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