given the season, on 5th November we need a modern Guy Fawkes this time armed with a 1-kiloton tactical nuclear device.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I don’t think it would be wise to obliterate most of the metropolitan area and irradiate the rest.

    2. Joanna

      You do know that the whole guy fawkes thing was a set up from start to finish don’t you? King James was crap and he needed to look good!!!!

  14. Maria

    I too knew they were trying to bring the workhouse back, now I am waiting for them to say. ‘Look at all these children, doing nothing all day and scrounging off the state, they should be working for their child benefit,’ then their vision of going back to Victorian ways will be complete. I wonder though whether people will have the choice to go to the workhouse like they did in Victorian times, or will it now be mandatory?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      If the choice is between the workhouse and dying on the street, it’s not really a choice at all.

      1. Maria

        I don’t know Mike, really I don’t when you have been looking for work as long as I have, you start to consider which of the two is the more bearable, It is physical pain vs. pyshological pain. Sometimes pyshological pain can be worse than physical pain, I believe you have more dignity living on the streets than you do seeking help from the DWP these days.

  15. John D Turner

    Say hello to the ‘workhouses’ of the Foyer Federation (http://foyer.net/). Projects like this one have been around for decades. The Federation was founded in 1992.

    A workhouse was a public institution in which the destitute of a parish received board and lodging in return for work. How is this variation on the foyer model a workhouse?

    What are your proposals to address the issues this project addresses? Incidentally, Corbyn signed up to Labour’s Job Guarantee back in March this year. Does that make him a Blairite?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’ve just visited the Foyer Federation website – what a lot of corporatespeak! One wonders why they can’t set out their stall in plain English and what they’re trying to hide!
      A workhouse, as explained in the article, is simply “a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment”, so yes – it seem the Foyer Federation operates workhouses. In mitigation, it seems the Foyer model actually works to particular targets in order to demonstrate a positive effect on the people passing through its doors. Do you see that in the Blackburn model?
      Why should I have any proposals to address these issues? I have raised concerns about it – that should be enough to encourage people with direct involvement to address them.
      What does your comment about Corbyn have to do with any of this (and no – it doesn’t make him a Blairite)?

      1. John D Turner

        I expect Corbyn will be invited to visit projects like this one. Like any committed socialist, he believes in hand ups and not hand outs hence his support for Labour’s Job Guarantee.

        I am no supporter of IDS and his welfare ‘reforms’. However, unlike you it seems, I do have a good idea what works. Moreover, I think welfare to work should be jobseeker centred. Jobseekers should have a big say in the design and delivery of the programmes designed to help them into work. Do you? You seem very quick, on behalf of the homeless of Blackburn, to condemn this project. Have you been up there and held some focus groups amongst the likely beneficiaries? Ditto for your informed take on foyers.

        Have you ever thought of getting out from behind your keyboard and asking what the homeless want from a project like this? I have. I also have decades of experience working in this area and I see nothing fundamentally wrong with a project of this type. I have no problem with partnerships between the public, private and voluntary and community sector. Partnerships along the line of those that were set up to deliver New Deal for Young People and New Deal for Lone Parents.

        Seemingly, only the ideologues of the Right and the Left object to projects like this one. The Right think they should be funded by charitable donations not the taxpayer whilst you also object to them being funded by the taxpayer without suggesting any alternative method of funding and/or delivery. And, yes, Mike, I think you should do more than do what journalists do, come up with some ideas of your own rather than smugly sitting on the sidelines offering ‘informed’ criticism. It is people like you that get Labour a bad name amongst community activists. They resent people telling them what they should want.

        I suspect the project has been set up on the basis that the residents will at least receive help with their rent and Council Tax. Moreover, they may be receiving start up support from a range of public, private and voluntary and community sector sources. The big issue will be creating revenue streams going forward to maintain the project. I assume that is the idea behind Recycling Lives (http://www.recyclinglives.com/) taking space within the converted building.

