Third sector called on to back ‘community allowance’ pilots

Third sector called on to back ‘community allowance’ pilots
Susan Downer,

Third sector organisations have been urged to get behind a national campaign to enable people to work for their communities without falling foul of benefit clawback rules.

The Create consortium is in talks with Stephen Timms, minister for employment and welfare reform, to get the ‘community allowance’ piloted in every English region as well as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Consortium members include the British Urban Regeneration Association (Bura), Community Links, Development Trusts Association, National Community Forum -a group of community activists who work on renewal issues in deprived areas -and Slivers of Time, an online marketplace for people buying or selling small amounts of time.

Under the scheme, people in disadvantaged areas would be able to earn up to £4,305 during the course of a year -the equivalent of up to 15 hours a week on the minimum wage –without it affecting welfare benefits or other benefits such as free prescriptions.

To be eligible, work would have to support the wider community, for example youth work, pre and after school clubs or a crossing patrol. Pilots would last for 18 months and backers believe each pilot could create up to 80 jobs.

A report on the allowance, published last year, found welfare payments were being made to 5.4 million working age Britons. The current system, it argued, serves no purpose beyond keeping claimants ‘out of the gutter’.

‘Meanwhile, the jobs that need doing in those areas -mostly part-time, short-term, sessional and unpredictable -simply do not get done because the people best placed to do them are excluded by the bureaucratic weight and inflexibility to the benefits system’

Urging individuals and third sector organisations to write to ministers and their MPs in support of the initiative, project coordinator, Naomi Alexander, said: ‘We believe the community allowance would create thousands of new part-time jobs across the country, simultaneously empowering people to take a step into the world of work, regenerating their community and simplifying and improving the benefits system. The next few weeks are critical. The more pressure the third sector can bring to bear the better.’

Campaigners would also like to hear from people interested in running a pilot.

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