TheSite Leaders low-down 2: workfare programme

TheSite Leaders have been at it again. Our fortnightly live chats on the Leaders network this week brought us to discussing the Government’s workfare programme with them. The programme is aimed at getting people to volunteer their time in order to be allowed to claim JobSeekers Allowance. We started by asking them what they thought of the programme.

“So….we’re talking 30 hours a week or so – or 53 quid – when a 16-18 year old would earn double that in employment!? What experience do you get from stacking shelves or working at tills?”

“Well, I think it’s a good idea for all the youths who sit around and do nothing but cost society, but they are unlikely to take the work experience placement, so the only people stuck in this would be the ones who are actually trying to gain employment…”

“If the government wants to do something like this, then they should subsidise firms to take on more young people – simple.”

None of the Leaders had heard about these plans before, and that’s possibly because so far the programme is only in its role out stage. So far, it’s been big businesses such as Tesco, Poundland and Sainsbury’s who have taken up the programme.

Are programmes like this going to discourage young people from taking up volunteering altogether if they feel that working at Tesco for free is what volunteering is? One of our Leaders thought:

“I can see the point. But I feel it won’t discourage people from volunteering – there’s a difference between choosing to volunteer and having to volunteer”

It’s important that the voluntary youth sector has a big input into the Government’s work policy for young people because it’s in the sector’s interest to promote the interests of young people and also to have skilled young volunteers who are passionate about their organisations.

We finished the chat with a consultation on some redesigns for one of our websites – this is how volunteering should look; young people who want to share their skills and ideas. Long may it continue.

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Sean O'Halloran

About Sean O'Halloran

Sean is the Engagement and Support Officer at YouthNet. He joined the team in October 2011 and works to support TheSite's Leaders network as well as helping to co-ordinate consultation with them to improve TheSite.org for everyone. Sean is also Policy and Comms director on the board of the Young Advisors charity, having previously been Chair. He can often be found on trains or at protests, occasionally with a megaphone.
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One Response to TheSite Leaders low-down 2: workfare programme

  1. Kat says:

    Volunteering can help build skills and get people back to work (I know because it worked for me!), but volunteering is by definition freely giving your time: that is offering help without being asked or paid. Forcing people to volunteer unless they want their benefits cut is wrong and it worries me that young people might be turned off volunteering longer term through being forced to do it as part of a Government box ticking exercise.

    It is easy for big business to see volunteer placements as an easy answer to staff shortages. If it’s to work well, the Government needs to work with businesses to ensure they have adequate policies in place to ensure the rights of volunteers are protected and they are not seen as free labour witout being given appropriate investment such as adequate training.