        Where is there any suggestion that people will be compelled to take part in, say, the recycling? As for the supervision, I would be surprised if there were no 24/7 supervision, support if you prefer, in a project working with homeless people. People, who often, though not always, have chaotic lifestyles and present with multiple problems, some of which affect their employability. Just the lack of a fixed abode may make the difference between being asked in for a job interview or not.

        I know it may come as a surprise to you that “people with direct involvement” in this project, possibly even potential beneficiaries may have designed the project along the lines to which you object. By the way, I have rarely come across a media report of projects like this one that was completely accurate either by accident or by design. Hence the low opinion that I have about journalists as a result of years of personal experience.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        I spend a great deal of time away from my keyboard, John – and if you want to be personal, I could ask if you ever get down from your high horse.
        You say you have a good idea of what works. Knowing a little about your background, this may be accurate – but do you know everything about what’s going on here? I think not. If you think projects like this should be jobseeker-centred, in the way you describe, please demonstrate to me the evidence you have that anyone involved in this project will have a “big say” in the design and delivery of it. No, you “suspect” the project will be this, you say it “may” do that and go on to “assume” the behaviour of the commercial company running it. You criticise my opinions yet yours have as much foundation.
        I’m not objecting to this project being funded by the taxpayer; I’m questioning whether the people taking part will be treated in the way they deserve, receiving fair remuneration for the work they’ll be doing. Please tell me why that is such a deplorable thing to do.

  16. [email protected]

    Mochdre recycle centre in Conwy got rid of employees tp put NACRO workers in they took an inch now here comes the mile but these jobs and a roof over their heads are being created and not took a decent workers job from under their noses

      1. [email protected]

        ask the same question to the people who do the sewers , clean toilets and wipe peoples bottoms ,binmen etc its a job they choose to do or possibly be unemployed and someone has to do it

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        It’s also a job for which they are paid a wage. It might not be a living wage, but that’s a separate argument. What will the inmates at this facility get?

  17. amnesiaclinic

    This is a very worrying development and needs people in Blackburn to get on to the council themselves and get involved so that this becomes a project that offers a real Living wage and support and not the abuse, torture and indignity that was the norm of many workhouses.
    Please arm yourself with reading Jennifer Worth’s heartbreaking memoir ‘Children of the Workhouse’ and the tales of suffering and horror in her midwife series.
    This was only 70 years ago but unbelievable in the heartbreak and suffering caused and we need to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

  18. Teresa Parry

    There is a lot of recycling going on in Blackburn, which I think is a good idea.

    For example; Cycle Roots take old bicycles, fix them or strip for parts, then sell cheap. They use volunteers, unemployed and skills are gained from this. I know a young man with Learning difficulties who works there and it occupies him for a day instead of sitting playing games because no one will employ him.
    This is just one example, there are furniture, books, clothes, white goods, all recycled and sold cheap to the many people in this deprived area who could not afford them otherwise.
    The other plus to these enterprises is that we are saving on waste disposal by re-using items, we live in a ‘throw away world’ polluting and using up valuable resources.

    This Centre will also give 10 homeless people a place to sleep, not a bad thing. People want to do something worthwhile, work with their hands and the finished product can provide something for people on the breadline.

    What I don’t agree with;
    These CIC’s & Charities are running these schemes for their own benefit. I’m sure if they weren’t, some enterprising volunteers would build them into a business creating jobs & paying wages because there is a lot of scope in this town for cheap items.

    Also, the schemes are used for ‘Workfare’ which is just slave labour.

    When I was employed as a Supervisor in one outlet (didn’t last long) we talked about starting up our own business. There is just not the will though to take on a venture in this financial climate.

    I thought I disagreed with you when I started to write but now I am on the fence!
    But for the immediate future, some poor people will have a roof and something to build their self esteem.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The question is, will it build their self-esteem and help them get a foothold in society again?

