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'Voluntary' working while on benefits

I do realise this will open a platform for bleeding heart liberals to whine on and on, but
please read the WHOLE of this before you boil over.

PLEASE NOTE - people on JOBSEEKERS ALLOWANCE - i.e. STATE PAID BENEFITS (aka YOUR TAXES - and I mean YOURS, because, due to the present massive downturn in the economy, I no longer earn enough to pay any.....), are NOT, therefore, actually 'working for nothing', if asked to stack shelves at Tescos, or paint old lady's houses.....

I am not saying it is a perfect scheme, because it patently isn't, but there is, right now, a genuine shortage of work - particularly amongst the younger sector, while people like myself now have to contemplate working till we are 138, due to institutional Fu$"ups; but the idea is to give people on long-term benefits some hope, EXPERIENCE, and an all-important entry on their CV, where there is otherwise very little 'real' work for them.

We are considering taking on an 18yo as a volunteer, so he can get some work experience, which will otherwise be EXTREMELY hard for him to get. Given the dire state retail is in, we certainly cannot afford to pay him, and there is no job waiting for him with us at the end of his stint with us, but we will give him an opportunity to gain confidence in a working environment, and we will give him a reference for future employers.

Does that make us at Witchcraft Limited into pariahs? I would be sad if anyone on here thought so, especially as we are trying to give a young, desperately under-qualified, and totally inexperienced person SOME SORT of chance, yet larger employers are being castigated for doing their bit, even when they have made it CLEAR that there will be no work at the end of it, DUE TO THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY, which we can all see working, or rather NOT working right now.....

We owe it to those on these schemes to let them get on with it.

You are as always welcome to point out the error of my ways.....


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 24th, 2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
No, it doesn't.
You will treat him well and teach him the skills he'll need in retail -- and, if all goes well, be able to provide him with references for his next job. And it's an arrangement that helps both your business and him. The big supermarket etc, however, *can* afford to pay a living wage and were not, it appeared, doing any training. Big difference. The marquis and I were saying just the other day that a scheme like this would make much more sense if targeted at small businesses who need the support.
Feb. 24th, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC)
This exactly. Companies which can afford to pay living wages - which are still making significant profits - shouldn't be using the government to pay their staff for them.

Small businesses, or registered charities, are different matters. To my mind there's a big ethical difference between running a scheme desgined to pad big-corporate profits without giving individuals reasonable-value-for-labour in return, and actually giving people solid training and skills as well as experience.
Feb. 24th, 2012 11:02 pm (UTC)
Agree with Kari about small businesses being more suitable than large ones.
I could set on a reasonably resourceful young person and turn them into a freelance music booking agent, given the right person and enough time, but I couldn't afford to pay them by the hour. If they learned the business and had enough gumption and started to earn money for me by creating new business I could cut them in for a percentage.

Big businesses using 'voluntary' labour for drudge work without any element of training is just plain unethical. But to be honest, I don't know the details of the scheme, so I can't really comment. How do they work out how much voluntary work a person should do? If minimum wage is £6 per hour and jobseekers allowance is £51.85, then surely no one should be asked to 'volunteer' for more than 8 hours and 40 minutes? What about people with skills and qualifications? Do they attempt to find suitable work placements or do they just shove graduates into shelf-stacking at Tesco? Are these poeple being asked to do a full working week and pay their own costs of getting to and from work? I know little about the actual details of the scheme.

Where the scheme does fall down is in the case of those people with children who would have to pay childcare in order to work full time, or even part time (and who would be willing to do this if they could get a job that paid enough).

I used to train long term unemployed on 'Restart' courses in the late 80s and I do know from experience that a proportion of long term unemployed have absolutely no intention of finding a job, and the remainder are desperate to get back to 'normal' and find a job that makes them feel; respectable and valued again. Our restart course covered jobsearch skills, CV writing, interview techniques etc, but sometimes even the most creative CV writer can't make something out of nothing.

G is currently on jobseekers allowance (only for the statutary 6 months) because she was made redundant while on maternity leave. (Yes, I know that's illegal, but they worked round the legalities and made it 'voluntary' while making going back almost impossible under the terms of what they were offering.) In order to be able to afford to work she has to be able to pay upwards of £20,000 a year in childcare - or possibly even higher in London which is almost the only place offering jobs in her field (TV and film postproduction). The phenomenal cost of childcare is one of the things keeping women with children on benefits instead of in work. And they are the ones who could not do 'voluntary' work experience without free creche facilities.

