Capacitybuilders' volunteering plan slammed

Capacitybuilders must ditch its plans to amalgamate the Volunteering and Workforce Hubs or risk a fall in volunteer numbers, a coalition of volunteering organisations has warned.

Capacitybuilders will scrap the six current ChangeUp hubs next year and plans to replace them with four national support services on the themes of workforce, which will include volunteering; finance; performance; and ‘voice’, which will support campaigning, user involvement, advocacy and sector participation in public policy and strategy.

But a campaign fronted by Volunteering England, which runs the existing volunteering hub, and backed by Navca, YouthNet and Timebank, is calling on Capacitybuilders to go back to the drawing board on its proposals to incorporate volunteering into the workforce theme.

The coalition claims that the move would threaten recent progress made in modernising volunteering. Mark Williams, head of volunteering hub at Volunteering England, said the effects of the proposal would be “quite devastating”.

“We believe this draft framework proposal threatens the entire sector by removing the voice, knowledge and skills base of volunteering from the strategic level of the entire ChangeUp agenda,” he said. “It is very likely that frontline organisations are going to see, towards the end of that three-year period, a drop in the number of people who are going to engage in volunteering.”

He added: “Putting volunteering in workforce development brings back the idea that volunteers are just unpaid labour.”

Navca chief executive Kevin Curley said it was essential that local voluntary organisations were given support from a dedicated support service. “Volunteering is at the heart of all our communities and it should be at the heart of ChangeUp’s strategy for the voluntary sector,” he said. “It is only by keeping volunteering as a national strategic lead that local volunteer centres can be given the necessary tools and resources to flourish and evolve.”

Chris Pond, chair of Capacitybuilders, said the organisation had no intention of downgrading volunteering. “The draft proposals place volunteers centre stage as an integral part of the third sector workforce,” he said.

“Our proposals on the provision of national support services have been shaped by the consultation on our strategic document Destination 2014, and they reflect the sector's demand for more streamlined provision that more closely meets the needs at the frontline.”

Draft Framework for National Support Services, can be read here. Capacitybuilders’ consultation on the proposals closes on 2 July.

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