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Unemployed: Voluntary Work

Volume 486: debated on Monday 12 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment his Department has made of the effects on local communities of the long-term unemployed engaging in voluntary work; (242359)

(2) what assessment his Department has made of the likelihood of long-term unemployed persons who engage in voluntary work returning to paid work thereafter;

(3) what estimate his Department has made of the proportion of the long-term unemployed who have been engaged in voluntary work (a) since February 2008 and (b) during the last two years.

We do not collect information about voluntary work, aside from when it is done as a mandatory part of a new deal programme, so we are not able to supply the figures requested.

The Government believe that voluntary activity can play an important role in helping unemployed people to keep in touch with the labour market. Voluntary work can also provide benefit recipients with skills and experience that may improve their chances of finding paid employment, and can improve social cohesion. However, there must be a proper balance between allowing benefit recipients to pursue voluntary activity, while at the same time encouraging them to retain a clear focus on moving off welfare into paid employment.

Recent research has looked at volunteering in the context of mandatory options in the new deals, including “The Longer Term Impact of the New Deal for Young People” (DWP working paper 23, 2008) and changes to benefit rules related to volunteering, “Volunteering and Availability for Work: An evaluation of the change to Jobseeker's Allowance regulations” (DWP working-age research report 190, 2004).

Copies of these reports are available in the Library.