‘Forced volunteering’ scheme comes under fire

A GOVERNMENT plan to force job seekers to do voluntary work after two years of unemployment has been criticised in north Derbyshire.

It has been suggested that anyone unable to find work after two years of claiming Job Seekers Allowance will have to carry out 26 weeks of voluntary work.

Those who refuse to do the voluntary work would initially lose their benefits for two weeks, a second refusal would cost them four weeks of benefits and a third refusal would cost them 26 weeks.

But the group Links – the Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire Council for Voluntary Service and Action Limited – said it hopes the Government will ‘think again’ about its proposal.

A spokesman said: “Links believes it is important that volunteering is really chosen voluntarily – voluntary groups who decide to co-operate with the scheme and take ‘community workers’ who have been placed under compulsion may also find an effect on service delivery.”

Dave Radford, Centre Manager of the Volunteer Centre for Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire – said: “A volunteer, by definition, is someone who does something of their own volition, they are certainly not coerced or forced to do it.

“When one thinks that community service is given as a punishment for people who have committed a crime are we not therefore saying that people who are unemployed are being punished simply for being unemployed? There is no such thing as forced volunteering – this is quite simply forced labour.”