Let unemployed volunteers claim benefits, says Acevo

Third Sector have reported that Stephen Bubb from Acevo, the chief executive’s body, has put forward a report to James Purnell, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, examining how the third sector could help to alleviate unemployment problems. The report contains nine key ideas, one of which, is apparently that “unemployed people should be able to claim benefits while volunteering with charities”. Obviously this suggestion comes as a bit of a surprise, because unemployed people already ARE allowed to claim benefits whilst volunteering. People who are recieving JSA must be actively seeking work whilst volunteering, so occasionally problems arise if people want to volunteer full time, but the vast majority of volunteer roles are part time, so there should be no problem at all.

Because I am a lowly Volunteer Manager, and not a Chief Executive, I’m not an ACEVO member, and can’t access any of the reports on their site. So it’s possible that Third Sector have got the wrong end of the stick. There is certainly a lot more that JobCentre Plus could be doing to support volunteering. For example, its still comon for their staff to miss-advise people about volunteering and benefits. So it’s possible that Mr Bubb may have been suggesting a change in culture, rather than a change in rules. However, it is worrying that this article has appeared, because it’s helping to perpetuate the myth that you might lose your benefits if you volunteer, a myth which creates a major barrier to many people offering time.

You can read the Third Sector article here:

http://tinyurl.com/dcg9mz

And read the actual rules around benefits and volunteering here:

Job Centre Plus (PDF)

James Purnell – long term unemployed and volunteering

James Purnell issued a ministerial statement on Monday on the government's plans to get people who are long term unemployed back into work. Unsurprisingly volunteering is mentioned but, at least the way I read it, he seems to have made the assumption that most volunteering will be full time. 

Obviously this is far from true, very few people volunteering are doing so full time.  I've come up against this assumption a couple of times with governmenty peeps, and I'm wondering what effect this has on government plans around volunteering?  Do they see the CSV full time model as the norm, and is effecting their plans and strategies?

Liam Byrne expands (slightly!) on the scheme Purnell mentions. It's right at the end again!