Advertisement - Content continues below
Employment

The DWP asked a freelancer to work for free on a female employment campaign

The Department for Work and Pensions is on the hunt for freelance contributors who can help ‘redefine the conversation’ around employment opportunities for women. But it doesn’t appear to want to actually pay them

Promises of “exposure” won’t pay the bills. But time and time again, freelancers from across the creative industries are being asked to work for free. A survey by the Association for Independent Professionals in conjunction with The Freelancer Club last year found that freelancers in the creative industries are estimated to lose £5,394 each a year, many of them exchanging their hard-earned skills simply for exposure, or a chance of building their portfolio in an increasingly competitive industry.

So it was rather ironic this week when freelance writer and creative arts producer Amber Massie-Blomfield was asked by The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the very organisation responsible for welfare policy, to get involved in an employment marketing campaign – a campaign she wouldn’t be getting paid for.

Amber took to Twitter to vent her frustration.

The DWP approached Amber to take part in the campaign which she said “is about empowering women to find different routes into employment and different kind of employment models.”

“They wanted me to participate in the creation of a video where I would state my support for the campaign and share my expertise as a freelancer and how I’ve made my career work,” Amber told The Big Issue over the phone. “As well as writing a blog sharing my advice to how to pursue a freelance career.”

Advertisement - Content continues below
Advertisement - Content continues below

Amber was initially interested in getting involved in what the DWP claimed was a chance to “redefine the conversation” around employment opportunities for women, but when learning there was no fee involved took to the internet to call out the controversial approach.

“I’m a freelancer and I earn my living through selling my time. Everyone else on this campaign is presumably getting paid. The videographer presumably won’t be doing this for free, and the staff at the DWP who developed the campaign certainly won’t be, so why should I?” she said.

Amber noted that while she wasn’t going to pursue the issue further, she was in a “privileged position” to call the UK’s largest government department out for its “problematic approach”.

“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,” she told The Big Issue.

The Big Issue reached out to the Department for Work and Pensions for comment.

A DWP spokesperson said in an email: “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.”

Image: DWP/Amber Massie-Blomfield

Advertisement - Content continues below

Support your local vendor

Give your vendor a hand up and buy the magazine. Big Issue vendors are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. But, at the same time, they are micro-entrepreneurs. By supporting their business, you can help them overcome homelessness, financial instability and other social disadvantages that hold them back.

Recommended for you

Read All
National insurance hike will leave NHS workers funding their own pay rise
Employment

National insurance hike will leave NHS workers funding their own pay rise

How online learning can boost your employability
Employment

How online learning can boost your employability

Government cuts threaten employment recovery, charities say
Employment

Government cuts threaten employment recovery, charities say

What is the kickstarter scheme and how can you land a placement
Employment

What is the kickstarter scheme and how can you land a placement

Most Popular

Read All
Only 30 MPs turn up to debate cutting universal credit
1.

Only 30 MPs turn up to debate cutting universal credit

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick sacked in cabinet reshuffle
2.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick sacked in cabinet reshuffle

More than 70 MPs back motion to stop ministers lying in parliament
3.

More than 70 MPs back motion to stop ministers lying in parliament

Universal credit: What is it and why does the £20 increase matter?
4.

Universal credit: What is it and why does the £20 increase matter?