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Should volunteers provide frontline services?

Should volunteers provide frontline services?

June 2015


More public services should be delivered by volunteers, says NCVO chair 

From Civil Society enews 2 Jun 2015 

An “army of volunteers” should be used to deliver public services, Martyn Lewis, the chair of the NCVO, said today. 

Lewis, the former BBC broadcaster, told the Telegraph today that it was “crazy” not to involve volunteers in delivering publicly funded services, particularly in social care.

I have to respond.  It’s a kneejerk response, but my knee is a mature one.

There is a place in our society for volunteers – a big one – but delivering essential public services is something to be enhanced and supported by volunteers; the suggestion that they should be handed responsibility for actually delivering them is just plain irresponsible. 

As a former social worker, my mind boggles at the thought of someone untrained, unlicensed, and possibly without professional qualifications making life-changing decisions about children, vulnerable adults, or the frail elderly.  How much more terrifying is the thought that the volunteer’s manager might also be a volunteer? 

I am flatly opposed to public services being handed off in this way.  We all know, or at least I hope we do, that the government wants to rid its balance sheet of that pesky, major, growing expense of providing social care.  How dare the poor stay poor, why aren’t the educated staying educated, when will the elderly stop growing old …?  

Our sector leadership continues to buy into this smokescreen for government cuts laughably termed the Big Society.  They are not doing the charitable sector and those we serve any favours.

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