It would seem that there has been a cautious but generally positive response to the Conservative's Voluntary Action in the 21st CenturyÂ although it should it be said, at this stage of a Government an Opposition's role is to provide a broad-brush approach as to what their policy agenda will be, so the devil may well be in the detail.
The Volunteering section is on pages 26-38. One of their key themes is thatÂ regularÂ volunteering has not increased, despite the funding and one of the more quotable phrases is that the Government's initiatives amount to little more than 'a launch, a lunch and a logo', criticising the Experience Corps and to a limited extent v. They also talk of ensuring the freedom of action for volunteers is enhanced not constrained by govt. So what do they propose?Â
1. That support will be directed through 'real volunteering groups' not 'government-controlled vanity projects', in particular aimed at 'charity deserts' ie areas where opportunties to formally volunteer are limited.
2.Â Consult on a proposal to matchfund the development of and operation of a sector-wide system of training and recognition for volunteers.
3. Improve the system of CRB checks and clear up any confusion over volunteering and benefit claimants to combat the 'red-tape' culture as well as recognise the needs of volunteers when looking more generally at the issue of regulation.
4. Exclude any notion of 'compulsory' volunteering' such as through citizenship schemes.
5. Restore the importance of grants and favour 3 year grants as the norm rather than 1 year grant.
6. Set up a volunteering scheme for central govt employees to support establishing regular volunteering as a social norm.
It's also worth reading the rest of the paper as some of their actions for the wider sector will obviously impact volunteering. For example,
– they seem to recognise the value of the voluntary sector (they say it should be thought of as the 'first sector') in that it can provide solutions that neither state nor the market can
-Â they want public service contracts to be managed on the basis of outcomes not inputs
– they want to allow charities to make a return on contracts rather than simply full-cost recovery
– create a more powerful Office of Civil Society to replace OTS
There is quite a lot of positive stuff in here which, for a sector that is considered as generally left-leaning, probably surprises a number of people. A regualr phrase I've heard since it was published isÂ 'I never thought I'd agree with the Tories, but…'Â
I think for me the most important point was their commitment to ensuring volunteering remains a distinct activity.
However, two areas that don't seem to be addressedÂ is
1. TheÂ recognition and developmentÂ of volunteer managers, which I'm sure AVM will be taking up with the Conservatives,
2. How they intend to support local infrastruture and their policy regarding volunteer centres.