Forced to volunteer – the irony!

FahmidaWith the election around the corner, the Conservative party has revealed plans to tackle the crisis in youth skills and unemployment. The proposal is that young people will be required to volunteer 30 hours a week, for charities and community services, to continue receiving their benefits of £57.35 a week. This will no longer be regarded as Job Seekers Allowance, but as Youth Allowance.

The notion of volunteerism is placed into question here, as people being forced to volunteer surely cannot be classified under volunteering. Volunteering is an act that someone undertakes willingly and out of the kindness of their hearts. By forcing people to work for free, surely the spirit of volunteerism is ruined.

The rationale behind the proposed plan – to help young people gain experience and skills to increase their chances of employability and to get claimants used to working for their money – is understandable. According to David Cameron, “what these young people need is work experience and the order and discipline of turning up for work each day.” In reality, however, there are very few skills to be gained from the community work that young people might be forced to undertake, for example, cleaning graffiti and picking up litter. It only allows young people to be exploited by paying them significantly below the minimum wage for menial tasks with no real transferable skills.

If this proposal is to work successfully, investment is needed in proper volunteering schemes that enhance people’s skills. Organisations such as vInspired need to be utilized, as they allow young people to become more skilled, confident and employable whilst undertaking work that they really care about in return for their time. It is important to note that this is a short-term option, and by the end of the volunteering those involved should be able to find employment with the relevant experience and in a sector, which inspires them. The success of vInspired is due to the fact that people are inspired to volunteer – not forced! This contrasts highly with what the Conservative government proposes to implement and highlights the major flaw of the scheme being unable to provide relevant experience in a sector which people are interested in. Surely, the focus should be on encouraging people to enter work in an enjoyable manner, rather than the stick rather than carrot method of forcing an agenda in order to be able to survive financially.

What are your views on the plans proposed by the Conservative party? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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