Welcome to the second part of our interview with Louise Winterburn (@create_tweets), Policy Manager at Locality – about the proposal they’ve made – the Community Allowance. You can read the first part here.
Do you think the Community Allowance gives people a greater sense of responsibility around their community?
I think it’s absolutely massive. If you ask people “what do you think of the neighbourhood here?” people always mention dog poo, litter and young people hanging out.
When you talk to young people, there’s nothing here for us to do and feel sometimes people are getting at them because the only thing you can do is hang out.
When you get involved in a community organisation, you have the chance to say who you are, you’re a young person who’s got their own ideas, experience and energy that they’re bringing to the greater good of the community. It means that people get to see you in a different light. That’s really important for community organisations to give people an opportunity to come together.
I mentioned the example of people going to old people’s homes to talk to them and to understand what that person needs. That might be the only visit that person has had in quite a long time. You get a massive boost when someone’s told you their issues and you’ve come back with some solutions. It reminds you of the skills that you do have. I don’t think there’s anything more powerful.
Some people feel so excluded from society that even working for a community organisation that they’ve probably never interacted with these, so it might not be a sufficient motivator. How would it motivate those people for whom community doesn’t mean anything anymore?
All the examples I gave about personal motivators are reasons people may choose to volunteer. The other side of it, which was frustrating for us, with the benefits system, meant that if you said I want a job, we said we can create mini jobs but if the system changed.
The motivator there is that we’ve always argued that the benefits system should enable us to pay people. I don’t know about you but money is a motivator. About creating jobs, the only way we can do that is through the Community Allowance.
People would be better off because they would be taken these jobs and improving their financial situation. We would then support people to grow into these roles.
Locality also trains community organisers which are there to organise the community to give it greater power. Do you think that the Community Allowance would, over time, help build greater power for the community?
Community organisers are very much about listening and talking to people and bringing people together to decide over time what they want to take forward. One of the issues we’ve always had is that when you get people together, when you look at what the barriers are, the benefits system always comes up.
Many of us are trying to work round these issues and so a community allowance in whatever form gives more options. So if a community wanted to pay these jobs, the community allowance gives them another way of working.
In relation to the Work Programme which is a minefield for people working in the welfare arena and even more so for people that have to engage with this programme because they’re unemployed. How does that change the game and does it improve the chances for the community allowance to become integrated into welfare reform policy?
It completely is. We did quite a lot of work with welfare providers who wanted to do something like a community allowance within their placements. We do have members within Locality that have contracts with Work Programme providers. What we’re finding is that prime contractors aren’t always been passing people onto community and voluntary organisations. Others have found that they have had people coming through but not in the numbers they were expecting. Some have pulled out and some are still in there trying to make it work. For now, we’ve stepped back from the programme.
Do you think that the mood will change in terms of the public putting pressure on the different players in welfare reform to introduce the community allowance which provides a better link between opportunities for work, community action and making work pay?
All of these issues seem to be popular amongst public opinion in their own right. What ways could there be a particular message for young people around the Community Allowance?
Community organisations do a wide range of jobs from stripping down & renovating buildings to caring for people and campaigning. Communities would really love to employ young people – it’s only by people coming together saying there’s a whole host of jobs that don’t exist and the only reason they don’t exist is because there isn’t a mechanism – like the Community Allowance – which helps those organisations afford them. Young people can sign up on the Locality website and find their nearest community organisation, find out what they’re doing, see what they’re interested in. Take the first step and see what they’re doing – whether it’s training or other activities that people are interested in.