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
• 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
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
This to be done through training for volunteer managers and
looking at ways of accrediting and validating voluntary
• Improving the infrastructure
Volunteer Centres and national networks are needed to promote,
develop, support, represent and provide strategic leadership for
• Improving the image of
For example through positive publicity and volunteer award
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
• To raise the status and improve the image of
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
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