- Volunteer Co-ordinators’ Forum
- Thinking of Volunteering…there’s an app for that!
- News from Mentoring and Befriending Foundation
- Volunteering and state benefits – some more myths busted from Volunteering England’s Policy Blog
- Celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2011 with the Volunteer Centre
- Changes to checks and disclosures in working with children and the vulnerable
Date: Wednesday 20 July, 10.30 -1.00pm (including lunch)
Venue: Community House, South Street, Bromley, BR1 1RH
The theme for this session is getting the most out of the support the Volunteer Centre Bromley offers your organisation and your volunteers.
Topic one: ‘Making the Most of the Volunteer Centre’
- Meet our volunteer advisers
- See the Volunteer Centre in action
- Find out about all the support we can give
- Find out about resources, training and quality assurance schemes including Investing In Volunteers
Topic two: ‘Have you ever asked yourself:
- How can I ensure potential volunteers get in contact?
- What information does the Volunteer Centre need?
- How am I linked to the Do-it website?
Get these questions answered at this next meeting of the Volunteer Co-ordinators’ Forum. These are free events for all those in Bromley who manage, co-ordinate or support volunteers. This offers a great opportunity for sharing information, getting new ideas and discussing volunteering issues. To book a place please contact: Hilary Bell, Volunteering Good Practice Advisor
Volunteer Centre Bromley, telephone 020 8315 1905 or email email@example.com
Free volunteering phone apps from vinspired – http://vinspired.com/about-us/free-volunteering-apps
MBF has published its latest funding survey report , which looks at the impact of spending cuts on mentoring and befriending projects. 72% of those who responded felt that spending cuts were likely to have an impact on their project during the next financial year despite the increasing demand for their services. New features on the recently launched website, include the knowledge centre which allows for a comprehensive search of all the information and resources on the site and the forum, where you can debate and discuss all matter of mentoring and befriending related issues.
Finally, there is a new free MBF network membership service you can sign up where you can keep in touch with others interested in the growth and development of mentoring and befriending. Visit the MBF network membership website.
The '16 hour' myth, 'volunteer or lose your benefits', and brokerage and 'registered volunteering'
We continue to receive a high level of enquiries from our members about the rules around volunteering and benefits. Whilst there is still some confusion within the voluntary sector itself, in most cases, they’re a result of individual members of Jobcentre Plus staff providing incorrect information.
The ‘16 hour’ myth
The biggest myth used to be that you can only volunteer for a maximum of 16 hours a week before a benefits claim is affected. Thankfully, this does seem to be coming up less, but there are still some people who aren’t clear about the rules.
For example, in the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s otherwise excellent short film, The Big Society: A view from the frontline, we hear from volunteer Nick Shaw that he cannot volunteer for more than 16 hours a week because he receives Jobseeker’s Allowance. Nick had acquired the information from a printed leaflet provided by his Jobcentre.
The official Jobcentre Plus leaflet Volunteering while getting benefits [PDF] (February 2010) couldn’t be clearer: “you can volunteer as many hours as you like while you’re getting benefits as long as you keep to the rules for getting them”.
Sometimes a Jobcentre Plus customer may legitimately be asked for detailed information about their volunteering, but this is to ensure that what they are doing is actually volunteering. In this way, the Jobcentre Plus approach actually helps to ensure volunteering is volunteering.
For example, if someone chooses not to get paid for the work they do, or if they're doing for free what someone would usually get paid for, e.g. in a business, then that is unpaid work, not volunteering. In these latter cases, Jobcentre Plus will consider whether someone would usually get paid to do the work, if there is a community benefit and the organisation that is making the role available.
As you can see, it's not just about the volunteer breaking benefits rules, unwittingly or otherwise. It's also about the organisation potentially using volunteers in what should be a paid role.
‘Volunteer or lose your benefits’
Recently we’ve been hearing that some Jobcentre Plus staff are saying that if a customer doesn’t take up a volunteering opportunity that has been identified as possibly appropriate for them, they could have their benefits payments reduced.
Again, this is just false. Our contact at the Department of Work and Pensions says simply, “there is no legal basis to enable the Department to require customers to undertake volunteering”.
We think that the same thing is happening in this case as with the 16-hour myth: the rules for jobs are being applied by some Jobcentre Plus staff to volunteering roles. However, there may be other reasons, such as using the same word to mean different things. It may be that some Jobcentre Plus staff mean ‘work experience’ when they say ‘volunteering’.
It’s true that people claiming benefits can be required to undertake work experience or similar activity that might seem very similar to volunteering, and that if they refuse their benefit payments can be reduced or stopped. However, this should never be called volunteering.
