Last week I attended the West Midlands Policy Forum meeting. It is always good to meet up with regional colleagues and hear new speakers. Sharon Palmer from RAWM (strategic support body for the voluntary sector), was especially interesting. Sharon provided an insight into the new world of the government’s Active Citizen programme, and welfare reforms.
The government want to ensure that everyone receiving unemployment benefits, become an active citizen. That means that they will need to demonstrate that they are actively seeking work, and involved in their communities. In practice this will mean that they are undertaking voluntary work or are participating in education. Strategic partners have been awarded contracts by the Department of Work and Pensions to manage the placement of volunteers. For the West Midlands, those strategic partners are familiar names: Serco and Pertemps are amongst them. Serco manage refuse collection services in some of the Black Country local authorities.
There are certainly opportunities for museums to become placement partners, and in the new language, develop themselves as community assets. However, as one colleague pointed out during the coffee break, is this the beginning of conscripted volunteers?