A JOBSEEKER has told of his shock at being asked to work a 36-hour week in a care home in return for less than £75-a-week in benefits as part of a DWP “work experience” scheme.

David McGregor, 50, from Paisley, said he attended an interview in the hope of securing a job at a care home.

But he then discovered it involved having to go on a “work placement” of six weeks, where he was expected to work three 12-hour shifts a week in return for his Jobseeker’s Allowance payment of £73.10 a week.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) insists it is a voluntary scheme known as a “sector-based work academy”, which offers benefit recipients a chance to gain work experience with the possibility of a job at the end.

However McGregor, who has eight years’ experience working in the care sector, said he felt he was being “railroaded” into taking part in the scheme, which is taking place at Kyle Court and Hillside View Care Homes in Paisley.

A letter sent to him states in certain circumstances benefits may be stopped if the claimant, without good reason, does not “take the opportunity of a place on an employment programme or training scheme”.

McGregor said he refused to participate in the scheme as a matter of principle and that he was only promised a “one-to-one” interview at the end of the scheme.

He said: “I went on a people handling course for one day, then I was meant to start and do a 36-hour week for six weeks without any pay, apart from my unemployment money.

“I used to earn £110 a night for a 12-hour shift, but they are expecting me to do 36 hours for £73.10, it is absolutely shocking.

“You are looking after people who are vulnerable - such as taking them to the toilet.

"I have no qualms about the job, I did that job for years, but I want to be paid for it.

“They are saying it is six weeks probationary, but they could pay me – and at the end of that time if they don’t think I am fit to work there they can tell me to go somewhere else.”

He added: “They didn’t ask what days would suit you, it was basically you were to work to their rota.

“I don’t know how they can turn round and say it is completely voluntary.”

Sarah Glynn, of the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, said they were against the principle of anyone being made to work for their benefits.

“A lot of things are branded as work experience and they are not, they are free labour,” she said. “Do you need work experience stacking shelves? That is not work experience, that is exploitation.

“It is affecting the whole labour market as these are jobs that people should be paid for.

“Even if people have no qualifications and they have come straight from school, they shouldn’t be asked to work for nothing – if they are working they should be paid for it, it should just be a basic principle.”

Glynn said she had made a complaint to the Care Inspectorate over the scheme, which confirmed the issue had been raised and information was being carefully assessed.

The DWP said all participating claimants had to meet eligibility criteria including identification and disclosure checks, references and a successful application form and interview to ensure they were suitable for working with elderly and vulnerable people.

It confirmed that once participants agreed to take place in a DWP “sector-based work academy” they could risk being sanctioned if they failed to meet conditions. These can include a failure to meet “basic standards of good behaviour”, according to the letter sent to McGregor.

The letter also states that if claimants are offered a job they must accept it in most cases, or their benefits may be affected.

The DWP added that to date, the Jobcentre had not had anyone sanctioned from this sector-based work academy.

A spokesman for HC-One, which runs both care homes, said delivering the “kindest and most professional care” to residents was its top priority.

He said: “All participants volunteer to join the scheme, and receive training through our multi-award winning e-learning programme. They are supervised by a mentor at all times, and assist with basic care tasks.

“At the end of the scheme participants are interviewed for job vacancies at the home, and to date we have made permanent job offers to all participants who have completed the scheme.

“All JSA volunteers go through our robust recruitment process, which includes risk assessments and Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG).

“We are proud to support jobseekers in the local communities around our homes, empowering them back into employment through mentoring and training opportunities.”