By Claire West

The Home Office is offering unpaid work experience in admin jobs while trawling for thousands of redundancies as a result of the government's cuts in public spending, the Public and Commercial Services has found.

The placements at Lunar House in Croydon, the UK's main office for immigration enquiries and correspondence, include dispatching immigration decisions and documents back to applicants, and data entry of applications for all foreign nationals wishing to enter the UK.

So far around 20 people are effectively working for free in the Home Office at a time when the department has announced it will shed 7,000 posts. The union was not consulted about the placements, part of the Work Experience Programme, a joint venture by the government and private business.

Posts are for non-graduates aged between 18 and 24 who have been claiming jobseekers allowance for 13 weeks or more. The scheme's website says 7,500 placements are available in a range of industries across the UK. So far the Home Office is the only government department advertising posts.

The news comes as PCS members in the Home Office prepare to lobby their MPs on today over cuts to the department.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka: "With the Home Office preparing to cut thousands of staff, it's outrageous that it is recruiting people to work for free. There is obviously work to do, yet the department is seeking to make its own staff redundant.

"Work experience clearly has a role in helping people get back to work, but the government should be investing in our public services and creating proper, secure jobs to help get people off benefits."