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.