A brave new world?

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?

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2 responses to “A brave new world?

  • Jane

    It certainly is the beginning of conscripted volunteers and while I have no doubt that some gems will turn up who will become an asset to the site there will be others who resent being coerced and it will show. If in this sector and others volunteers are used to plug gaps where employees used to be, the pool of available paid jobs will inevitably diminish. Volunteers should be extra to core requirements but I fear that this will be eroded as the ‘active citizen’ scheme will run in tandem with massive cutbacks and job losses. However, it behoves us to grasp opportunities and turn negatives into positives so I hope that the sector can help some unemployed people to gain skills and confidence against such time that more paid work becomes available.

    • curator99

      Thank you for your comments Jane. I feel that this is an opportunity for our sector to engage with people who would be our “non traditional” volunteer core. However, as you say, the danger is that volunteers could be used to fill the gaps created by job losses.

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