National Policy on Volunteering

While much progress has been made in recent years in providing a national infrastructure to support volunteering (there are currently 22 volunteer centres in Ireland), there is a greater need than ever to ensure that those volunteering centres are able to place potential volunteers in organisations that can use them.

 In short, we need a volunteer management capacity building programme.

And this means we need to increase the capacity and capability in charities that would like to benefit from voluntary effort, but who don’t have the ability to do so. In short, we need a volunteer management capacity building programme.  An example of the capacity required would be the  national volunteer management training programme provided through the member volunteer centres and other partners by Volunteering Centres Ireland.

On a wider point, there is no published national strategy on volunteering and The Wheel believes that such a strategy would help to focus on identifying all that is required to encourage volunteering and support voluntary trustees in their work. A national strategy on volunteering would include strategies to:

  • Support volunteering
  • Value, develop and promote volunteering
  • Address barriers to volunteering
  • Provide a volunteering infrastructure
  • Regulate and protect volunteering.

The detailed elements required in a National Policy on Volunteering include:

Support volunteering:

  • Dedicated national funding programmes.

Value, develop and promote volunteering:

  • Recognise volunteering as a cornerstone of democracy and citizenship
  • Promote participation through volunteering and active citizenship
  • Develop strategies to target participation by people
  • Engage employers in supporting volunteering
  • Recognise the economic value of volunteering

Address barriers to volunteering, including:

  • Time
  • Information
  • Opportunities
  • Certification
  • Benefit-loss
  • Job-seekers allowance – availability for work test
  • Disability benefit – approval to volunteer given by Community Welfare Officer
  • Insufficient capacity of non-profits to retain volunteers
  • Training in volunteer management for non-profits
  • Volunteer management support for non-profits should be available locally
  • General capacity development for non-profits also required.

The message must be: It’s OK to Volunteer, you wont lose benefits!

Provide a Volunteering Infrastructure:

  • Network of Volunteer Centres - one per local authority area required
  • The core activities of a Volunteer Centre are: 1. Provide a volunteer-centred placement and support service; 2. Support to volunteer-involving organizations; 3. Marketing and promotion of volunteering; 4. Best practice within volunteer centres. These 4 core principles are further backed up by 18 standards of practice examples and 93 indicators.
  • Volunteer centres should be funded on a multi-annual basis
  • Volunteer centres should be independent.

Regulating and protecting volunteering: 

  • Garda clearance issues
  • Child protection issues
  • Insurance issues.

When all the above issues are comprehensively addressed in a national strategy on volunteering, we will truly have an environment that supports volunteering!