      1. Teresa Parry

        In the first instance it will, but, once they realise that their hard work will not bring them any rewards, not even considered as experience for private companies, then, no.
        Think I’ve argued myself off the fence ha ha

  19. shaun

    Mike while I was a part-time lecturer at university this sort of scheme was being talked about as a solution for the homelessness problem. Most of those involved would be classed as from the ‘New Labour’ element, but with a tendency towards the Puritanical. If my memory serves me well, and if it is that’s unusual, the schemes derive from a French system know as Foyers(?). You are right to be sceptical as there is plenty of room within this system for exploitation and for more damage to be done to individual’s self-esteem than good. It’s that unquestioned belief in the ability of markets to provide solutions in all cases and at all times if the right mechanism can be found. Octavia Hill is the often quoted hero of this group – tough love delivered by ‘well meaning’ self-made men and women, where the market is emperor and the individual apt to moral deficiencies, unlike them who fought and struggled to make it in life. With friends like that it’s hard to differentiate friends from enemies, no wonder the working-class do not which way to turn. So let’s hope Corbyn can get his message delivered.


  20. Richard Paine

    Charity registration requires something like 10% of turnover donated for charitable use. It’s a con. It’s possible to open a high street charity shop, donating 10% to a given charity. Nice little earner. Labour and goods donated free, with reduction in council tax.

  21. susan bond

    Typical left wing,anti government propaganda. Once you look at the facts and not the spin you quickly realise this is a positive initiative.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I certainly hope you’re right.
      It would be remiss of me not to raise concerns where I have them, though.

    2. heather groves

      Totally agree with you Susan – the author has called it a workhouse because it suits his self publication agenda. There are no ‘facts’ in this report, just assumptions… Get the facts before you shoot down an organisation that is trying to help the people that you ‘pretend’ to be supporting… As a matter of fact I called the charity. They DO NOT charge for accommodation… Makes my blood boil!

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        What’s my “self publication agenda” when it’s at home?
        I have no agenda here other than to raise legitimate concerns – concerns which have now been taken up by the councillor responsible for finance at Blackburn with Darwen council.
        The report is factual, but thank you for the information about whether the council charges for accommodation or not; we’ll wait for a press release from Recycling Lives to that effect for confirmation.

  22. aliw40

    I have a further question about this scheme – with the Victorian workhouses, in order to qualify for assistance from them, the conditions had to be worse outside the workhouse for the person applying than it was inside the workhouse.

    What, I wonder, would be the criteria for this new breed of workhouse?

  23. Alan Blake Feik

    Re cycling lives has been going in Preston for quite some time ,they help people get back on their feet .They employ these people in their scrap yards and pay them proper wages ,they also have work shops and offices and have encouraged once homeless people to start their own small businesses .Its a decent and genuine scheme .

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      This is a different scheme, running in a different way. Can you assure us that the people living and working on-site will get proper wages, and can you explain exactly what you mean by ‘proper’?

      1. heather groves

        Are you certain that they will not!! When you have the FACTS and if they are as you suspect – THEN you can write about it. But you have no facts.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        I’ll write about what I want, thank you very much.
        Enough information was available to raise concerns.
        If more information would prove those concerns groundless, why wasn’t it already available?

  24. Loopys lament

    Every effort that gives employment, accomodation, food and companionship is to be commended and I am sure the scheme will be monitred improved and the experiane will provide information to other councils , liitle surprised at all the negative comments

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The negative comments are because many of us have a perfectly natural fear that the current government’s policies are designed to push people into an underclass that can then be exploited with the creation of new workhouses. Workhouses were a blight on this country from the moment the first one opened to the moment the last one closed. It is important to those of us with a strong conscience that nothing resembling a workhouse should open here again.
      Does that help?

  25. Robert

    I just want to say that unfortunately being a charity means very little these days. Some are just a scam to create various business opportunities for cronies and some tiny social benefit acts as a fig leaf covering all of this while much bigger profits are made.

    Some of the people who earn a fulltime wage working for charities have the idea that other people (including professionals) should work for free just because of the word “charity.”

