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Volunteering still an option despite the economic crisis

Cait Reilly felt that she had been disadvantaged by the Jobcentre's work experience scheme

In the age of austerity research has emerged that suggests that Brits are still keen to volunteer.

YouGov, an international market research firm, has released figures showing that 55 percent of its survey respondents did something for nothing last year.

Dr Tom Farsides, lecturer at the University of Sussex and leading authority on the psychology behind altruism, has undertaken research to find out why people work for free.

The study grouped people into four categories. This included the ‘do-gooders’ as the largest group, at 25 percent, comprising of people who volunteered for personal enjoyment at seven percent, those who were motivated by career and by meeting new people at five percent and those who volunteered to learn new skills at four percent

The second group, the ‘heart-isans’, was made up of the second largest number of people, at 24 percent. This group was dominated by women, who made up 65 percent, and included people who wanted to help a cause that they identified with, or something that they considered worthy.

Thirdly, the ‘loc-alturists’ accounted for 20 percent of respondents and is a group of people keen to maintain their community. The group was much more evenly split this time, but women still had the edge slightly at 52 percent.

The final group, making up 12 percent of the total, was the ‘clan-itarians’, whose participants were driven by causes that would assist their families and friends and the idea that charity begins at home.

Zoe, a University of Sussex student who volunteers four hours per week in a charity shop, said:  “I love being able to still give something even though I can’t make big financial donations to charity. I like the interaction and the chance to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t.”

YouGov stated that up to a quarter of 18-24 year olds do not think that they will be able to find a job in the future.

This could lead to a large proportion of this age group contributing to the first category of Dr Tom Farsides’ study.

In line with helping people gain experience, Jobcentre Plus has started a scheme where youngsters are pointed towards shop work experience in stores such as Tesco.

Whilst this scheme is generally positive, the scheme has been heavily criticised.

Cait Reilly, an unemployed graduate from Birmingham University, is even suing the government. She was placed in a voluntary position at Birmingham’s branch of Poundland and was forced to give up the voluntary work that she was already doing. She claimed that the Poundland role gave her no new skills.

Miss Reilly is now going to court to argue that the government was wrong to make her work in Poundland for her £53-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance, which will challenge whether the government is making people work unfairly. She said that she she believed that she had lost a good opportunity.

It is difficult to see where the government’s experience scheme fits in with Dr Farsides’ categories; participants have reported feeling as though they’ve gained very little, and large companies such as Tesco and Poundland have received cheap or often free labour.

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