Andy Hillier: Why the Tories should keep their volunteering pledge

The introduction of three days of volunteering leave would be a boon for smaller charities, writes Third Sector's managing editor

Andy Hillier
Andy Hillier

It looks increasingly likely that the Conservatives will ditch their pre-election pledge to allow staff in larger companies and the public sector to take three days of paid volunteering leave.

The Financial Times ran a story earlier this month in which it was claimed that the pledge was being "quietly shelved, to the relief of some business leaders". Then, last week, Andrew Pierce, consultant editor of the Daily Mail, told the NCVO’s Evolve conference that the proposal would be scuppered by Conservative backbenchers.

Senior fundraisers in the charity sector have also expressed doubts about the viability and potential cost of providing volunteering opportunities to the estimated 15 million workers who would be entitled to take volunteering leave.

But spare a thought for the smaller charities for whom this policy could prove a boon. Out of almost 165,000 charities registered with the Charity Commission, about 126,000 have incomes of less £100,000 a year. Many of these charities are local, such as Scout groups and pre-schools that would without a doubt welcome any form of help – even the offer to add a lick of badly painted colour to their walls.

Many such charities increasingly rely on time-pressured supporters to volunteer to help with fundraising events and offer basic admin support. The offer of three days of volunteering leave would no doubt allow these committed individuals to give even more. It could also help with the perennial problem of recruiting trustees – too often finding trustees for small charities can be akin to pulling teeth.

Our communities are awash with people who have useful skills to offer charities, but who currently have little free time to give. From accountants to solicitors to, dare I say, trained painters and decorators, more would no doubt offer their time to charities if they received those promised three days of  leave.

With the right support, smaller charities could benefit hugely from the proposal – that’s if it ever sees the light of day.

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