I propose, as an alternative to workfare (non-voluntary voluntary work for people who don’t have volunteers on their regular staff. aka free labour), a council-assisted collaboration of jobseekers working to complete tasks that the council want done. For example, the jobseeker-led organisation (I’ll call it WorkShare for now) receives a direction from the council to upgrade an old playground in a park. WorkShare jobseekers collaborate to design a new playground, and submit several designs to the council. The council then choose one and work out the costs etc, and source up the materials needed, which they then give to WorkShare to install, along with any professional assistance (such as health and safety executives, people who carry the necessary qualifications to use the tools etc).
WorkShare jobseekers then set to work upgrading the playground. Internally, someone keeps track of who has been doing what, and the hours they’ve worked etc. After the work is completed, the council are politely asked if they would like to pay the jobseekers (on a pay-what-you-like/donation basis, rather than a like-for-like hourly rate). Jobseekers are not mandated to take part, and are not mandated to keep a predefined schedule, but are paid an amount based on how much they’ve contributed and how much was donated. Really, it’s mainly for the experience and getting back into a work routine (as Workfare is touted to be). As a secondary bonus to jobseekers, one day (minimum 5 hours) worked with WorkShare equals one week excused from the jobseeker’s agreement. Not so that people can slack off for a week if they’ve worked one day, I think people wouldn’t slack off. If they’re willing to go work for their benefits, it’s likely they’re already honouring their agreement anyway. However, it allows people to do the work in order to earn something, even if it’s not a wage, especially true if the council decide the amount they want to donate is zero.
The exemption from the jobseekers agreement doesn’t mean they don’t have to look for work, but mainly means they’re not going to be sanctioned or lose their benefit unless they come off JSA through finding work. 52 days of active WorkShare would mean secure JSA for a year (including the days worked, not starting after). Because really, they would have earned the money being productive for everyone around them, which means it’s no longer a free entitlement based on tireless job hunting, which is not productive.