CSV wants campaign to clear up confusion on volunteering jobseekers

Call comes as Labour MP Diane Abbott tables incorrect parliamentary motion

Volunteering charity CSV has called for a national campaign to combat the misconception that unemployed people lose their entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance if they volunteer.

Labour MP Diane Abbott last week tabled a parliamentary motion that claimed incorrectly "those volunteering more than 16 hours per week are not entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance".

The early day motion calls on the Government "to allow people to work an unlimited number of hours on a voluntary basis" and still claim the benefit. It said that the '16-hour rule' was "causing a trade-off between gaining valuable skills and work experience and having access to financial support".

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of CSV, said confusing and contradictory messages deterred people from volunteering and the Government should tell the public the facts.

"There's a lot of confusion and different Jobcentre Plus officers interpret the rules in different ways," she said. "There should be a national campaign to make this clear."

Hoodless said the Government should speak to the producers of soap operas such as BBC1's EastEnders to persuade them to include the issue in their storylines.

Mike Locke, director of public affairs at Volunteering England, said: "As Abbott's EDM shows, there is some way to go in communicating the facts more widely.

"People drawing Jobseeker's Allowance can volunteer for as many hours as they like. They do have to keep looking for paid work, and they must be available for a job interview with 48 hours' notice and to take up paid work within a week."

He said Volunteering England was part of a working group including representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus to combat the misconception.

"The benefit regulations are very complex, so we need to make sure that front-line Jobcentre Plus staff are giving people the correct information," he said. He said he had suggested a revised leaflet as one way of doing this.

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