A consortium for community organisations says it is close to winning a 10-year campaign to implement the community allowance, a scheme that allows unemployed people to work for charities without losing their benefits.
The Create Consortium, which includes Community Links, the Development Trusts Association and the National Community Forum, is leading the campaign for the allowance.
It believes the initiative will assist people back into work by enabling them to do paid part-time or short-term work for charities without losing their benefits.
The consortium won a major battle earlier this year when the Labour government ruled that people on Employment Support Allowance and Incapacity Benefit could work for up to 16 hours without affecting their benefits.
But take-up among the unemployed has been low because anyone who participates risks having their benefit status reassessed.
"At the moment, you can do part-time work if you are on Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit," said Louise Winterburn, coordinator of the consortium.
"But if you start working, there’s a risk you’ll be reassessed and placed on Jobseeker’s Allowance, which will cost you money and means you can no longer work without losing benefit."
Winterburn said the consortium was confident of persuading the Department for Work and Pensions to give the guarantees needed to protect benefits.
"We have pilot organisations standing by to run programmes using this legislation, but we can’t recommend it to any of the people we help into work at the moment, because they would risk their benefits," she said.
"If we can persuade the government to protect the benefits of people involved in the pilots, preferably for 52 weeks, we can go ahead.
"This campaign is much closer to success than it has been before, because now we have a Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, who really understands the problem."