Volunteers and Centre Link
15 April 2002 at 1:04 pm
Many volunteer groups and referral agencies are considering their position and involvement with in the Federal Government’s “Australians Working Together” scheme which offers volunteer work through Centre Link as an optional means of maintaining welfare payments.
The package is worth $1.7 billion over the next four years and the first stage begins on July 31st. While many volunteer-based organisations are keen to see volunteer numbers increase, they raise a cautionary note about ‘enforced’ community work.
Promised back in the 2001-2002 budget the scheme is part of a package described by the Minister for Family and Community Services, Amanda Vanstone as the most significant reform of Australia’s welfare system in decades.
The program comes after a year of consultation with community groups and businesses nationally. It’s aim is to give welfare and unemployment recipients a chance to put back into the community.
Stage one involves employment programs such as Work for the Dole operated by Centre Link under the banner of ‘mutual obligation’.
‘Mutual obligation’ means that people who have been receiving income support for six months are asked to meet additional Activity Test requirements while they continue to look for work.
One of the other options is volunteer or community work. Participants who meet the minimum attendance and participation requirements will be offered a Training Credit worth $800 to help meet the cost of accredited training.
Volunteer Australia has been involved in consultations with the Federal Government and is involved in ensuring that people are referred to appropriate volunteering activities and organisations.
Volunteering Australia says that from the beginning it has made it clear that volunteering should be a free choice. In circumstances where community work is the only option, for example, in a small rural setting, then welfare payments should not be taken away because the person does not want to volunteer.
The Director of Volunteer Link in NSW, Chris Spackman says she is already seeing between 30-40 people being sent from Centre Link each month for volunteer work.
She says however it is often quite obvious just from the look on their faces that the only reason they are there is because they have been sent by Centre Link.
Volunteer Link is part of St. George Community Services and provides training for both potential volunteers as well as organisations on how to make their volunteers happy.
Spackman says the range of volunteer work is extensive from the highly sought after administration work to gardening, small home maintenance, neighbours aid volunteers and even computer work.
Spackman says in some ways the Government concept is a good one in that it gives access to volunteering to many more people and provides a foot in the door to other possible community work.
She says that while her organisation never turns away volunteers her management team will be meeting next month to decide whether it wants to ethically participate in the scheme.
Organisations around the country will be asked if they want to formally participate in the scheme before the July 1st start up date.
If you would like a copy of the “Mutual Obligation Fact Sheet” in PDF format send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.