Volunteering is too old fashioned says charities

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Scottish Volunteering Forum says the number of people volunteering in Scotland has been static for more than a decade 

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13th October 2015 by Paul Cardwell 3 Comments

Volunteering programmes in Scotland are too old fashioned and prevent poorer people accessing volunteering opportunities.

The Scottish Volunteering Forum (SVF) says the number of people volunteering in Scotland has been static for more than a decade. It says that must change in order to make Scotland a “happier, healthier and more prosperous” place to live.

In its new document Why volunteering matters – the case for change, the forum, which formed five years ago, says there has to be a change to the pattern that sees some people excluded from the benefits of volunteering.

Its research has found approximately 1.3 million adults in Scotland volunteer but discovered some individuals and groups, particularly those from less fortunate socio-economic backgrounds, find it harder to access opportunities or don’t even consider it as an option.

For example young people whose parents volunteer, and regularly see the benefits of volunteering, are more likely to volunteer than those whose parents don't.

Paul Okroj, volunteer development manager at Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland and chair of SVF, said: “We believe volunteering should be accessible to all, regardless of backgrounds or perceived barriers.

“To increase the number of people realising the benefits of volunteering in Scotland, we need to change the paradigm.

Why volunteering matters to communities

Volunteering is too old fashioned says charities

“It needs to become a societal norm to volunteer, where opportunity or expectation is not limited by upbringing and social circumstance.

“This means there needs to be an entitlement to volunteer that gives equality of opportunity to all.”

The forum believes there are three areas that are critical to changing the pattern of volunteering from something that people think is nice to do to something that people see as essential to their wellbeing.

SVF has assigned a working group to it and is focussing on getting the voluntary sector, public sector, Scottish Government and other organisations, including those from the private sector, to communicate the value of volunteering more clearly.

It is also working with the organisations to ensure volunteering and the needs of volunteers are prioritised so that every citizen is offered support in becoming a volunteer.

SVF has initially created two infographics detailing the benefits of volunteering to communities (above) and to individuals (below).

They show that 94% of volunteers noted an improvement to their mental health since volunteering and 76% said they felt physically healthier.

Eight out of 10 employers are said to value volunteering on a CV and one in seven employees said volunteering helped them achieve a higher salary.

Why volunteering matters to individuals

Volunteering is too old fashioned says charities

SVF member Susan Murray, assistant director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the statistics show why not getting access to volunteering is an equality issue.

“Volunteering is important because there are so many benefits, physically and mentally to individuals and communities,” she said.

“It’s simply not right that these benefits are only accessed by a certain section of the population.

“We need action. We need real, long lasting cultural change.”

As well as addressing harder problems such as tackling inequalities in volunteering, Murray warned charities need to up their game when recruiting volunteers.

More than 50% of potential volunteers contacting organisations through a major volunteer recruitment website never receive a response from the organisation, she said.

“If you don’t need volunteers don’t advertise, if you do have the decency to respond to people who offer help," said Murray.

“For organisations with paid staff, this means a point of contact that’s able to respond in a timely manner.”

13th October 2015 by Douglas J A Roxburgh MBE

My experience within the voluntary and charity sector is not enough is being done by organisations, especially those within a certain bandwidth of interest, to expand and develop volunteering. For example, many voluntary and charities with a long standing history are finding they have generation gaps - and often these are difficult to close due to change and progress not being embraced by the older generations who either manage them or make up the core of their membership.Various strategies are needed to redress this gap, for example a series of road shows by the more established and supported organisations going in to schools, further learning, college and universities would begin to address this, being a positive example to others to follow.What' s the average age of management Boards, Tustees the membership and supporters of Voluntary and Charity Groups ?.Having Charity or Volunteer weeks to heighten awareness is commendable, but going directly into the above and communities highlighting the what, why and how of volunteering operates is in direct competition to raising money or supports for services.Having gone throughout various learning environments to inform young people of some of the voluntary and charitable groups I am involved in, the response has been good, this coupled with the benefits of contributing to their own communities has been particularly beneficial.Some of these young people wha have applied for employment in various jobs and sectors have received positive feedback on their involvement and efforts. Also by being part of the informative team, young people see it's not just composed of 50 and 60 something's age group.A win, win situation. Douglas J A Roxburgh MBE

