1 Oct 2015

Toogoodtowaste prides itself in its ability not only to restore furniture but to restore people, too!

At toogoodtowaste, a furniture recycling project in the Rhondda, the vast majority of  volunteers are unemployed and in receipt of welfare benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance. Toogoodtowaste prides itself in its ability not only to restore furniture but to restore people, too! By providing the opportunity to engage in meaningful activities, a structured day and plenty of encouragement and support many volunteers develop and thrive.

Too Good To Waste - Vol


Volunteering changes lives

Some people manage to completely turn their lives around in a remarkable way through volunteering. Take Martin, for example:

"Martin has been a volunteer with toogoodtowaste now for 6 years. When he started with us he had spent the almost 25 years in and out of prisons after a life of petty crime, which he had fallen into in order to support his life of drink and drugs. Living on friends' sofas was not ideal to a man who was the in his mid-40's. In his words "toogoodtowaste changed my life!" Martin was given structure and purpose in his volunteering with us, he was task focussed which allowed him to concentrate and apply himself to whatever job was at hand. Six years on and Martin has rebuilt his life. He has turned his back on his old life, is no longer in trouble with the police, has been 6 years clean from drink & drugs and is a very respected team member. He has his own home and 2014 was an outstanding year for him, when he was a 'highly commended' volunteer in the Interlink awards ceremony. All in all Martin has made a success of himself."

Volunteering and mandatory work placements

Those who are over 18, are on Job Seekers Allowance and have not found employment after 13 weeks may be referred by their Job Centre Plus (JCP Advisor) to  a mandatory work activity scheme. This is aimed at people who need extra support to look for jobs and to gain work-related skills. Jobcentre Plus can decide if someone must take part.

The scheme is intended to provide work or work-related activity for up to 30 hours a week over a four-week period to clients to improve their chances of getting work. To be on the scheme, you have to be available for and actively seeking work and you have to enter into a jobseeker's agreement.  Failure to turn up or comply with the requirements of the scheme can result in benefits being sanctioned. This means that the Jobseeker's Allowance will be reduced or stopped for a certain period.

Mandatory work schemes are organised by agencies contracted by DWP, which themselves receive payment on the basis of individuals placed. Toogoodtowaste takes referrals from agencies such as A for E, Rathbone and Grow Enterprise and will supervise the compulsory four week placements.

Stacey's experience of such schemes has been mixed, and unemployment has taken its toll, but she has reached the point where she is now ready once again for employment.

"Stacey started with the toogoodtowaste 4 months ago on a mandatory work placement with a company contracted to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Stacey had already spent 6 weeks of her placement office-based doing induction training and form filling and by the time she started with toogoodtowaste, she was totally despondent. Stacey had spent many years working for high profile companies, but had been made redundant and found herself unemployed, and without a job for several years. On being referred to toogoodtowaste there were difficult challenges to overcome: the fear of isolation or rejection and having to learn new skills. Supported by the team she quickly overcome those fears and was able to focus on tasks, refresh previous skills and learn new ones. Over the 4 months she has managed to move forward immensely and has decided that at the end of her placement, she wishes to carry on volunteering at toogoodtowaste until she is able to find suitable employment. Not only does she want to volunteer, but in that role she wants to help new people who join the organisation in overcoming the barriers that she once faced."

Toogoodtowaste Sometimes an individual can find themselves involved at toogoodtowaste alternately as a volunteer and on a mandatory work placement. At the end of a placement individuals are referred back to the Job Centre.  Many, however choose also to continue as volunteers. A few months later, the same individual may be referred by the JCP Advisor to another mandatory scheme. They are taken out of volunteering, for an induction and preliminary training, often only to be placed with toogoodtowaste once again, not as volunteers but on a mandatory placement - in practice doing the same activities, but with closer monitoring requirements. Adrian's story illustrates the pattern:

"Adrian has been a volunteer and on placement with toogoodtowaste for around 4 years. When he started he was referred to us on a mandatory work based placement. After successfully completing this placement he became a volunteer and continued to support the organisation. After a further 3 months Adrian was then called-up by another DWP contractor to start another mandatory work programme, which was hosted by toogoodtowaste, this has been the cycle for the past 4 years."

Toogoodtowaste receives no financial remuneration for the providing the four week placement or for the time and commitment to working with individuals  over this period to ensure that they make a success of it - with full compliance and maximum personal gain from the experience.   It is looking at the possibility of taking out its own contract with DWP, thereby omitting the 'middleman' and receiving some recognition and remuneration for its role.


*The stories quoted in this article are true stories. The names of individuals concerned have been changed for the sake of anonymity.