Community Allowance scheme stalls

Community Allowance scheme stalls
David Ainsworth, Third Sector

Create Consortium fears new government would scrap employment project

A project that would enable community organisations to employ people without affecting their entitlement to benefits has still not been given the go-ahead, six months after three pilot projects were unveiled.

The Community Allowance is designed to allow people on Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance to do up to 16 hours a week of work that benefits their communities, paying them up to £92 a week without affecting their benefits.

The idea has been developed by the Create Consortium, a group of not-for-profit organisations set up to promote the scheme. The project was given the backing of the Department for Work and Pensions in a white paper in 2008, and the consortium was told last November that it could launch its pilot projects in January. But the DWP has delayed the project several times, and the charities involved fear the project will be delayed further, or even shelved, after the election.

The Create Consortium needs the Government to approve the pilots because they contravene benefit rules. But Naomi Alexander, director of the consortium, said: "Now we do not expect a decision until June or July. We’re worried a new administration will decide not to press ahead with the project."

Steve Wyler, chief executive of the Development Trusts Association, a member of the Create Consortium, said he was disappointed and frustrated by the uncertainty.

"Whatever the outcome of the election, it’s vitally important that we don’t lose momentum in promoting this," he said.

A spokesman for the DWP said the department was unable to comment on policy decisions during the period leading up to the election.