  26. Lee

    I work with offenders in the community, many of which are homeless, battling addiction and can see no way out of their situation.

    This sounds similar to what Emmaus have been doing although they use charity shop outlets, I have to say I think it’s an amazing alternative to parking Homeless People in “Supported Accommodation” or leaving them on the streets, it’s easy to make assumptions on this type of project and if it was a private profit making company doing it then yes I’d agree it could be exploitative, but rather than make a judgement on it why not ask some homeless people what they think and give it a chance. When we talk of proper wages, what is a proper wage for someone with no work experience? For someone who is given a chance to turn their life around with an organisation that is not only giving them a roof over their head but also food, training and education.. If I was homeless and wanted to change I would see this kind of opportunity as being priceless and really wouldn’t be too bothered about how much I got paid, as long as it was helping me move on. Unfortunately it’s through people turning projects like this into an opportunity to “Tory Bash” even though a Labour Council signed it off, that stop things like this working, you’ve doomed it from the get go. I really would suggest doing homework on an organisation before trying destroying them in the media.

    If you had taken the time to look at their website prior to writing this article you would have found all your answers there for example: You will be given £40.00 per week plus accommodation at the charity with all meals provided for FREE. In addition, you will be given relevant training and work related qualifications to the value of £1500.00, if you complete all the Six Stage process.

    Having looked at what they get paid, how much is invested in training, plus accommodation, bills, not including that all food is provided, each 6 month placement will cost around £8k, £3k will be covered by housing benefit so Recycling lives will be investing roughly £5k per person who stays for the minimum 6 months. These are rough figures based on what rent would be in a one bed flat.

    Compare this with Supported Accommodation the rent is approx £7,150 for the same period, with no training provided, very little support is offered and the resident has to pay between £10 and £25 per week from their benefit to pay for bills etc and there is no hope of a better future at the end of it and no food provided, the alternative to this is their own tenancy, which few if any know how to sustain, or simply to stay homeless.

    Personally I think there is enough evidence to say this isn’t a “Work House” but a genuine opportunity for some very unfortunate people to turn their lives around and should not be used a some political pawn. I’ll be very interested to see opinions on this again in 6 months and hope that Mike will write a more positive article if he’s proven to be wrong..

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You give yourself away when you ask “what is a proper wage for someone with no work experience?”
      A proper wage is one one which a person can live, of course (and we all know there are precious few of those being paid in the UK at the moment)!
      Your bias is clear from the “Tory Bash” comment. Look, a Tory government has created the conditions that have made this a possibility, so of course people are going to attack the Tories for it. The fact that a Labour council signed it off is rapidly becoming a secondary consideration as it seems the implications raised by this article were not fully understood at the time.
      Yes, yes, you’ve looked at the website. While the inmates are getting all the stuff you mention, what is Recycling Lives getting? Apparently this charity does admit the possibility of farming off inmates to other organisations, with wages being paid – not to the people doing the work, but to Recycling Lives. That might seem fair to you, judging from what you say here, but it isn’t.
      There is evidence for both sides of the argument. Until I see absolute proof that this isn’t a workhouse – and remember, the definition of workhouse is in the article and this facility fits it – then I think my fears about this project, along with those of everybody else who has sent them in, are valid.

  27. Lee

    Just what I thought, a completely biased and blinkered anti-tory journalist.. I have equal levels of like and dislike for most political parties as personally I think they all shaft us, just in slightly different ways, other than than mentioning Tory bashing is there any other pro Tory statement? No, you have proven my point, you are just using this to have a pop at a Tory Government, who by the way, didn’t create this situation, a bankrupt country/economy is what created this situation, the Tory’s are just getting us out of it in the way they see best, some of which I agree with, others I firmly don’t. Same with Labour, some of what they say I agree with, some I firmly don’t.

    Politics out the way..

