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I have been working to support disabled people to live as independently as possible and realising their individual potentials for over 20 years. I am qualified in Health and Social Care Management and Ethics and Social Welfare. All blog entries are my responses to issues I see affecting those I support and indeed myself as I joined the disabled community after surviving a stroke.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Big Society or Blag Society? When is A Volunteer Not A Volunteer?

It's a bit of a double blog this week... 2 for the price of one, you lucky readers. Although they are interlinked because my issues this week are the Big Society and also public cconceptions of volunteering.

A week and a bit after the launch of David Cameron's 'Big Society', I'm sorry if I'm being a bit stupid but I still don't see how it's going to work... and as a charity director I feel I should know how it's going to work. So either I am at fault or the Big Society concept is.

I mean I do get the general gist of we should all do voluntary work to build stronger communities, and I agree with that but this is hardly revolutionary thinking. In amongst all the Big Society discussions I have seen several people on various social networks talk about people who have been on long term benefits should do voluntary work or have their benefits stopped.

This shows a basic lack of knowledge of what a volunteer is, the moment you put a financial punishment in place when something isn't carried out that is not a volunteer. However this, to my knowledge, hasn't been touted by the government as yet, but is a leap that has been made by certain members of the public.. so maybe I'm not the only one who doesn't get it? Just to tidy up this point for
the people that have been discussed on the social networks appear to be based on the stereotypical 'can't be bothered paid to stay in bed all day blah blah blah ... ' if these people do exist (and I'm sure there are a few but not as many as people imagine), what have I done to deserve them becoming my responsibility? If they won't work for a wage what makes anyone think they will work for their benefits? And even if they will work for their benefits its's not free labour for the charity and a bad volunteer is often worse than no volunteer at all. The majority of volunteers on the books of the charity I direct have been made redundant from their jobs and are keeping their skills fresh by working for us, for which I am eternally grateful, and they were doing this long before the Big Society was even thought of.

The concept of volunteers being 'free labour' for a charity is false. All my volunteers have to be Crb checked and be trained to be able to do what I want them to do properly, because, and I repeat a bad volunteer is often worse than no volunteer at all.

Anyway Big Society .. yes, now I keep being told that as a charity director I have a key role to play in how services can be delivered, but at the moment it's like being on the phone and put on hold while being reminded by a recorded message that my call is very important. All I have seen so far is stuff about running post offices and libraries etc .. well I all ready have an excellent and worthwhile project that I work for, I already have a great team of volunteers, so where do I fit in? Where do we fit in? How much funding is available from the dormant bank accounts you have found? What funding is available from these accounts for pre-existing organisations as opposed to the new organisations that seem to be in mind to replace public services? Because if I'm going to take on all these new volunteers, I'm going to need it.

Therefore this is looking more of a Blag Society to me, full of well meant good intentions but also half baked ideas without a strategy for sustainability or concept of the reality of the true financial costs. So the concept is just being blagged and hopefully it will work.

Can someone please help me and answer some of these questions... oh and tell me what exactly my key role is? Thanks

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