24 December 2011

Volunteering does not replace service

Letter Published in Northampton Chronicle & Echo
I’m in full agreement with the views of Dominic McClean, chief executive of Northampton Volunteering Centre (ViewPoint, December 17). I would like to add that while there are financial savings from the work of volunteers, volunteering should not be viewed as a replacement for core services, rather it should be providing the additional support that can give a more personal and local focus to services for the community

As Dominic wrote, using volunteers is not without its costs both financial and in terms of staff time; many of these costs are up front, the benefits don’t accrue until later. There is no point in the county council calling for volunteers if it has not budgeted for their initial and ongoing support as the effort is unlikely to succeed and only muddy the water for the future. This is probably the worst time to be thinking about recruiting volunteers; the ground work should have been done long ago as part of a wider strategy.

Reasons for volunteering are many but if an emphasis is on filling gaps left by cutbacks then I feel it is likely to discourage rather than encourage volunteers to come forward.

Having questioned the recent awakening of interest in the use of volunteers by the council, I nevertheless hope people will think about becoming involved in their neighbourhood, not just for the saving on their rates, but for the friendship, the sense of community and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Anyone interested in environmental and conservation volunteering can visit our website at www.northamptonspaces.info