I make no secret that I am a director of a small charity and have a vested interest in volunteering and the Big Society concept, I also make no secret that I am a disabled person who can see what the cuts are doing to services first hand and how the concept and the actions being taken don't add up.
Lets take a group of disabled people who regularly attend my charity. Due to their disabilities they are heavily reliant on accessible public transport which in our area is a community Dial-A-Ride scheme. Due to heavy cutbacks to their budget the transport scheme can no longer guarantee our people can be picked up, this has the knock on effect of a loss of income for my charity due to services not provided even though we are here and ready and the people want to get here. This also leaves us with volunteers with little or nothing to do.
It is also a wrong assumption that volunteers are free; for specialist work with children pr vulnerable adults they need to have a modicum of relevant training which costs and they need to be reimbursed their out of pocket expenses, or at least offered them and as most volunteers are on benefits (hence they have the time to volunteer) many need to claim their expenses.
Essentially this means with less money available small charities are feeling the bite as they are expected to pick up the Big Society concept.
This is in line with Dame Elisabeth's observation of there being no strategic plan to make the Big Society concept a reality.
She also points out that those worthy projects that are being funded are at the expense of other worthy projects. She uses a the example of a £13million scheme for youngsters to meet people from different backgrounds is being created at the expense of withdrawing support to, amongst other schemes, volunteers assisting stroke survivors at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup to eat their meals, saving £600 per patient.
My charity doesn't receive statutory due to the administration and paperwork required to carry out the process, but even we are feeling the brunt of this as the funding we rely on from charitable trusts and grant giving foundations are now being inundated with applications from organisations that have had statutory funding withdrawn.
This means more organisations after less money and just as importantly, the process taking so much longer because there are more applications the funder has to review.
This whole idea shows a lack of understanding of the voluntary sector and the risk of a collapse of many smaller charities providing services supporting those people who are most vulnerable.
In conclusion, I still think the whole thing is a blag, trying to sell us all a concept with no strategy and when placed under scrutiny cannot possibly work.