2 Nov 2015

The Volunteering Policy – Supporting Communities, Changing Lives, was launched by Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, at the National Eisteddfod in August 2015.

One of the things that we can be proud of in Wales is the commitment of Welsh Government to voluntary and community organisations (what we now call the Third Sector) in ways that are the envy of other nations.

There is no other country that has enshrined in its constitution the requirement to talk with Third Sector bodies on matters of policy and legislation.

But in 2000 the Welsh Assembly, as it was then, set out its relationship with the Sector in the  document called the Voluntary Sector Scheme.


This document, 15 years ago, included five specific aims for volunteering:

•  Improving access to volunteering from people from all walks of society.
There was a commitment to ensure that everyone has a right to participate in the life of their community and to society in general through volunteering.  Special measures should be taken to include those who are vulnerable to social exclusion

 Making it easier for people to volunteer
There was a commitment to ensure that unnecessary barriers do not deter people from volunteering and that good practice and appropriate policies are developed to support volunteering.   Local authorities, and statutory bodies such as the NHS were encouraged to develop volunteering

• Encouraging the more effective involvement of volunteers
This to be done through training for volunteer managers and looking at ways of accrediting and validating voluntary activity

• Improving the infrastructure
Volunteer Centres and national networks are needed to promote, develop, support, represent and provide strategic leadership for volunteering

 Improving the image of volunteering
For example through positive publicity and volunteer award schemes

 Lesley Griffiths 8-15
The Welsh Government has recently reviewed its relationship with the Third Sector in Wales, and published in its latest Third Sector Scheme in January 2014. 

This committed the Welsh Government to developing and publishing a separate Volunteering Policy.

The Volunteering Policy - Supporting Communities, Changing Lives, was launched  by Lesley Griffiths, Minister for  Communities and Tackling Poverty, at the National Eisteddfod  in August 2015.

All of the aims that were stated in 2000 are reflected in the latest policy, which states as its purpose:

• To improve access to volunteering for people of all ages and from all backgrounds
• To encourage the more effective involvement  of volunteers, including through  appropriate training
• To raise the status and improve the image of volunteering

It is a short and readable document, with the substantive content being just 8 pages long.


The Appendices include  background information: firstly  a summary of the many different expressions of volunteering seen today, many of which have increased significantly in the last decade.   Volunteering in relation to an educational course or a youth programme such as the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme or the Welsh Baccalaureate  is much more common, as is the opportunity to volunteer  for  organisations other than charities - social enterprises and statutory bodies being amongst them. Nowadays we have virtual or online volunteering, employer supported volunteering and there is a growing trend for individuals to seek experience and skills through volunteering, to increase their employability.

We also find a summary - if we need reminding - of the benefits of volunteering to individuals, to organisations and to the wider community.

All of this may be useful to those who are volunteering champions - in the business of promoting volunteering through their own networks and localities.

But the nub of the policy document takes the form of bullet point lists of actions.   These set out what the Welsh Government will do, what the Third Sector Infrastructure ( ie Volunteer Centres and County Voluntary Councils ) will do and what organisations that involve volunteers are encouraged to do.


It is vital, if this document is to achieve anything at all, that we look at these, and we use them to develop volunteering for the better wherever and however we can.   We can use it to hold Government to account - to remind it of its stated commitments. Equally it can be used to hold us to account and to make us reflect on what we have done to improve access to volunteering, to enable the more effective involvement of volunteer and to improve the image and status of volunteering.

These are hard times for the Third Sector. They are hard times for Government. No one has 'spare' money and many are struggling to finance even basic and essential activities. Things are not going to be handed to us 'on a plate' - not the public services we would like, nor the resources that we know our organisations could use so well!

There was never a more important time to take volunteering seriously; to develop healthy, sustainable ways of doing all the things that we care about as a society. This is the time to be enabling and involving people more effectively - and encouraging more people to use their time and energy to contribute positively to their community.  We know the secret that those who give a lot, will also gain a lot.


None of us can do it all, and most of us feel that we can't do very much at all.  This policy is not so much a promise or a delivery note, as a roadmap to travel.  We shall need all our resourcefulness, imagination and above all a commitment to working collaboratively with others toward common goals.

We can do something, and we can make a difference.

"In a gentle way, you can shake the world."
― Mahatma Gandhi

Fiona Liddell