Thursday, 10 November 2011

Volunteers and mandatory work

The voluntary sector continues to complain bitterly about being let down by the prime providers of the Work Programme. Organisations were assured that, as sub-contractors, they would get referrals, but haven't. But they now say that the primes are "passing clients to volunteer centres without payment". A briefing paper by volunteering england (they don't believe in capital letters) names A4e among a number of providers which have referred people to a volunteer centre "without any prior contact" and with no suggestion of payment. It's not at all clear what's going on; but the providers have always been used to sending clients off to charities to "volunteer" and have probably continued to do that without realising that things have changed.

There are numerous stories about the mandatory "community work" for people who have been unemployed for two years or more. There's a straightforward summary in the Yorkshire Post and the Guardian expands on the story. It's left to the Telegraph to give a platform to the ultra-right wing "think tank", the Policy Exchange, to crow about this "experiment with workfare". I seem to remember that when this was originally touted it was as 6 months of actual paid work. That was always going to be difficult. And there's no suggestion of payment now, just benefit. For those who wish to get to grips with the details, the DWP has helpfully published the provider guidance. The scheme is known, cheerfully, as CAP.


  1. At the non-profit organisation I volunteer at here in Leeds, we sometimes get people who have been sent by the likes of A4e and BEST (Business Employment Services Training). It would appear that W2W providers send people to the likes of us to gain an extra skill, experience and so on. Which is good as we do important work in the local and wider Leeds community in various areas such as graphic design, web design, print, video, gardening, mental health and wellbeing, arts classes, ESOL and so on. People like myself come along under their own steam and lend a hand, even if it's just for an hour a week. They can also gain skills and experience they may not get elsewhere.

    W2W providers have used us to give certain clients some experience and probably to get them doing something rather than staring at four walls all day especially under ND and FND. The thing is , A4e and BEST did not pay us for this. Remember, although happy to take extra bodies, things such as rent, utilities and other bills still have to be paid as well as I.T. equipment, furnishings etc, etc.

    The really sad thing is that as of last week , at the last meeting I attended, it would appear one of our major funders is blowing hot and cold over ponying up the dough. This is critical as we are undergoing major refurbishment work costing big bucks! Without such funding, we would go under. Hopefully, this will not be the case. It is sad to read the story on the Third Sector site about how providers see charities as a free subcontractor and the situation we find ourselves in. It is actually sick making rather than sad!

    There was a so called discussion on this in the Wright Stuff on 5. "Should those out of work for 2 yrs be forced to do 30hrs a week community work for benefits?"

    Matthew Wright was half correct when he asked why this community work could not be turned into a proper paid job. One of his guests, Terry Christian mentioned that private companies should not benefit.

    One caller phoned in and said it was a good idea to pay people benefits only as this would incentivise them to look for a better job which Wright seemed to agree with.

    Of course, had Terry Christian done his homework, he'd have found out that private companies such as Poundland, Tesco and Primark ARE using such schemes.

    The caller who said it would incentivise people should realise that if working 30 hours a week, the ability to look for another job, prepare for interviews etc is diminished if asked to work 30 hrs per week. Unless time off is given to undertake such activities.

  2. See the Left Foot Forward website

  3. I would love to work in a library, i would even work there for just the bus fares, Love books that much.

    But there you come up against the cost of CRB checks, Who will pay for this? I am assuming its the government that will pay for this rather than the employer. Then again you can come across other problems liability in case of accidents. I don't think the CAP has been thought out very well. Add to that what rights do the people on the CAP will have.. Will they expect the people on CAP to obey all things, will they have a voice to complain about working conditions or will they be punished.So many ways this can go wrong.

  4. It seems too many people still don't realise that many of those in employment get benefits too, including Working Tax Credit and housing benefit.

    Imatt's charity sounds like a great place to do voluntary work. What a pity it isn't funded directly instead of picking up scraps from providers

  5. The Teflon Don, thanks. It really is! Indeed I can think of a few who have gone onto college and gained employment whilst attending!

    What The Anonymouse says makes a lot of sense. Who indeed will pay for CRB checks???

    Not only this, but who picks up the tab for Employer Liability Insurance?

    Should Sam be injured at work, he can claim off his employer J. Bloggs and Son Ltd if he deems them responsible. As a responsible business, J. Bloggs and Son Ltd will have taken out adequate insurance to cover such incidents.

    However, as a workfare claiment, what is Sam's position? If injured will J. Bloggs and Son Ltd be liable? Or will it be the DWP?

    This plan is not even half baked! It is a ideolically driven policy designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator and the 'I'm all right Jack mentality'.

  6. Hope the following is of interest. It's from the HSE in response to an iquiry I made about insurance for claimants on placement/work experience

    In some cases you will not need additional employers' liability insurance
    for volunteers or for:

    students who work for you unpaid;
    people who are not employed, but taking part in a youth or adult
    training programme; or
    a school student on a work experience programme.*

    Insurers will usually cover the above under an existing employers'
    liability policy, and there is generally no need to inform your insurer if
    you take on any of the above. However, you should talk to your insurer if
    you take on the above either for long periods, or if they are doing work
    that is not your company's usual business, and you should bear in mind the
    level of risk they may be exposed to during the time they are working for
    you. It may be necessary for you to carry out a separate risk assessment
    (eg for young workers) or take special measures for those listed above.
    If you do not currently have any employers' liability cover you should talk
    to your insurer before taking on any of the above.

    Reference: HSE40, Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969: A
    Guide for Employers', free for a single copy. This can be downloaded online
    at the following web address:

  7. It's always been the case that employers taking people on placements had to be covered by insurance. It's one of the reasons that small businesses could be reluctant to take people on.


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