Careful Not To Turn Good Ideas into Bad Policy
Help-to-work will be populist and perhaps even a vote winner for the Tories. However, its an old idea that’s been about for some 10 years. In the days of Neighbourhood Renewal, the NDC’s and Neighbourhood Management Pathfinders we asked Government to consider the idea though coming from a different perspective. Why couldn’t people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods who were not working be encouraged to get involved in their local communities and work significant voluntary hours for the benefit of the community without affecting their availability for work as seen by DWP and therefore their benefits. It was a potential win:win:win – the state because the claimant would begin developing skills in readiness for work; the community because an army of capacity could be released helping make neighbourhoods better places; and the person through skills development, social contact, and self esteem. Now its coming from the Conservatives but framed in a negative way making the community sector wary. If you make someone have to undertake community work (or sign on daily or undertake training) with the threat of losing benefits if they don’t, this is clearly a different proposition. At best, an army of disgruntled, unwilling ‘volunteers’ will emerge who are difficult to manage and motivate. And community organisations will be unwilling to report non participation that would lead to benefits being being docked.
What kind of dynamic does that create between the local community organisation and those in need of support anyway? Tough love? More like bad psychology. What next?