Nick Hurd, minister for civil society, has said the Department for Work and Pensions has to do more to tackle the “big problem” of job centres putting off jobseekers from volunteering.
Hurd was speaking at Age UK’s services for later life conference where he spoke on the government’s vision for partnership working.
An audience member questioned Hurd on her personal experience of barriers to volunteering, especially for jobseekers.
Hurd agreed, saying that there was enough evidence that there was a big problem in job centres: “I’ve heard it so often it’s got to be true,” he said. “There is a big problem in some job centres where fear spreads that if you volunteer, you could lose some benefits.
“The Department for Work and Pensions has issued guidance but this is a cultural thing. It needs to go way beyond guidance and look at changing the culture within job centres.”
Public Services White Paper
During his speech, Hurd discussed the government’s newly-published white paper on public services, which proposes opening up the running of local services to any willing provider.
The Open Public Services White Paper has been largely welcomed by the charity sector, but responses were also tempered by warnings of private sector dominance of the market, the White Paper’s absence of attention on ‘social value’ and problems with accessing finance.
Hurd did say that the Paper was “sector-neutral” but insisted that the government was conscious about a commitment to making it easier for charities and social enterprises to compete for public service delivery:
“There is a different level of trust underlying the relationship between a local charity and a beneficiary,” he said. “This increased trust means there is a higher level of understanding of what a beneficiary needs. Therefore we want more space to enable these types of organisations to compete.”