Press Release: Lunch expenses for all volunteers
I issued the following press release on 1 September 2006:
MP scores victory as Government allows volunteers on benefits to claim lunch expenses
Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, has welcomed a recent letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which confirms that volunteers will be able to receive lunch expenses whilst claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support.
Currently claimants are not entitled to receive lunch expenses from the organisation they are volunteering for, because money for lunch is already provided in their benefit payment. But lunch on the High Street costs much more than making lunch at home, meaning that volunteers on benefits are being left out of pocket.
The change in Government policy came after Lynne Jones MP wrote to the DWP Minister, James Plaskitt MP, asking for his response to this unfair regulation. Lynne Jones MP was alerted to this issue by a constituent who worked with volunteers in the local branch of a national charity.
Lynne also highlighted the problem to Department of Health officials at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, which she chairs. Department of Health officials pledged to raise it with the DWP separately.
Lynne Jones MP says:
“This rule is unjust and creates a barrier to people on benefits volunteering in the first place. This is especially important as volunteering is often a crucial stepping stone to getting a full-time job. It allows people to remain engaged with the job market and gain new skills and confidence.”
In late August, Lynne Jones MP received a letter from Mr Plaskitt which admitted that ‘it costs more to buy a takeaway meal, or eat out, than it does to eat at home’ and pledged that ‘reasonable meal costs… can be disregarded for benefit purposes where a person is undertaking voluntary activity.’ The change to the regulations will be implemented as quickly as possible.
Lynne Jones MP says:
“I am delighted that common sense has prevailed. People on benefits shouldn’t be out of pocket because they want to contribute to society by volunteering. The Government has recognised this and I welcome the speed with which the DWP has reviewed its policy.”