It's definitely not a simple issue.
Feb. 24th, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC)
I find it an interesting idea actually. I can however see that some may think it isn't. Like you've said it does give experience which they may not otherwise get. At the rate the economy is going it may be quite a while before he would get the experience. I think it's very interesting.
Feb. 24th, 2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks all - I CAN see there might be a difference, and we have taken advantage of Youth Training schemes before, when we had a young 'apprentice' for a year, who was charged with getting our website to sing and dance. As it happened he did not turn out that well, and the website is now in the hands of an extremely capable and personable couple from a Swamp in Connecticut, and the apprentice left of his own volition once it became clear to all of us that his abilities did not quite match his opinion of himself. To be totally fair, the failure of that particular experiment was partially our own fault for not understanding how much management a younger person might need.

That said, small companies can be really badly set back by such experiences, as time invested on any given individual represents a disproportionally large percentage of the total time required to run the business, and any targets not met tend to be of greater significance than would be the case for a larger company.

Given the disruption and heartache we had with M., I have since resisted repeating the exercise, but I have recently been approached by someone close to the business to see if there is anything we might be able to do for a young person with no qualifications, and yes, there IS, but it HAS to work both ways, and NO, we can't afford to pay him, and we would not be hiring anyone if he was not there.

The bottom line is I'm still not sure how far different that is for the likes of Tesco, who, while having strict shareholder driven profit margins to maintain, are still at least giving someone the work EXPERIENCE itself. I've got NO sympathy for the larger companies, but I can't see what else they can do. If the DON'T take people on such schemes, they are seen as having no social conscience. When they DO, they are exploitative.

In a way I am glad I am not a member of the Sieff family.....
Feb. 24th, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
I comment with two caveats: One, I sort of consider myself one of those bleeding-heart liberals, and two, I'm not British, so I may completely misunderstand just what is involved with a "job-seeker's allowance".

That being said: I think in this economy, under the circumstances you describe, you are doing a VERY good thing by allowing this kid to gain experience, because there's no other way for him to *get* experience and he'll need it to get a paying job later, please heaven that things improve.

I would not associate the job-seeker's allowance (with the caveat noted above) with payment for volunteer work. It sounds to me like a government benefit for someone who is seeking, but has not found, paid work. It does not, to me, mean payment for volunteer work. Indeed, if it *were* payment for volunteer work, it would be oxymoronic--how can you pay someone for seeking work when you're paying them to work?

It would be very easy, obviously, for an unscrupulous business owner to abuse a volunteer worker, but the worker, BEING a volunteer, always has the option to walk away (which is why making such "volunteer" work mandatory for job-seekers doesn't make sense). What *you* are talking about doing is offering other valuable (and non-taxable!) compensation for working in the shop, i.e. the experience of working in the shop and, indeed, of working, period (I have seen kids come in to apply for a job in an office looking like they were just scraped out of an opium pipe, and they can't figure out why they're not getting interviews).
Feb. 25th, 2012 01:28 am (UTC)
Good for you. Your government should call these internships, since that's in essence what they are. Are you going to list as a hiring qualification "must think you are Queen of the Fairies"?
Feb. 25th, 2012 02:38 am (UTC)
As an out and proud bleeding heart liberal, I say if that's how the system is working, go with it. It's all good.

In slightly more detail; it's my understanding that part of the taxes paid by those who are able to pay taxes is supposed to go towards supporting those people who are unable to work, especially through no fault of their own. That the government is subverting this in order to provide their friends who own Tesco and such with a bottom-level workforce whom they don't have to pay (and who, at a word from them, can be thrown out of work and therefore off the benefit) is no surprise at all; Tories have been trying to get rid of the benefits system for decades, to bring back real Victorian values like the workhouse and the debtor's prison, and this is an important step for them.

Given that, though, I can't see any downside to someone like you helping one of these people. If I were younger and closer I'd jump at the chance.
Feb. 25th, 2012 06:44 am (UTC)
Bleeding heart liberal clocking in.

I have been unemployed intermittedly when I was of working age and have done plenty of voluntary charity work, with basic JSA and a little lunch money and travel costs. However the word is 'voluntary.' There was no pressure to do it and I wasn't threatned to have my megre money docked. I did it because I have a social conscience, and because sitting at home doing nothing was leading to depression.

What is the cause of the outrage regarding Tesco's is that they aren't training anybody, although perhaps in the fact they are preparing unemployed people to actually DO work, is that it is not voluntary when you only do it because you are afraid of having your benefits removed. That isn't the fault of Tesco's though I doubt they actually knew what was going on. There isn't that much communication between parties.

