2009: the year in volunteering

Our round-up of the key news stories

Volunteering (hands)
Volunteering (hands)

There has been a spate of Government policies affecting the volunteering world this year.

As part of its £40.5m recession action plan for the sector, announced in February, the Office of the Third Sector announced a volunteer brokerage scheme through which job centre staff would refer jobseekers to local volunteering ‘brokers' who would provide them with placements.

But the scheme, being run by the Department for Work and Pensions and volunteering charities BTCV, CSV, Volunteering England and v, came under fire for having been rushed through, for duplicating existing local brokerage services and for not setting up enough placements. Volunteer centres also claimed the new local brokers had asked them to do the work for them in return for a small cut of the money they received.

The Government also included volunteering in the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Act, which became law in July. Volunteering groups claimed the plans, which would fast-track the citizenship applications of migrants that did voluntary work, was unworkable in practice and distorted the meaning of volunteering. But in December the UK Border Agency announced that the scheme would be up and running by July 2011.

The Government's rules on how volunteers should be vetted also caused unrest. The Independent Safeguarding Authority announced its new vetting and barring system in September. But Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, asked Roger Singleton, chair of the ISA, to review them because of concern that groups such as parents picking up children from sports clubs could be caught by it.

The review, published in December, said volunteers working with groups or organisations would have to be checked, but people who made private arrangements with friends would not. Singleton insisted the new rules would not deter people from volunteering.

Elsewhere in volunteering, youth volunteering charity v launched a series of initiatives to engage young people, including a large-scale back massage at the summer's music festivals and a robot in the House of Commons. Rod Aldridge, chair of the charity, said in February that other charities had seen it as a threat when it was set up in 2006.

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