Anger as UK government says: volunteer or lose benefits

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Campaigners against previous DWP work for benefits progammes protested in a charity shop in Edinburgh

​Voluntary Action Scotland says the ethos of volunteering will be eroded by government reforms.

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4th July 2014 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Forcing people on benefits into work placements undermines the very spirit of volunteering, according to a leading third sector group.

Voluntary Action Scotland (VAS) says that reforms being brought in by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) threatens the ethos of volunteering.

The DWP’s Community Work Placement (CWP) scheme could see people on benefits forced to volunteer or face seeing their benefits withheld.

The impact will be keenly felt by volunteer involving organisations and blurs an important line between volunteering and mandatory work placements

VAS says this amounts to “mandatory volunteering”, stripping voluntary service of its status as a free will activity.

The group says that volunteering must be done without coercion and not for financial gain and that the DWP scheme undermines both these elements.

VAS says that changes will place additional pressures on volunteer organisations and stretch already limited resources even further.

It has written to Iain Duncan Smith MP, secretary of state for work and pensions, raising its concerns and is calling on the UK government to ensure that volunteering remains voluntary.

VAS chief executive Calum Irving said: “Our members, Scotland’s 32 third sector interfaces, are at the frontline of volunteer support across Scotland.

“They know the importance of ensuring that volunteering is and remains a free will activity.

“The Community Work Placement scheme threatens to undermine the very ethos of volunteering and we fear it will see people being coerced into volunteering for fear of sanctions.

"The impact will be keenly felt by volunteer involving organisations and blurs an incredibly important line between volunteering and mandatory work placements.

"We will continue to work with other partners and call on the DWP to engage with us to help secure volunteering as a free will activity.”