Work and Pensions
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
(1) what consultation was undertaken by his Department in advance of the change in guidance from his Department regarding lunch expenses for those on benefits who work as volunteers; and with whom such consultation took place;
(2) what assessment he has made of the likely impact of new guidance from his Department regarding lunch expenses for those on benefits who work as volunteers on the number of those on benefits who volunteer;
(3) what estimate he has made of the number of people on benefits who do voluntary work.
James Plaskitt (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions; Warwick and Leamington, Labour)
Volunteering plays an important role in helping people move off benefits and back into work. It gives people confidence and the chance to develop skills and to gain invaluable experience after a period out of work.
We do not want to create a situation whereby individuals are put off volunteering or are penalised from helping themselves and others because they cannot afford to buy something to eat.
We have therefore simplified the rules. Meals can now be treated as a reasonable expense which volunteers can claim back so that they are no longer expected to meet the cost of their lunch from their benefit. We have been working closely with volunteering organisations to implement the simplification quickly and smoothly.
The number of benefit recipients who choose to volunteer is not known as we do not collect this information.