Statement from Voluntary Action Scotland on Community Work Placements

At Voluntary Action Scotland we believe firmly that volunteering must be a free will activity. It is done without coercion and not for financial gain. It is a public and civil good which is highly valued by the volunteer and those benefitting from the volunteers efforts. It is for these reasons that we are growing increasingly concerned about the introduction of Community Work Placements.

Effectively, Community Work Placements could be perceived as ‘mandatory’ volunteering, by most common definitions this is not volunteering at all. If the individuals involved do not take up the opportunity of a Community Work Placement where offered they will not receive their full benefit payment, this amounts to coercion or a financial penalty.

At present our members, Scotland’s network of 32 Third Sector Interfaces, are seeing local volunteer involving organisations being approached by contractors to take people on through Community Work Placements. This is putting additional pressures on volunteer involving organisations and stretching already limited resources even further. It has the potential to create conflict within an organisation as some volunteers will be there through their own choice, believing whole heartedly in the role they are undertaking, while others may be there under a ‘community placement’ and therefore not by choice.

It is our understanding that volunteer involving organisations are not receiving any additional financial resource for taking on individuals via the Community Work Placement scheme. Providing quality volunteering opportunities requires resource, the scheme could therefore lead to resources being diverted from those currently volunteering to supporting individuals on Community Work Placements within volunteering organisations. In this instance both the volunteers and those benefitting from volunteer led activities will suffer.

Whilst we do believe there are significant employability benefits to be gained from volunteering we do not believe this is the way to go about it. Volunteering is a free will activity and it is imperative that the DWP and contractors engage with Voluntary Action Scotland and partners to ensure that this remains the case. We must work together to keep volunteering voluntary.

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4 Responses to Statement from VAS on Community Work Placements

  1. Anon says:

    Yes – and when people who are signing on find worthwhile and properly managed volunteering opportunities they are asked to complete a form. the form contains some questions that are more than just a bit tricky! These questions venture into grey areas of law. For example they are asked if they have a contract with the volunteer engaging organisation? Well if you are volunteering you won’t have a comtract as a contract is something that implies gainful paid employment and creates an employer/paid work relationship. What some volunteers will have is an informal agreement with the VEA – that sets out expectations and is not a contract. Some might get a bit mixed up and tick yes – there is a contract. All very sneaky in my opinion. And a slap in the face for those who have go out and found their own volunteering opportunities in order to enhance their job prospects – maybe the DWP don’t like people doing that? Kind makes you wonder!

  2. Richard Scanlon says:

    Because they are paying their mates a lot of money to supposedly find suitable voluntary work for the unemployed and companies such as B&Q , Tesco, Poundland and suchlike can save a fortune in wages and give better results to their shareholders.

  3. lynn says:

    Yes. There needs to be a clear distinction made between volunteering, and the DWP community work placements. Community work placements do not usually lead to paid employment, and are exploitative in that individuals do not have a choice of placement, and are coerced or threatened with sanction or benefit loss if they refuse. Volunteering for most people is a worthwhile, positive opportunity to choose an organisation which is of interest and give something back to the community, enhance an individuals skills; possibly leading to paid employment. Volunteering should always be voluntary, and not coerced, as this then redefines the meaning of volunteering as something which is compulsory and subject to negative consequences, rather than a positive commitment to helping others without payment.

  4. Martin Howe says:

    Yes, it is all part of the further ‘criminalisation’ of the unemployed and others on benefits – an open open prison in effect. Even worse if you are already doing 30 hours of volunteering this is not taken into account – you go on work placement and so someone loses a volunteer !

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