Brokerage and ‘registered volunteering’
The above issue was raised by one of our members via a discussion thread on i-volunteer. They were also confused by a Jobcentre Plus staff member talking about “registered volunteering”, or the Jobcentre itself placing unemployed people in volunteering opportunities.
Our DWP contact has “never heard of registered volunteering”, and brokerage of volunteering opportunities isn’t part of the Jobcentre Plus offer. In addition, Volunteering England, the Prince’s Trust, NCVYS and others are currently working with Jobcentre Plus on 'co-locating' voluntary organisations in their offices, which shows that they’re turning to the sector and its expertise to provide that support.
When the Prince’s Trust renewed its memorandum of understanding with Jobcentre Plus, it was agreed that a model of 'co-location' would be developed. The intention is to make space available in Jobcentre Plus offices for voluntary sector organisations to talk to their customers about volunteering.
The intention is not to develop a brokerage service, but to encourage people to think about volunteering, provide them with some information and signpost them to the most appropriate organisation, in many cases the local Volunteer Centre. However, where possible, those on the desk may be able to access the Do-it database and help the customer look for a role.
We’re currently in the process of helping Jobcentre Plus to develop these pilots, as well as arranging for Volunteer Centres to feedback directly to DWP and the Cabinet Office on the implementation of Work Together, the government’s initiative to encourage unemployed people to volunteer. If you’d like to talk more about this aspect of our work, do feel free to contact us
We hope we’ve clarified the situation and provided you with some helpful information. We also want to show that, whilst things may not be perfect at a local level, Jobcentre Plus is working with us nationally to smooth the way for unemployed people to volunteer.
If you do have any problems though you can always contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and there are several sources of information listed below that can help you counter misinformation.back to top
The coverage of proposed changes to the Vetting and Barring Scheme may have created some confusion, with a government statement that registration for 9 million people would be abolished sometimes reported in isolation from there still being a (remodelled) disclosure scheme and barring lists. The official announcement was based on the publication of the findings and recommendations from the parallel reviews of the Criminal Records Regime and the Vetting and Barring Scheme. Some recommendations, such as portability of checks between jobs, were in the legislation previously due to be introduced (but suspended). Main points from and a summary of the recommendations can be found at Safeguarding Matters, the official Vetting and Barring Scheme Remodelling Review report (pdf, 136KB) is at www.homeoffice.gov.uk.
How many people (paid staff and volunteers) working with children and vulnerable adults will be caught by the arrangements won't be clear until the level and frequency of contact is fully defined. As the new regime is proposed to be "self-funding" there may well be an increase in the cost of criminal records disclosure fees. According to The Guardian, changes could be introduced in about 18 months, although the Government has promised that they "will be introduced gradually to ensure a seamless transition". Also see Protection of Freedoms Bill consultation, above. Until the new provisions come in, the safeguarding requirements in force from October 2009 remain in place - Criminal Records Bureau site is at www.crb.homeoffice.gov.uk, Independent Safeguarding Authority www.isa-gov.org.uk.
There has been a mixed reaction from the sector, as reported in Third Sector www.thirdsector.co.uk. Volunteering England has welcomed the broad proposals but points out that "the consultations and detailed work on implementation will be all-important".
Note - Scotland has its own arrangements which are changing shortly, see previous newsletters.
(Source: Volresource newsletter)
- CRB/AccessNI For information relating to the current disclosure process visit: www.crb.homeoffice.gov.uk or www.accessni.gov.uk You can also contact the CRB Customer Services team on 0870 90 90 811
- Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA): For information relating to referrals and barring decisions www.isa-gov.org.uk
- Sign up for ISA e-newsletter
To be kept updated directly just complete your details on the ISA website (click here) to receive information in the future.back to top
Would you like some support with your project? An extra pair of hands to answer the phone, arrange a meeting or support your service users?
We’re very lucky in Bromley that so many people are interested in giving their time for free – How could they help you?
People are interested in all sorts of volunteering roles from the unusual to the practical. We are currently promoting opportunities ranging from British Red Cross Casualty Simulation Volunteer (http://www.do-it.org.uk/oppdetails.do?id=1585060) to Office Helper for the 5000 Project (http://www.do-it.org.uk/oppdetails.do?id=1599492 ).
What the most popular type of opportunity?
People are keen to learn new skills and be of practical help to an organisation. In the last 6 months over 350 people have contacted us about Volunteer Administration roles, which makes it the most popular category.
Have all these people found volunteering opportunities? No, as we do not have enough Administration roles registered on our database – we’d love to have some more.
If you would like to discuss how volunteers could help support your organisation, please contact the Volunteer Centre team or you can complete and return the registration forms (http://www.communitylinksbromley.org.uk/vc/organisations.html#register).back to top