Regarding getting in an unpaid trainee or as it is often called an intern, into to your shop. People should be falling over themselves to be there. Please don't employ anybody who isn't. Apart from the fascinating stock and the opportunity to learn their craft, if they follow a Pagan path that is, I would think a student, studying psychology could actually do their thesis on your customers. And I'm speaking as an infrequent customer of yours. You will get those who will critise you for this but don't mistake them for 'all' Bleeding Heart Liberals. Not all of us are incapable of looking into a subject on a deeper level.
Feb. 25th, 2012 06:47 am (UTC)
Ps if I lived closer I'd love to do a few hours everyday there.
Feb. 25th, 2012 08:18 am (UTC)
Absolutely not a bleeding heart liberal here, also daughter of parents who ran small businesses.

I think what you're doing is a great thing. I also do not have much issue with what Tesco and such like are doing. Dad used to have the various flavours of YTS trainees in the shop back in the day, and you're right, it does take management and resources to have people who don't know the job around the place.

Even shelf stacking isn't something that needs NO training or supervision. Granted it doesn't need a vast amount, but still someone has to be there making sure that the beetroot isn't put with the tomato soup or ... whatever. (I've done supermarket shelf stacking in the past, and yes, it's boring, it isn't intellectually stimulating but it needs to be done properly)

I have issues if people are forced to work for free, but that's implementation not the overarching idea of getting people with no experience some experience.

Feb. 25th, 2012 04:35 pm (UTC)
I've thought for some time that in order to get jobseeker's allowance and even unemployment benefit [or whatever we're calling it these days] people should be expected to do voluntary work. Not disability allowance; if you can't work, you get a pass.

Good for you!
Apr. 14th, 2012 02:07 pm (UTC)
If it's expected or demanded, it's not voluntary. I'm completely in favor of a government *hiring* unemployed persons to do infrastructure maintenance--and calling what they're paid "pay" and not "benefit"--but not calling something voluntary that's actually a threat. I'm also in favor of "internship" schemes in small business to allow people to get experience, but again--don't call it voluntary if it's done under threat.

And the childcare problem mentioned above is critical for women with children who lose their jobs. Depending on the local laws (I know them here, but not there) leaving children under a certain age home alone while the mother works puts them both at legal risk--including prosecution and loss of custody. Child-care isn't cheap anywhere, unless you have a non-working family member (since the laws on "friend" child care have now made that illegal here...anyone who cares for another's child more than X-hours a week has to be licensed and meet standards for a child-care facility.) Any demand that a woman leave her child to go do "voluntary" work should include adequate provision of child-care.
Mar. 1st, 2012 08:30 pm (UTC)
When I had a stint of unemployment, after being deemed over qualified and under experienced, I found voluntary work at a school because at the time I wanted to be a teacher and wanted some experience first. I was on job seekers allowance and figured that would it not look better to take an active role in gaining experience and giving back to the community. However the Job Centre took umbridge against this and said that I should be seeking jobs. I gave them this option - sit on my arse and home, fill in applications and hope, just hope, for a job interview to come my way. Or be proactive, do some voluntary work in the community, whilst applying for jobs and thus coming across as a more attractive employee? I won the debate, but it really annoyed me that they took that attitude.
It is a sad state of affairs when young people are not given a chance to gain experience of the world; so good on you for taking a volunteer. He will have a chance at gaining experience, guaranteeing a reference and confidence.
Mar. 7th, 2012 04:44 pm (UTC)
Seems to me that work done 'voluntarily ' in exchange for benefits funded by ones community should benefit that community - not a corporate giant. If those benefits were called grants for the support of interns, and there was a useful structure to that internship - such as provided by your situation where the intern would actually be learning something is a different kettle of fish. Here in the States there are occasional kerfluffles about the abuse of unpaid interns, where highly educated individuals commit themselves for a significant period of time and find that they are being used to put papers in the xerox and do the coffee chores, rather than any professionally significant experience. Sometimes this is the result of employers who have not thought about the time they would have to commit to training, and are reluctant to do this for someone who will only be there for a year. The end result is an expensive out of pocket year for the intern who gets nothing useful in return as future employers are beginning to regard such 'experience' with skepticism.
Patty Ann
Mar. 16th, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
I think this is an excellent idea. It's the equivalent of an 'internship'.
Apr. 15th, 2012 09:04 am (UTC)
You disgust me.
Jun. 20th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
A fascinating retail internship offer. I can see that whether people should still get job-seeking money and all that will provide many hours of not-fun for the people in charge of such things.

I think it is a generous offer on your part, as the work a person might provide may be cancelled out by the time supervising. Just CYA yourself so there is no risk that you might have to pay any fees/taxes/fines on the person!

I don't know if I count as a bleeding heart liberal -- I'm a social liberal and fiscal conservative (I like balanced budgets but not on the backs of the poor and disabled.)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )