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It’s time to celebrate our volunteers [Jun. 2nd, 2009|11:24 am]

There are some people who argue that Britain is broken, but I believe the opposite is true.

Ours is a country being lifted up every day by the people who love it – and this week, Britain’s 25th National Volunteer Week, is a celebration of the millions of people up and down the country who give their time and energy to make a difference to their communities and to the lives of others.

Whether they are helping out in homes for the elderly or tutoring young pupils in schools, campaigning on local issues or fundraising for global ones, each and every volunteer is a testament to the fact that Britain is a country filled with people sharing their talents so that others can realise theirs.

Last week I met young volunteers from the Scouts, Kids Company and the Hackney Youth Parliament along with members of the National Union of Students, who told me about the campaigns they’ve been running to get young people more actively engaged in their communities.

As I spoke to these young people, the thing that struck me most was that they were inspirational but not unusual. Already, nearly half the population volunteers at least once a month - and in these difficult times I am proud that, rather than looking inwards and only looking after themselves, people are showing in ever greater numbers that we achieve more together than we do alone.

Youthnet, the home of Britain’s volunteering website do-it.org.uk, has recorded a rise of more than 100% in the number of people applying for volunteering opportunities, and charities like Crisis and the Cranfield Trust are seeing a big surge in interest from potential volunteers.

All of these people are changing the world the only way it ever really changes – one life at a time. And I am determined to support them, which is why we have more than doubled spending on the third sector since 1997 to £11 billion a year, why we have invested in expanding opportunities and support for volunteers across the country, why we launched the v national youth volunteering body back in 2006 and why we are now starting to help all schools provide volunteering opportunities for their pupils so that serving the community becomes a normal part of growing up in Britain.

I am committed to ensuring that the third sector is a genuine partner to government rather than being the last resort if government retreats and leaves people alone to sink or swim. There are things that only the voluntary sector and only volunteers can do – but that doesn’t mean government can just pass by on the other side.

The way we will come through this global recession will depend on the efforts of people in communities the length and breadth of Britain – charities and voluntary organisations, councils, businesses, unions, faith groups and social enterprises all working together with government to help people through these times of challenge and change.

We are going to need the idealism, the energy and the expertise of Britain’s volunteers as we face the challenges ahead – and I hope that National Volunteer Week will inspire many more people to play their part in building Britain’s future.



From: bobbellinhell
2009-06-02 11:15 am (UTC)

Stop privatisation

If you fall for this stuff, you're in danger of turning up at hospital only to find it's being run by a 'faith group' who are happy to treat you on a pray-as-you-go basis. Charitisation is just another form of privatisation and I urge all readers to scupper New Labour's plans to hand hospitals over to religious maniacs by removing them from office at the next election.
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From: living_fossil
2009-06-02 11:44 am (UTC)

Re: Stop privatisation

Faith hospitals - the wealthy get medicines and the poor get prayer? well a placebo is a placebo.
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From: javaguava
2009-06-02 12:30 pm (UTC)


If the government value volunteers so much then why do they make it so difficult for unemployed people to do so?

I volunteered some years ago when I was out of work and suffering from anxiety. I needed to contribute something but the hoops I was made to jump through by the DWP almost made it impossible for me. It was only because I didn't bother to fill the forms that they gave me accurately that permitted me to do offer my time.

And, if I remember correctly, I was limited to doing 15 hours per week!

If the government truly wants to encourage volunteers then the richest source has to be the growing number of unemployed. End the bureaucracy and form filling which can put people off. Volunteers should feel that they are valued and not suspected benefit cheats!
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From: board_member
2009-06-02 01:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Unemployed

I must say I agree wholeheartedly. I volunteered for many years for Barnado's, but when I lost my job I was forced by the then-DHSS to give it up.

If Brown really wanted to support volunteering for charities and good causes, this post would have been accompanied by an announcement that individuals on benefits could finally contribute on a meaningful level by being permitted to give their time to charities.

Following on from what you said, I'm confident that many of those, for example, suffering depression manifesting as low self-esteem would benefit immeasurably from the opportunity to give their time to no/low-pressure volunteering. There is, as far as I know, no mechanism to remove the implicit suspicion of those on these incapacity benefits, which only serve to further compound their condition.