    Inmate: a person who is confined to an institution such as a prison or hospital. How does supervising a person class them as an inmate? As far as I understand they are all free to leave whenever they choose. Therefore not an inmate. Also I’m sure if they said “We’re going to leave 10 homeless people here to fend for themselves with no supervision” you’d write about how this charity has abandoned them, stating it’s further evidence of exploitation.

    Workhouse: (formerly in England) an institution maintained at public expense where able-bodied paupers did unpaid work in return for food and accommodation. They will be paid and given free training and education, therefore not a workhouse. Oh and it’s not paid for out of the public purse.

    You’ve picked two words that are most likely to get a reaction by people trapped in the 70s/80’s. Since I wrote my last comment I have asked 4 of my service users what they think, their reaction….Please could you refer me…My response… No sorry, some guy is trying to stop it opening…Their response… Not printable..

    Instead of thinking about political point scoring just put yourself in the shoes of a homeless person who is trying to turn his/her life around and see what you would think then..

    There is no evidence from your side at all, it’s if buts and maybes, no proof what so ever, you ask what do Recycle lives get? Hmmm they get a sustainable project which is what they were commended for by the Queen, a project that doesn’t reply purely on charitable funds that are not guaranteed to be renewed, which means secure jobs for staff, secure opportunities for service users (inmates as you’d like to call them), a long term sustainable project that benefits staff, service users and the local community that isn’t being propped up by much needed charitable funds and is using money from profit making companies to stay afloat by placing service users that have been that well trained they are now attractive to other employers who may well offer them a permanent work placement, whilst still accommodating and feeding them… What a dreadful scheme…If we look hard enough at most things you can find enough negative nonsense to write about.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions about your response, but I must ask:
      Are you unhappy because I am “anti-Tory”, or are you unhappy because I raised concerns about this project?
      Note: I’m not trying to stop it opening – simply raising concerns, which the council in question is considering seriously – and your suggestion that I am says much about your own bias. Please do not tell lies about this site to other people. The article states very clearly that I would like to see evidence that this project is as laudable as you want me to believe.
      The “put yourself in the position of the homeless person” argument has been used before but is not a useful argument because, essentially, when a person is absolutely desperate for a way out, they’ll accept any rubbish that’s shoved in their direction if it’s been made to look plausible.
      Bear in mind also that Recycling Lives is a company with a turnover of £25 million.

      1. Lee

        I don’t care about your political stance, I’m unhappy that you are using this for political point scoring, if Labour were in government would you still have an issue? Would you still have written this article?

        You say you’re not trying to stop it opening but you are making unsubstantiated claims against the organisation to serve your purpose which will no doubt lead to a delay and will mean the people you say you’re concerned about being on the street for longer.

        So I looked up about their turnover and their full accounts are on companies house, nothing untoward there except payments to new reg limited, I looked them up, I have to admit that did make me uncomfortable, debts to the directors of new reg, which is profit making, however it is all on companies house, fully audited accounts for both companies are there for all to see, they’ve not been done by a small firm either, it’s KPMG,

        I think you are underselling homeless people massively, they do have their own minds, often very bright ones and can choose if this is something for them or not.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Yes, of course I would still have written the article if Labour were in government. The chances of this happening under a Labour government are debatable, though.
        I am not making unsubstantiated claims; I am asking reasonable questions. Those questions have been put to the council concerned (although not by me) and are being taken seriously by them, so one has to wonder why you are so keen to attack this – especially now that you have uncovered information that is giving you cause for thought.

    2. Maria

      Lee, what are they going to be paid with is it free accommodation and food parcels? An apprentice wage? a minimum wage? a living wage? If it is a charity, how much will be spent on homelessness and paying and housing homeless people compared to how much will go to the management, in their own pockets? Then you have to ask yourself, that even when homeless people receive training, is it going to be compatible with potential employers. Is it the kind of training in a skilled job that will level the playing field to employment? or is it basic training for basic unskilled jobs that won’t present much advantage into gaining employment. Will it really present homeless people with much needed opportunities or is it likely to lead to them putting in a lot of effort and work but achieving little more than nothing in exchange? What is the nature of this accommodation, if it is on-site in a recycling centre? Is it going to be hygienic? Is it going to be safe?

