New guidelines on volunteering and benefits

The Government is to publish new guidance for the rules on volunteering and entitlement to benefits, third sector minister Phil Hope announced at the Volunteering England Convention.

Hope admitted that the current rules were confusing and said the new guidance would be released by the summer.

“There is confusion at local job centres, and people who want to volunteer are put off because they’re afraid they will lose their entitlement to benefits,” said Hope, speaking in a debate with Greg Clark, the shadow charities minister, and Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, at the conference on 23 April.

“We’re working with the Department for Work and Pensions to work out when it is valid for volunteers to claim benefits.”

Benefits officers would also receive training to remove the postcode lottery that currently exists, Hope said.

He added that he supported the amendment to the Employment Bill that would allow volunteers to claim travel and childcare expenses without affecting their entitlement to the minimum wage.

Clark said the problem was with the benefits system as a whole and that the Government should “treat the cause of the confusion, not the symptoms”.

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