What’s in the Tories’ green paper?

It would seem that there has been a cautious but generally positive response to the Conservative's Voluntary Action in the 21st Century 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 that regular 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? 

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. 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

- 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 is 'I never thought I'd agree with the Tories, but…' 

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 addressed is

1. The recognition and development 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.

One thought on “What’s in the Tories’ green paper?

  1. Here are my personal observations on the conservative green paper, specifically around volunteering:

    I’m slightly concerned at the sandy foundations the proposals seem to be built on which illustrate a lack of literacy about volunteering and especially how it can be measured, counted etc.. This also applies to volunteering practice as well – like Morgan there seems to be an assumption that if we make time for people to volunteer at work (employer-supported volunteering) then they will do so, a link I don’t believe is proved in any way.

    As with Morgan it is interesting to see the influence the Scouts seem to have on volunteering issues in Westminster.

    If the conservatives are indeed keen to focus on the smaller grassroots end of the Voluntary and Community Sector then there is even more of an imperative to strengthen both AVMs membership and our partnerships to show our connection to these organisations.

    Whilst the assurances about non-compulsory volunteering are welcome I am concerned that there is too much of a focus on only one kind of volunteering, that being ‘committed’ (i.e. long term) volunteering. This rings alarm bells for me given the increasing death of this kind of volunteering as demographics shift and society changes. I also leads me to wonder if Conservative proposals around promoting, encouraging and recognising this form of volunteering might amount to flogging a dead horse at the expense of encouraging new forms of volunteering (episodic, online etc.) and supporting volunteer involving organisations to embrace these. Pushing an unrealistic ideal form of volunteering to the top of the agenda can only serve to dissuade those who cannot meet this ideal from volunteering as well as reinforce the misguided view that many volunteer involving organisations still cling to (Scouts?) that volunteers will change to meet their needs and not the other way around.

    The concept of ‘charity deserts’ is also worrying. Do we really need a concerted growth of more, small charities/community groups/volunteer involving organisations? Could we not focus on doing better instead? Linked to this there seems to be an assumption that low socio-economic areas (or whatever they call them) contain no volunteering when I believe the evidence shows that volunteering flourishes in such areas but in its more informal guises. Why then do we need to impose formal volunteering into such areas as the solution, welcome as it is that the importance of volunteering infrastructure to such communities is noted.

    Rob Jackson
    Founder and moderator
    UKVPMs
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UKVPMs/

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