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Work Programme

Volume 519: debated on Monday 22 November 2010

17. What assessment he has made of the likely effects of the Work programme on unemployed people who volunteer. (25124)

My message to my hon. Friend would be that we are doing everything we can to promote volunteering for jobseekers, both before they enter the Work programme and, once the programme is in place, after they enter it. We have set out plans to allow jobseekers to do up to eight weeks’ work experience and I think that that gives them an important opportunity to take a step into the workplace that they would not otherwise have taken.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Many people who are out of work or who have fluctuating medical conditions already undertake part-time voluntary work but that was not previously recognised by Jobcentre Plus officials as part of the flexible new deal. What assurances can he give me that those people, who are already participating in the big society, will have their voluntary work positively recognised under the new Work programme?

I see volunteering as extremely important, particularly in helping those who have been on sickness benefits or incapacity benefit in the long term to make the step into work. I can assure my hon. Friend that we will give Work programme providers maximum flexibility to use volunteering as one of many vehicles to help people get into employment.