In the current low growth-high-unemployment economic climate, it will not shock anyone that the mainly private Work Programme (WP) providers are seeking to drive down costs and transfer risk. What may come as a surprise, however, is the way some providers are going about this: by asking voluntary organisations to do their work for them, for free.
According to Volunteering England (VE) a number of volunteer centres across England report that long term unemployed people are being covertly referred to them by WP providers. The bulk of these referrals involve individuals being sent informally to centres to help them become "job ready". The hope is that volunteering will give them confidence and "work experience" and make them more attractive to potential employers.
No-one is questioning the value of volunteering in this respect: the problems arise over why the clients are being referred, who pays, and who benefits.