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Young people required to do 30 hours a week of free charity work under Conservative plans

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Young people required to do 30 hours a week of free charity work under Conservative plans9

Governance | Emily Corfe | 17 Feb 2015

Unemployed young people will be required to work 30 hours a week for charities and community services across the UK or lose benefits, prime minister David Cameron said today.

But charity sector leaders have reacted with caution to the claim, with some saying the plans are not thought through and that charities should refuse to be involved, and others saying that it has the potential to be effective but needs to be distinguished carefully from volunteering.

In plans unveiled by the Conservative party, “neets” aged between 18 and 21 who have not been in employment, education or training for six months, will no longer receive Jobseeker's Allowance.

Instead, under new Conservative proposals, they will be switched to a “youth allowance”, paid at the same rate as Jobseeker's Allowance – at £57.35 a week.

Under the new plans, young people on the allowance for more than six months will be required to work for local charities, or to do other community work such as make meals for older people or clean up litter and graffiti, or lose their benefits.

And young people who have never worked will be required to do community work from the day they sign on.

"What these young people need is work experience and the order and discipline of turning up for work each day,” Cameron will announce today.

"So a Conservative government would require them to do daily community work from the very start of their claim, as well as searching for work."

'Punitive rather than positive'

George Bangham, a policy officer at chief executives body Acevo told Civil Society News: “Our member chief executives know that experience in voluntary and community work is good for the people who do it and good for their communities.

"But clearly this plan is not thought through – voluntary work isn’t free for the organisations which offer it, and by its very nature it can’t happen if people are compelled to do it.”

Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research for the Directory of Social Change advised charities to “steer clear” of the scheme.

“Compulsory workfare isn’t volunteering. The government should not muddle the two,” he told Civil Society News.

But Justin Davis Smith, executive director of volunteering and development for NCVO, told Civil Society News: “There is lots of evidence to show that volunteering programmes are very effective in helping people to enhance their employability.

"We carried out a scheme funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the results from that programme far exceeded anything that the work programme itself was claiming.

“The results showed that it builds confidence, that people learn new skills, it gives them experience of the structure of the working day. And all of this was done through volunteering”.

Davis Smith also voiced concerns about the affordability of the scheme.

“It didn’t come cheap,” he said of NCVO’s volunteering programme. “It needs to be invested in and resources need to be provided. These schemes aren’t cost-free by any stretch of the imagination.”

Concerns were also raised today about the blurring of “volunteering” and “compulsory workfare”.

“We have been working hard with the Department for Work and Pensions over the years to draw a distinction between compulsory work placement and volunteering,” said Davis Smith.

“There is still a danger that there is confusion in the public mind that such compulsory schemes might be seen as volunteering and if we are not careful, volunteering might be seen as punitive rather than positive.

"We would much prefer to see investment in proper volunteering programmes that can really help to get young people skilled up, ready for work and back in to work. That would be a much more positive way forward."

A spokesman for the Conservative Party told Civil Society News that the scheme is still at an early stage and that no charities have yet been selected for involvement with the workfare programme.

Colin Rochester
Practical Wisdom R2
19 Feb 2015

Nobody can hold a candle to the Tories for political chutzpah! Three birds with one stone - punishing young people for being unemployed rather than creating jobs; demonstrating their misunderstanding of, or contempt for, volunteering; and casting voluntary organisations in the role of handmaiden to the state. All in one simple package. It would be sheer brilliance if it wasn't for the harm it will do.

Catherine Demetriadi
Head of Development
Royal School of Church Music
18 Feb 2015

Thank you, Kathy Evans. Almost precisely the same words that I used in my comment on the BBC website. They haven't bothered to ask charities what they think about compulsory volunteering (an oxymoron, indeed, like 'pretty awful', which the policy is) and need to ask them.

Kathy Evans
CEO
Chillden England
19 Feb 2015
Response to [Catherine Demetriadi]

Indeed - it's staggering and enfuriating.

As a sector, we have been freshly legislated against for any risk or whiff of us being 'party political' in our activities during the election run-up .....meanwhile party political announcements are being made that *directly* implicate us as the delivery agents of a highly contentious party policy!

'Nothing about us without us' is a brilliant phrase that perhaps needs far wider deployment!

Romeo
Manager
Jobcentre Plus
18 Feb 2015

I have seen that Community Work Programmes work to transform disruptive youth into human beings who see the light at the end of the tunnel as this will lead them in the right journey into their chosen Career Propects in Society.

Peter Munro
17 Feb 2015

I don't think it's bad that unemployed young people should be required to work in the community in return for their benefits but 30 hours seems a lot to me. Will they feel like applying for jobs if there are jobs to apply for ?

Far better for them to work somewhere nice doing something useful for the community than watching TV or playing computer games, and they might learn useful skills for a paying job or get the work ethic.

No, it's clearly not volunteering and it's not free for charities. Those young people will need to be trained and closely and carefully managed. On the other hand, if they're managed properly, those young people could benefit a charity.

When I was unemployed, I sought out voluntary charity work to maintain my self-esteem and show prospective employers that I was doing something useful and worthwhile and I think that paid off by being shortlisted for interviews and eventually employed.

Rosemarie Harris
Unemployed
None
17 Feb 2015

It does not matter how you 'wrap' it up it 's 'Voluntary workfare' by any other name the same as it's for the over 25s and some into their 60's who are being sent on these's schemes.

If so called Charity's did not use workfare ( working for your benefit) then we would not be looking at it in the same form for the younger ones. At least the young are lucky as most live at home and can take part time work unlike the older ones with children they also have had an recent education and the chance to do the Citizens project which should be better on any C.V then workfare. I suggest that Davis Smith should try harder to live in the unemployed shoes then he might be more proactive against these workfare charity's.

Carl Allen
17 Feb 2015

£57.35 for a 30-hour week between age 19 to 21.

The young under-class just got radicalised with charity getting the blame for a political scheme.

And in the meantime, charity gurus reiterate the organisational cost of volunteering.

Helen Walker
Chief Executive
TimeBank
17 Feb 2015

This government have used many different terms and descriptions to describe volunteering: ‘active citizenship’ ‘citizen service’ ‘civic engagement’ ‘voluntary work’ and ‘community benefit work placement’. This has led to confusion and a perception that volunteering can be a compulsory activity. The Government should clearly advocate that volunteering involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or communities. It is freely given and not for financial gain, incentive or obligation. The principle of non-payment of volunteers is central to society’s understanding of volunteering.

Kathy Evans
CEO
Children England
17 Feb 2015

'Compulsory volunteering' is an oxymoron - the voluntary sector should never accept it - in language or in practice. Volunteers give us a gift - their time and their good intention - and gift is one of our sector's most important currencies. We should not be willing to trade in that currency for any amount of money or any party's political policy.

Making 'unemployed' young people do 30 hours work and prove they do another 10 hours job hunting a week on top, in return for 'benefit' of less than £2 per hour, is not tackling unemployment, it's replacing unemployment with something else enitrely.

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