      Schemes like this don’t make people attractive to employers to take on and give them a decent wage, they are made to be attractive to employers to be exploited by businesses at the expense of the tax payer who pays their benefits when they will be promoted from this system into the system of workfare.

      People need paid work, then they can enjoy the benefits the rest of society has, then they can feel a part of society, they can holiday pay and sick pay and all those rights. Otherwise they are no more than slaves.

      1. Lee

        I don’t know all the answers, I’m just not assuming it will be negative due to some political bias and labeling it a “workhouse” and it’s service users “inmates”, I’m saying allow someone the chance to do some good, if it turns out to be a “workhouse” and that people are held captive like “inmates” then absolutely close it down. Until then how about having an open mind about something that may well just do a lot of good.

      2. Lee

        That said, the answers do appear to be in the public domain for those with enough time to find them before writing an article like this which puts a negative outlook on something before it’s even started.

      3. Lee

        What is a living wage when all your food, rent, council tax and other house hold bills are paid for? As far as I know the living wage is based on having to pay these things out of your income?

        I’ve had service users who have worked in this kind of project, what it did was get them used to routine, of getting up everyday and going to work, used to being told what to do by a boss who you can’t threaten to knock out when he tells you stop doing something, it gives you increased self esteem, confidence, lots of things that will make someone more work ready, besides money, they get a reference from an employer, experience, has anyone ever tried to find a job for someone who is 35 and never worked a day in their life? I have, it’s impossible, these schemes give them that, it gives you a chance of gaining employment that otherwise you wouldn’t have, how would you begin to get a job when you’re homeless and could you keep it if you did? So yes, it’s more compatible with employers than what these people currently offer any would-be employer.

        All I read here is potential negatives, no potential positives from this.. It’s sad.

        Oh and by the way, I’ve had service users gain full time, paid employment with proper wages from working in places like this, like the Mustard Tree, like Emmaus.

        Also statistically you’re 27% more likely to get a job if you have volunteering on your cv.

        Just because one national charity has done bad stuff not all of them will, they’re not all Kids Co, although I’m sure there are others like them.

      4. Maria

        ‘What is a living wage when all your food, rent, council tax and other house hold bills are paid for? As far as I know the living wage is based on having to pay these things out of your income?’

        You miss the point Lee it is better that you receive a wage than have everything paid for you, it gives you more self esteem, more confidence and a place in society, but when you are on these schemes you feel as if your a no good waster, doesn’t deserve holidays doesn’t deserve sick pay, pays nothing in taxes, doesn’t deserve anything. You have work for a short time it makes you feel great, but after all this experience and your one of the many that doesn’t get a job for a very long time, you try hard, you do everything and still get no job, it actually makes you feel worthless, your confidence goes, your self esteem is worse than if you had never worked. every rejection you take build s up like straw on a donkeys back, in the end these schemes destroy you, they waste your time and they don’t help you reach your life goals, like being promoted into a better job, having a family, having money to pursue life long hobbies, having money to have a social life. And I know this because I’ve done it all before long ago, not as an homeless person though, but as someone who left school and for a long time wanted to gain employment. This kind of thing long- term or short-term, if it does not gain you employment, it makes you mentally frustrated, it makes you mentally ill, if you let it. I’m just lucky to be strong of mind. People need jobs, and if their are no jobs, people need to be left alone to find their own way of becoming productive in society, they can only do that with all the resources they need, and most people in society are actively productive even if they are not always economically productive.

        There are a lot of employers that will exploit this vulnerability and use people in awful ways. People must always be respected and if people do work they should be paid for it, in a way that complies with the law. Unless people actually volunteer, not be forced to forgo benefits or charity if they don’t, that isn’t voluntary.

