Volunteering will have an invaluable role to play during the financial downturn:
- Volunteers will provide services to the rising number of people who will be in need of help, advice and support.
- Volunteering will give people a way of developing new skills and improving existing ones.
- Volunteering will enable people to re-gain their confidence and give them a renewed sense of purpose.
Volunteering will give people the opportunity to be active in their communities at a time when communities are likely to become more fractured.
The role of Government in developing volunteering is threefold:
- To promote the role and value of volunteering across the many aspects of society.
- To intervene, when appropriate, in developing policy initiatives and providing support, recognising that volunteering can and does thrive without intervention.
- To lead by example
AVM is therefore fully supportive of Government intervention in developing volunteering where its needed but would urge it to bear in mind three main points.
1. Recognise the needs of clients
For many of our members’ organisations volunteering plays a valuable, and normally vital, role in meeting the needs of their particular client group which would otherwise go unmet. However, whilst all of our members recognise the many and varied benefits that volunteering brings to a wide range of stakeholders, the primary objective of most organisations is the clients not the volunteers. It is therefore important to ensure that any help given to people to volunteer is should equally be focussed on clients needs not just the volunteers.
2. Ensure there is capacity to involve volunteers
‘Management Matters’, research carried out by the Institute for Volunteering Research shows that a number of organisations did not have the capacity to involve more volunteers. It is well-established that safe, effective and sustainable volunteering occurs where the management of the volunteering programme is properly funded and supported. However, too often, organisations are expected to deliver services, and involve more volunteers, without that necessary support. As a consequence, service delivery suffers, quality suffers and the volunteer experience suffers, thus making it less likely that they will volunteer again.
The Cabinet Office should therefore ensure that all volunteering policies and initiatives that are promoted across Government are ‘volunteer-management proofed’ so that there is the volunteer-management infrastructure to support the volunteering development.
3. Develop a more volunteer-friendly society
Many people and organisations still find still find bureaucracy, regulations and attitudes one of the man obstacles to volunteering, for example, job centres failing to adhere to Department for Works and Pensions regulations that allow time for volunteering while claiming benefits. Government action is therefore welcomed to develop a society where volunteering is more accessible:
- Ensuring that regulations, legislation and policies are understood and acted upon within the public sector.
- Developing regulations, legislation and policies in consultation with the volunteering sector so that there are no unintended consequences that discourage volunteering
- Where services are being commissioned, to ensure that commissioners recognise the ability of volunteers to deliver services and the added value that involving volunteers brings to a contract
- To lead by example