There are so many proactive things to explore in relation to our society and volunteering for charities, and instead we just get this heap of "aren't we just the best!?" from Brown.
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From: jorgec
2009-06-02 12:42 pm (UTC)
I find Gordon Brown's comments on volunteering extremely patronising. He is the reason I have stopped volunteering. It's time for the government to take responsibility for its own failures instead of dumping them on charities and volunteers. It would be a good idea to learn from those failures and do its job properly in the future.
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From: wattyler
2009-06-02 02:42 pm (UTC)

Celebrate Gordon Brown's volunteering

We would celebrate Gordon Brown's volunteering, if he volunteered to leave office.

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From: john_levett
2009-06-02 02:44 pm (UTC)
"I am committed to ensuring that the third sector is a genuine partner to government..." is Gordo-speak for 'We're going to transfer more services and paid jobs to the unpaid voluntary sector'. Let's start by making all our councillors, MPs and MEPs volunteers. Only then will they have the moral authority to lecture the rest of us about doing our bit for the community.
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From: kuma2000
2009-06-02 03:23 pm (UTC)
Volunteering is great, it means the government can avoid paying for something which is its responsibility meaning the money that would be otherwise borrowed can be funneled into other less worthy causes - ID cards, nuclear weapons, illegal wars, quangoes, Olympics, MPs expenses. No wonder the right honorable gentleman is happy - really we should see all nurses, teachers and other do-gooder occupations working for free and not expecting a hand-out from the government.
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From: andypc
2009-06-02 05:00 pm (UTC)


It would be easier if DWP where more open about Volunteering, whenever you try to get the correct info no-one seems to want to commit as to what your limitations are and the effect on benefits.
Yes we have got high employment, and volunteering should remain as such-voluntary, but it is a great time filler and positive benefit and should be encouraged for people currently on JSA to get out there and get involved.
Gordon if you really want to help the sector..simplfy the benefits system anomolies and let us get on with the work we do..
There will always be a need for this sector.
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From: robred
2009-06-02 09:12 pm (UTC)


I think the problem with the DWP is that whilst doing voluntary work you are not keeping to the terms of a "Jobseekers Agreement" by being available for and seeking work. Vis a vis by doing voluntary work you are not looking for "real work" Gordo should do some voluntary work, picking litter and checking his moral compass to see if his own expense claims are tickety boo.
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From: tomflood
2009-06-03 03:32 pm (UTC)

Volunteering key to combating recession

It is refreshing to see the Prime Minister acknowledging the positive impact volunteering can have on the well-being of the public and our vulnerable environment. Volunteering has never been so necessary.

This recession is having an unprecedented impact on across our society, but most notably the younger generation. Recent research has estimated that a third of the employed will come from the under 25s and dire predictions have been from increases in obesity to the collapse of the family unit and what this could all mean.

Volunteering offers a positive response to those bleak warnings. With over 50 years experience we are living proof of the value of volunteering to the health and aspirations of thousands of people. In fact, our own research showed that volunteering has a proven social return on investment (SROI) that helps reduce crime, increase employment and improve health. Nearly 2,000 of those that volunteered through our Employment Programme found work between 2004-2008.

With 45 per cent of our volunteers coming from the under 25-age bracket, we have a crop of youngsters that, whilst looking for work, are not only using their existing skills but also learning new ones theoretically increasing their chances of employment.

Whether it is improving physical, mental and emotional well-being, developing new hard and soft skills, providing a better environment in which to live or creating a ‘carbon army’ of environmentally active citizens, we believe that volunteering provides those affected by the downturn with renewed purpose and an positive outlet for their energies.

The youngsters of today are vulnerable but not lacking in energy or aspiration. It’s naive to think volunteering is the only solution to their plight – we don’t. However, that the Government is at least engaging with the potential benefits of volunteering as part of a multi-channel response to the recession should be praised. The key to capitalising on that is in our hands. Volunteering is under the spotlight – for all the right reasons.
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