  28. Neilth

    Workhouses were generally regarded as charities supporting the ‘feckless’ whereas the debtors prisons were there to ‘punish’ those who couldn’t pay their bills including their taxes to the municipality etc. In reality both workhouses and debtors prisons were used as a means of controlling what was seen as an underclass that were inconvenient and surplus to requirements. The ‘great and the good’ could sit on the boards and dole out a minimum support for ‘work’. The work was often mindless and difficult and even pointless like treadmills or picking oakum ( an early recycling).

    We don’t need a return to Victorian Values thank you.

  29. Lee

    If you’re not making unsubstantiated claims how come you have labelled something that isn’t open a “workhouse” for “inmates”, surely it would need to be open, with inmates onsite to substantiate your claim?

    As for it not happening under Labour.. Didn’t you say your Labour Council approved it?

    Why am I attacking this? I think it’s unfair at this stage to label it in the way you have in this article, if it turns out that you’re right I’ll be first in the queue to congratulate on your work as I agree it would be unacceptable, but I’m sure it must have been through a full planning process where local people would be able to oppose it? Clearly not enough did or it wouldn’t have been approved? Also, as I work with this client group I would like to see as many opportunities available for them as possible without being exploited, my views are based on that alone and nothing to do with politics, I’ve no bias towards any party at all.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      As far as I can tell, a workhouse is what it is. The ‘inmates’ label follows on from that. I covered this back in November last year, so I consider this to be quite a late stage in the process.
      You must learn the difference between a local council and the national government. Also the difference between the council in question and my local council, which has nothing to do with it.
      Regarding the planning process, opposition is a part of the process, as are regulations. The operative question here is whether the council approves of the change of use, though, and that depends on the treatment of the people who would work there.

  30. peter

    This is nothing new during the sixtys seventies and eightys whe had places called department of health and social security reception centers known to use rhat used them as spikes they were run by staff from rhe department of health and social security at first in a very strict way later they were to become department of health and social security resettlement centers but maggie closed them or dold them of they were all over the country from.as far up as glasgow and as far down as southampton

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      There’s no such thing as Red Tory, and only 24 per cent of voters in the whole of the UK voted Tory, so it seems your comment is factually inaccurate and your opinion should be revised.

  31. A Grumpy_Old_Man (@Hairyloon)

    I was discussing this with a friend today, and we mooted the question of what is the difference between a workhouse and a commune?
    The only real answer we found was in who writes the rules under which it operates.
    If those rules are fair, then why should there be any problem?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Clearly you didn’t have a dictionary near at hand, then.
      Commune: A community with shared possessions and responsibilities.
      Workhouse: An institution in which poor people were given food and accommodation in return for unpaid work.
      In the former, shared ownership is key – including shared ownership of profits derived from the work carried out there. In the latter, exploitation is the main attribute – with the poor doing the work and the profits going to the owner.

      1. A Grumpy_Old_Man (@Hairyloon)

        I am terribly sorry, I missed the word “functional” out of my definition: what is the functional difference between a commune and a workhouse?
        The former is a place where people live and work for the benefit of the house, whereas the latter is a place where people live and work for the benefit of the house.

        But your answer fails because you have given an example of how many workhouses used to be rather than a definition of what a workhouse actually is.

        Your definition of commune is a bit wide: the United Kingdom is a community, we share things like the BBC, the NHS and the roads; and we share responsibilities, for example by paying taxes.
        Does that mean that the United Kingdom is a commune?
        That’s a rhetorical question, but do have a think about it: we may come back to that…

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        It’s been a long time since I read such mealy-mouthed nonsense. You didn’t like the answer so you think you can retrospectively change the question? Tough. Your change doesn’t mean a thing because the answer is the same: In a commune, the profits are shared between the participants; in a workhouse, they are taken away by somebody else.
        My definition of a commune is a dictionary definition. If you don’t like it, tough (again). We weren’t discussing a community; a commune is a very specific thing.
        From what you’re saying here, I don’t think you’re genuine.

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