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Volunteer schemes ‘unfair on jobless’

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 29, 2014

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A COUNCIL has been urged not to recognise a scheme which forces unemployed people to carry out unpaid volunteer work or make daily visits to the job centre because it is ‘unfair’ and ‘does not increase job prospects’.

Derbyshire County Council is to consider a motion tabled by one of its members calling on the authority to state its opposition to the Government Workfare scheme, which aims to increase employability of people who are in receipt of benefits.

But Councillor Andy Botham believes that rather than increasing people’s chances of finding work, the initiative could actually have the opposite affect.

He said he disagreed with forcing people to undertake unpaid work and that time volunteering could be better spent trying to find a job.

The motion, to be considered by the county authority at its next meeting on Tuesday, said: “This council believes that all work should be fairly rewarded and therefore opposes any introduction of schemes that force jobseekers into unpaid work or face losing benefits.

“This council is concerned that there is no evidence that the schemes, known as Workfare, assist jobseekers in finding employment.

“We believe that working a 30-hour week, unpaid, makes the task of finding meaningful employment even more difficult. Workfare is replacing paid work, stigmatises benefit claimants and locks them into further poverty.”

Sarah Brown, deputy manager at South Derbyshire’s Citizens Advice Bureau, said there were many benefits to be gained from volunteering, but that it was important people were not being forced to do tasks which they were not comfortable with.

She said: “From our perspective schemes like this can be a double-edged sword. Volunteering is brilliant, it provides people with extra skills and can help people adjust to work before going straight into a working environment, giving people prospects and making them employable.

“We would say it is a positive thing but we have to make sure it is appropriate for that person.

“We never agree with forcing anyone to do anything but there are many benefits that come from volunteering - as long as it is suitable for that person.”

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