A programme that is designed to help unemployed people do paid part-time community work without losing their benefits is looking for three organisations to operate its first pilot projects.
Under the Community Allowance scheme, people on incapacity benefit or employment support allowance will be able to do up to 16 hours a week of work that benefits their community, paying up to £92 a week, without it affecting their benefit entitlements.
It is intended to encourage people to move off benefits while doing work that is of value to their neighbourhoods. "This programme will help people on benefits back to work, but it will also help communities," said Naomi Alexander, coordinator of the Create Consortium, the group of not-for-profit organisations that is developing the scheme.
"At present, many community organisations have a lot of work that needs staff only for a few hours a week. Those positions just aren't being filled, because doing that job would mean losing out on unemployment benefit."
The pilots are expected to run from January 2010 to January 2012, and are open to community organisations in the UK. Alexander said organisations would be asked to find jobs in areas such as youth work, sports development, gardening and family support.
"We're interested in new ideas about how to create jobs locally," she said. "We want them to draw on their strength and expertise to create ideas that we can take to the DWP as part of our plan for the pilot.
Alexander said that if the pilot were successful, she hoped to see the DWP extend it to include people on other benefits.
"Eventually we'd like to see a list of community organisations that are allowed to offer this service to people on all benefits anywhere in the UK," she said.