So we wanted to tackle two things. The first that the Community Allowance could offer real opportunities in local communities to get things done. We know that local people are the right people for those jobs, but they can’t actually afford, because of the benefits system, to come to us and take the job.
So what would happen is either we wouldn’t create the job because we couldn’t get anyone to come and take it, or people would come from outside the area that for whatever reason could afford to take it, so we felt the opportunities to employ local people in a variety of different roles were really missing. It’s because of our benefits system.
The Community Allowance would help tackle this. It’s about bringing together those two things. One is tackling the benefits system, so looking at the difficulty of how the system actually wants.
So if you are on benefits, you could get an allowance where you’re allowed to earn a certain amount of money in certain circumstances.
We should make work pay. We can’t take away benefits straightaway, but what we can do is say if there’s a part time opportunity, we should look at that and tell people to keep the money they’re earning, while they’re actually moving into full time employment.
So we put together a piece of work that defined how that would work in our benefits system. What we also did with our community organisations through Locality which has 700 member organisations and 200 partners.
We actually think that as community organisations, we’ve got the means to create jobs and we really want local people to be able to take them.
So we started looking around and seeing what are the opportunities we’ve got, like working with young people, spending time with older people, identifying with people what their issues are and then coming back to community organisations to say that people mentioned they were lonely or they’ve got problems with their benefits and then responding to it. So it’s actually important as there are jobs that need doing in our communities.
What are the particular benefits for it being local people working in those organisations and what are the benefits for the people themselves working locally?
In terms of community organisations, quite often, they’ve been set up local people. So for us, it’s about extending these principles. Every day you go into these organisations, there’ll be local people volunteering.
For us, it builds on our history, it makes us stronger, if local people are contributing. You will tend to know what the strengths are in a local community if you’re local, you’ll know who the people are.
Quite often what you’ll find with someone who’s worked as a volunteer, is they know who to reach out to. In terms of the people volunteering, I‘d hope that they’d would feel they have something in common with that organisation, which interests them because it’s down the road, because it’s offering a service they value and also that you can see the gaps – “you’re missing a trick here or you’re not dealing with this”.
There are also very practical things of it being down the road. When you’re first going into work, it’s quite expensive, if you’ve got travel costs on top. If you’ve got something that’s very local can make a real difference (i.e. if you’ve got childcare issues). In terms of the research we’ve done, depending on the work situation that people face will affect their attitudes in other areas.
Watch out for the second part of this interview!
Locality is a nationwide network of development trusts, community enterprises, settlements and social action centres