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Help to Work - how will it affect charities?

The Government have recently introduced new measures aimed at the long-term unemployed.  These include "intensive" coaching for the unemployed, a requirement to meet an adviser every day or doing community work for up to six months, with people facing benefit sanctions if they refuse to take part.

The UK's largest trade union, Unite, has urged charities not to take part in the scheme, describing it as "workfare".  So far, 176 organisations have signed the agreement to keep volunteering voluntary.

A poll by the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network found that 90% of respondents think the programme will be a burden to the third sector, rather than a benefit.

The Department of Work and Pensions claims that the scheme is aimed at the very small minority of claimants who have been unemployed for a number of years to help them increase their confidence, gain vital skills and experience and increase their chances of getting a job.

But third sector leaders like Stephen Bubb have accused the treasury of failing to understand how charities work.  Volunteers require supervision, management, insurance and training, all of which cost money.  Volunteers are not free; in fact Natural England, a conservation charity, estimates that every volunteer costs them £174.

The government needs to understand that charities cannot simply take on extra volunteers to supply them with work experience, and should pay charities to provide places.  The distinction between volunteers and Help to Work participants also needs to be made much clearer.

For the latest developments, follow the #HelpToWork hashtag on Twitter.