I finally got a reply to my email to Mark Hoban MP. Unfortunately the reply bears little resemblance to the issues raised. In short a politician’s reply.
The signature of the author at the end of the letter takes it from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Link to the original email Post Work Program / Voluntary work / wasted skills
Dear Ms Watson
Thank you for your recent correspondence, raising issues arising from Government policies which are the responsibility of this Department. Government Ministers receive a large volume of correspondence and they are unable to reply personally on every occasion. I have been asked to respond.
Voluntary activity can play an important role in helping unemployed people to keep in touch with the labour market, and to obtain skills and experience that may help them into work.
In benefit terms a volunteer is someone who performs a service for a non profit-making or charitable organisation or works for someone other than a family member and does not expect or receive payment, other than reimbursement of the actual expenses incurred during their participation.
People receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance can undertake volunteering, usually without their benefit being affected, as long as they continue to meet all the entitlement conditions. For example they will need to continue to be available for employment and continue to take steps to actively seek employment. Compliance with requirements, such as active job search and engaging with advisers, increase the chances of claimants finding work more quickly than they would otherwise.
I should explain that the Government does not operate a Workfare scheme. I believe you are referring to work experience, which is one of a series of measures which form part of the Jobcentre Plus flexible menu of support to help claimants seek and obtain employment prior to their eligibility for referral to the Work Programme.
The Government does not operate Work For Your Benefit or Workfare schemes in this country.
This Department does however offer claimants a range of initiatives at various stages of their unemployment to help them overcome the barriers they face in returning to the workplace, or indeed finding work for the first time, such as a short period of voluntary work experience for people who have little or no experience of work to help them gain vital work related skills.
The Government is clear that it will do all it can to support unemployed people but it also clear that in return they must do all they can to help themselves back to work.
Despite a campaign to undermine our work experience programme, latest official statistics show that between January 2011 and November 2012 nearly 100,000 claimants have started a Get Britain Working work experience placement. Analysis has shown that around half are off benefits 21 weeks after taking part in the scheme.
Participants continue to receive their benefit whilst undertaking work experience and, if required, we will cover the costs of travel and childcare that arise as a result of the placement.
Placements last between two and eight weeks, although there is an option to extend up to 12 weeks if the provider decides they would like to offer the participant an apprenticeship and that offer is accepted.
It is entirely up to the claimant to decide whether or not they want to participate in work experience. Therefore, a claimant can leave a work experience opportunity at any time without their benefit being sanctioned. However, a benefit sanction will be applied for instances of gross misconduct.
Jobcentre Plus works in partnership with hundreds of employers of all sizes, not just the major High Street names, to put in place suitable and meaningful work experience opportunities. All potential business hosts must enter a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Jobcentre Plus to confirm that no one has been dismissed or made redundant from the business so the placement can be offered, and that opportunities are in addition to existing or planned vacancies. We will tackle any cases where a business is suspected of not operating in the spirit of the placement. This can lead to a full investigation and withdrawal of the SLA if any doubt remains about integrity of the host.
Head of the Correspondence Team