‘We are not passive deliverers of policy’

Adrian Barritt, chief officer at Adur Voluntary Action
Adrian Barritt, chief officer at Adur Voluntary Action

A NEW scheme to offer unpaid work placements for unemployed people is already in jeopardy.

George Osborne’s flagship employment scheme was due to launch last week but failed to achieve the level of voluntary sector participation required to get it off the ground.

Instead, organisations including Oxfam and the umbrella body National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA) marked the date with the launch of a major campaign to ‘Keep Volunteering Voluntary’.

The groups feel that the work placements, which are twice the length of the maximum community sentence, threaten benefit stoppages for non-participation and are inviting organisations not to participate in workfare schemes.

Adrian Barritt, chief officer at Adur Voluntary Action, said that it was important for charities to look at the interests and needs of each individual.

“I don’t think organisations should further their own interests if it’s at the expense of putting this kind of pressure on local residents,” he added.

“This is the fundamental importance of volunteering.

“I think the campaign is a very important statement to be making and I am particularly pleased that NAVCA have decided to back it as well, which brings in a national endorsement from the whole network of councils for voluntary service, of which there are about 350.

“The national board has met and decided to back this particular statement that was released on Monday.

“We picked it up locally and pushed in various directions for national action to be taken to get the thing moving and we have signed the national statement.

“We will encourage all voluntary and charitable organisations in West Sussex to look very carefully at this and for their boards and trustees to consider it.

There are some large and significant national bodies on board.

“It’s the beginning of a recognition that the independence of thinking and acting of the voluntary sector has to be respected by the government.

“We are not passive deliverers of government or private sector policies which in our judgements do not benefit sectors of our local communities. We like to think for ourselves.”