14th October 2015 by christine Dumonceau

Volunteering works well for those charities who really care about their volunteers and offer, give training, pay their expenses, help their volunteers to move on eventually for paid employment and give references . Volunteering becomes a problem when it is no longer voluntary, meddles with workfare. Volunteering should get those out of work either through retirement, or long term illness the means to socialise, develop, keep active and do something for the community. Workfare on the other hand is slavery, is an abuse of human rights, in contravention of the European convention of human rights, is an evident attack on working rights and pay conditions . It spreads fear among those in work, forces them to work for any pay, any condition or else... It is un- democratic. It forces people to work for free when they could have been place directly into paying work. Charities taking part into that scam called workfare should be closed down, they are betraying the genuine charities. They damage the third sector. And please do name and shame. I have attended boycotts of such as salvation Army , British heart foundation. Volunteering is not old fashion, but volunteers should be respected, not taken for granted. Keep it voluntary! Stop that Workfare which arms work and pay conditions, get those on workfare into paid work to pay taxes, out of poverty and out of benefits rather than keeping them poor and on benefits replacing a bona fide paid job. Sack this fat cats who syphon away funds paying themselves crazy wages. Workfare only contributes to more poverty, inequality, makes more money for the wealthiest out there. Those wealthiest are not the one doing the work, giving they are just lining their pockets! The third sector could be destroyed, its services sold off to private ventures, services that clients would then have to pay for. The third sector would stop being a burden , an affair for the British Government who wishes to wash its hand of its social responsibilities. The Government would no longer have to fund the Charities when it does so. I work for charities, have supported the third sector for a long time, I am a volunteer, been on Board of director, but I must say that Charities take too much for granted, offer not enough opportunities for paid work. The older generation cannot be fairly represented as they find it harder to cope with the modern technology, keep up with changes in policies, rules and regulations. Volunteer versus Workfare... You cannot be in voluntary work for very long as we must all earn a living, I see nothing wrong in a young at heart 70 something working as a volunteer who keeps active : Good on them. But does the charity does a genuine job? Where is the money going? Does its paid staff give value for money? And that involves its mostly over rated management, chief executives.

17th October 2015 by Ian Davidson

One of the key issues for volunteers/potential volunteers is access to guaranteed income. People who are retired and receiving state and occupational pensions are in the best situation to volunteer. Those who are receiving "working age" state benefits such as JSA have to be looking for work and hence volunteering is looked upon as a short term option. Even those receiving health benefits such as ESA need to be careful to ensure that they do not "over-volunteer" as this may trigger a review of ESA! Those who are in part time employment with variable hours, child care commitments etc may find it difficult to make the specific weekly (inflexible) commitment that many charities seem to expect. The CAB movement is 80% volunteer based; however it is not always suitable for those who can not make a regular long term commitment as it takes a considerable length of time to be a competent adviser. At least CABx pay travel expenses; many charities do not. Is it equitable for a charity shop to have paid staff (whose salary costs has to be covered from the shop's income) whilst not paying travel expenses to volunteers? Volunteering should always be voluntary; state compulsion must be avoided! Volunteers are not employees; however there should be some sort of informal contract which gives each volunteer a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Every organisation should have at least one designated senior manager who has specific responsibility for volunteer communication & welfare; operational managers may see volunteers simply as another "resource" to "get the job done"! I greatly value the volunteer work I due; however being of working age I find that peers consider voluntary work as something of a "poor relation" to getting paid, especially if there is little effective difference in what is expected of the paid versus unpaid worker! We live in a material society; everything has to have a value attached to it, £$. We need to change this mind set.