The DWP asks a woman to work unpaid on a campaign to boost paid work for women

Esther McVey Holyrood Committee 16 April 2018
Stefan Schmid

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has found itself in hot water once again after asking a woman to work for free. Ironically, it was for a campaign specifically focused on getting woman into paid work.

Freelance creative producer and writer Amber Massie-Blomfield exposed the government department in a brutal takedown on Twitter. The scathing open email has now been shared online thousands of times.


As the Mirror reports, the Her Way campaign at the DWP is designed to “empower” women into paid work. The campaign also claims to showcase “routes into employment”. But the DWP told the freelance writer it couldn’t pay contributors, and the work should only take up “a few hours” time.

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The campaign headed up by the DWP states that women are “often caught up in conflicting messages about their work”.

“Brilliant Smackdown”

In the open letter response to the DWP, Massie-Blomfield laid bare the hypocrisy of the government department. The freelancer wrote:

You particularly asked me to share my insights on how to go freelance. I am willing to share one piece of advice you may wish to pass on: Some people will take you for a mug. Don’t let them.

You can have that one pro bono.

Many social media users were quick to back the freelance writer. One praised her “brilliant smackdown” of the department:

While another suggested this behaviour was something they had come to expect of the DWP:

DWP Response

Responding to questions about the situation, a DWP spokesperson said:

We are working on a campaign to encourage girls and women to consider diverse career opportunities through sharing stories from real life role models.

We are not asking people to work for free. If people want to get involved voluntarily we are providing all the support needed to tell their story.

In an interview with the Big Issue, Massie-Blomfield confirmed she wouldn’t be taking the matter any further. She said:

I felt confident enough to turn around and call them out on that unacceptable practice but I do wonder how many other people starting out in their careers, others in more pressing circumstances would feel able to respond like I have.

The writer has rightly received widespread praise for her decision to publicly challenge the DWP. It’s crucial people continue to expose the working practises of the controversial government department, however unlikely it might be that the DWP will learn from its mistakes.

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