Unpublished letter to the Times, 3 May 3013.
Restricting unpaid internships restricts opportunity for those with initiative, independence, enthusiasm & who work hard. Many people work hard to get money to get those opportunities. Yes it is easiest for those with family support, accommodation, money, and they sometimes exclude those without these cushions. As a young Liberal activist after University in 1992 I would have loved to 'intern' with Paddy Ashdown but couldn't afford it. But I knew his office relied on unpaid volunteers otherwise they could do less work.
I think there is always an argument that organisations benefiting should pay expenses, particularly if students or graduates are doing actually useful work for say a Law firm. The key is a mix of opportunity is needed so that those who really cannot afford it should not lose out. That must apply to longer placements. But left wing MPs, Trades Unions, the NUS, Liberal Democrat & University policies aimed at widening participation should not restrict genuine volunteering or the opportunities for more people. That restriction will happen if all internships have to be paid & will benefit mostly big organisations, big business, big charities, trades unions & student politician training college over small parties, charities, organisations & firms.
On the other hand the longer term unpaid jobs that The Times & Universities highlight are exploitative & these businesses should be shamed.
Kiron Reid, Liverpool.