Corin Faife, Urban Times:
For most of the first half of 2012, I was claiming unemployment benefit.
At the Jobcentre I relayed [my voluntary position] to my ‘advisers’—I can only write the word in scare quotes—but far from being enthusiastic, they seemed suspicious that I was taking on work without being paid, and stressed the fact that I could only volunteer a maximum of 16 hours of my time per week without my benefit being cut.
I tried to emphasise that the unpaid work I was doing had a strong chance of leading to a paid position in my chosen professional field, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. I knew that I was right, and, while I’d be incriminating myself if I said that I worked more than the allotted 16 hours, suffice it to say that I put in the work necessary to become a permanent part of the company. In short, it paid off.
I far too often criticise the benefits system in the UK. It disgusts me when hear of the unemployed hanging around ATMs at the early hours of the morning to receive cash which they’ll spend on alcohol in a few hours. Even if people make good use of the money they receive, if they’re not active, I get frustrated.
But in this account of working for free, even sacrificing benefits to do so, I saw a light. I saw that everyone’s not lazy, and it made me reconsider my views. We shouldn’t scrap benefits for those who aren’t looking for payed work. We should be paying for people to volunteer. Unemployment benefits should encourage people to work, or force people to work. If they don’t, watch them fend for themselves alone.