By Tessa Willow, Chief Executive, Volunteer Centre Liverpool

…When it’s compulsory activity mandated by Job Centre Plus.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the latest scheme to help people who are unemployed, with mention of ‘compulsory volunteering’ as part of the ‘Help to Work’ programme. DWP do not refer to it as volunteering but others are starting to, which is muddying the waters. These ‘Community Work Placements’ are NOT volunteering as people are not freely choosing to participate in them, but rather will be faced with benefits sanctions if they do not engage in the compulsory placements.

The part of this which does have an element of freedom of choice is whether or not voluntary sector organisations decide to be involved in this scheme as providers of ‘placements’.

Volunteer Centre Liverpool will NOT be having anything to do with this scheme and we cannot tell voluntary organisations whether or not they should get involved. However, we would strongly recommend that if this has come across your desk, or is being suggested to you by others in your organisation (or by DWP / Job Centre Plus) as a potential source of more volunteers, then you should read this recent article on the Guardian website and the comments below it (especially the one by PantherCap), before you make any decisions.

If after reading the article and the subsequent comments, you still think this programme could be a good idea for your organisation then read the information on the requirements of placements providers. You should then ask yourself if, in all good conscience, you could report someone for not turning up or being late, knowing that their benefits will then be stopped.

We would be very interested to hear your views on this – please contact