The group which has been hit hardest by the latest round of benefit cuts is the young unemployed. The withdrawal of a whole range of benefits means that not only do young people in Scotland face fewer job opportunities (and those that are available are increasingly low-paid), but if they can't find work they are being penalised further through lack of financial support. This further robs young people of the feeling that they are involved in their society in meaningful and constructive ways.
A national volunteering programme could support and encourage communities who wish to improve the quality of their environment through, for example, landscaping, creating allotments, or painting houses. This scheme could incorporate the ability to offer a payment to anyone who is unemployed and under 25 who wishes to volunteer (though ideally there would be no age limit). This would not be a job and it would certainly not be compulsory—this is not 'workfare'. But it could offer (for example) a payment of £50 per week for anyone who volunteered for 15 hours. This would not affect benefit payments and so would be entirely additional. The idea of giving unemployed people an opportunity for involvement in their society as a positive way of addressing the isolation of unemployment has been abused in the past through coercion or exploitation. We must find positive, constructive ways for people to be able to stay involved—and the opportunity to get a small financial stipend which would make a real difference to many.