JobCentre Plus "Registered Volunteering"
A colleague went to an event on Friday where a JCP representative was talking about volunteering. In my colleague's own words:
“She said they had a book with organisations in so people could
then volunteer. I asked if it was the same information that we
were giving as this would appear to be duplication, and wouldn’t
it be much easier to refer them to us in the first place? It
seemed a fairly obvious question really. However I was
surprised when she said it was their own information. She did
make some right noises, “Oh of course we’d refer to the
Volunteer Centre” but I can’t say I was convinced.
What did alarm me however was that during the interval someone
approached me and said that she had mentioned ‘Registered
volunteering’ (which I didn’t pick up on) and apparently if
people access a volunteering opportunity through the Job Centre,
then decide it’s not for them, they will stop their benefits.
Something they can’t do if people access volunteering through a
Does anyone know anything about this? Is there any truth in it or have I got the wrong end of the stick?”
Please can you help to throw some light on this?
Volunteer Centre South Derbyshire
The Jobseekers.direct.gov web pages seem to act as a front end to do-it for the "look for voluntary work" element and are badged as a service from Job Centres Plus.
Claire - decision makers are those staff that advisers refer a customer to when they aren't sure about something. They are perfectly within their rights to ask for detailed information about volunteering as in some cases volunteering can affect benefits claims.
If someone is volunteering under a contract, ie a voluntary worker, they can't claim benefits in the same way. Also, if someone chooses not to get paid for the work they do, or if they're doing for free what someone would usually get paid for, eg in a business, then that is unpaid work, not volunteering.
As these situations are sometimes not clear cut, they can be referred to a decision maker. They may look at whether someone would usually get paid to do the work, if there is a community benefit and the organisation that is making the role available.
You can see that it's not just about the volunteer breaking benefits rules, unwittingly or otherwise. It's also about the organisation potentially involving volunteers in what should be a paid role.
On how co-location is working, pilots are currently being developed, with Volunteering England input, partiocularly to ensure the local Volunteer Centres are invited to take part. It seems that what's already happening in Merseyside (as it is elsewhere, eg Camden) is how we want the initiative to work, ie initial access to do-it where possible followed by signposting to the Volunteer Centre (where they have the capacity). I'm in contact with JP and PT colleagues on this initiative and will be sending out information and updates as they become available.
Again, feel free to give me a call on 020 7520 8986 or send me your phone number and I'll be in touch.
DWP has confirmed they have never heard of 'registered volunteering' and that there is no legal basis to enable the Department to require customers to undertake volunteering in its purest sense.
They can and do require some customers to undertake specific activity (sometimes of a similar nature) when it forms part of a contracted programme or as part of a programme that is specifically legislated for, but this is never called volunteering.
Also, just to reiterate, no customer should be compelled or forced to volunteer as part of the Work Together initiative.
We also know of no JP database of volunteering opportunities, and the work that's being done on colocating sector organisations in JP offices attests to this as do-it will be used in most cases.
This sounds to me like a particular JP office doing its own thing. I've tried to call you for the details Dave but am getting no answer. You can reach me on 020 7520 8986.
Could do with having a chat with you about this too as we have had a group come back to us with a letter that has been sent to them about two of their volunteers. The letter is from a position within Job Centre Plus called the Decision Maker, asking very detailed questions about their volunteering and why the volunteers aren't being paid for the work.
In response to the register of volunteer-involving organisations, in Merseyside we have been encouraging local Job Centres to access do-it with clients initially, which they have been doing then sign posting straight onto us. We have regular contact with our Get Britain Working Coordinator to try to keep communication around any changes going, particularly because of reduction of staffing and resources available to see people on a one-to-one level.
So far I've not heard that they have them or that they put these on the jobs database. Has there been any more information on how the Princes Trust will be working with them?
What we think is happening is that they apply the rules on work to volunteering, in the same way we still hear 'you can only volunteer 16 hours a week'. Even following the pending welfare reform, people will not hae their benefits cut if they don't take up a volunteering role.
There may also be adviser confusion about the Mandatory Work Activity Schemes, which, as the name suggests, will be non-negotiable. But these don't kick in until the end of this month, and even where the contracts go to not-for-profits it clearly won't be volunteering.