/ Money

Can volunteers fill the spending gap?

Brightly-coloured hands making a circle

With public spending cuts set to bite in the next few years, the government has called on volunteers to make up the shortfall and help their communities. But just how many ‘good Samaritans’ are out there?

Have you ever wanted to run your own town? Well, now’s your chance. After the most dramatic public spending cuts for generations were announced recently, the government has called on the public to come forward and take a greater role in running their communities.

The communities secretary Eric Pickles stated that while councils would have to do ‘more for less’, the localism bill would ‘put new rights in law for people to protect, improve and run important frontline services.’ Frontline services such as care homes, children’s centres and libraries.

Cuts to essential services

In my first ever post on Which? Conversation I wrote about the sad state of British libraries. Unfortunately, the spending cuts are hardly going to help these money-saving bastions of learning – many councils will obviously prioritise health, transport and policing over libraries.

Yet, it seems even these essential services will feel the squeeze – for example, each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales are to see a 5.1% cut in funding next year and a 6.7% reduction in 2012-13.

Will volunteers save the day?

So, as part of his ‘big society’ plan, Prime Minister David Cameron wants us to step up and take control of our communities by volunteering to run essential services.

Now, this plan can be viewed in two very different ways. Is the government trying to get people to work for free while it tries to balance the nation’s books – or does it want to build a sense of community with everyone ‘mucking in’ and ‘doing their bit’?

Whichever view you subscribe to, the main issue is where is the band of volunteers going to come from? Many of us have a hard enough time balancing work and family life without adding more to our hectic schedules. Then there are those who already give their free time to charities such as the Samaritans or Shelter – should we really impinge even more on their community spirit by asking them to run our local leisure centre?

What we do know is that, in the wake of the cuts, we’re going to need to find these volunteers to help keep our communities running smoothly. So, will you be stepping forward to volunteer? If so, good on you. If not, what would motivate you to pitch in? All serious suggestions will be forwarded on to Eric Pickles.

Comments
Member

Volunteers probably will save the day – AGAIN – but the fact is that the government is acting in a morally and socially reprehensible way by making the cuts that they are doing in essential services and they are adding insult to injury by having the sheer brass neck to then ask volunteers to do the work: Volunteers are supposed to OFFER (volunteer!!) to do EXTRAS on top of the essentials, not be EXPECTED (or asked, or blackmailed) into doing the basics that we have paid for in our taxes, national insurance, council tax and in the profits made on the charges we pay for services and utilities both locally and nationally.

As for whether I would volunteer or not: I already do voluntary work which I have done for year and I shall continue to do so. The organisations for whom I volunteer may wish (or be forced) to ask me to change what I do and, if they do, I will do whatever they ask me to, but I’m afraid I will NOT be offering to give more time (I don’t have it whilst working full time too), nor will I be trying to do what I do now AND something new (it’ll have to be one OR the other, so that whichever I do gets done right and not two things half done through rushing them).

What I won’t do, I’m afraid, is look to volunteer for any different organisations who currently don’t need volunteers but may be placed in the position of needing them through Government cuts: the government needs to be made to understand that reliance on volunteer work is not acceptable when we have paid them to provide the services and with regret the only way that they can be forced to understand that will be if volunteers do NOT step forward to fill newly created ‘gaps’ and thus leave the jobs undone. Grossly unfair on those who need the tasks, whatever they may be, to be carried out but the only way to make Eric Pickles and the rest of the condems understand.

Member

Dave – I entirely agree with you.

I have volunteered in various agencies for over 60 years – I did so because I wanted too – not because I was coerced into it. They range from running Youth Clubs to Animal Welfare and environmental issues.

From what I’ve read volunteers are going to be in very short supply – because all the “Luvvies” are too busy working to spare time for others – and – the soon to be felt imposed reductions in disposable income due to condem policies will concentrate the mind even more on the “me me me” attitudes so prevalent in today’s society.

Sadly Eric Pickles and the rest of the condems will never understand

Member

It’s not more volunteers we need – it’s fewer clueless managers and overpaid consultants!

Member

Well – there is a waiting list of around 35,000 children waiting to join the Boy Scouts – Absolutely nothing to do with “clueless managers and overpaid consultants” – An excellent organisation that is beneficial to children that join.

There are many such organisations that need MORE volunteers – but too many people are now “too busy” to offer their services .

May I ask what organisations you support by volunteering and how much time you actually give up for them ???

Member

I think that running “optional” or non-essential service with volunteers is okay but I am concerned that we are getting down to providing essential services through voluntary organisations.

Managing volunteers is not easy – they can say NO , don’t want/approve of that.
So one could envisage the scenario of important services being denied to some people because individual volunteers do not approve of the recipients or their life-style.
Maybe far fetched ???

Member

An interesting point – I could easily see certain deficiencies if essential services are entirely delivered by volunteers (and I’m sure that is the aim of the condems)

All the agencies I volunteer for are not “essential” – except for the animals and environments concerned in many – but did allow me to refuse my services to certain individuals if they failed to comply with my control exactly. Something that I could not do if the service was completely essential.

Member
JMac says:
5 January 2011

Tell Eric Pickles ‘I will if you will’.