Charity leaders ask if National Citizen Service is 'worth the pain'

Navca boss Kevin Curley tells MPs there is a mismatch between 'the very attractive rhetoric of the big society' and the withdrawal of support for volunteer centres

Kevin Curley
Kevin Curley

Charity leaders have questioned whether the government's National Citizen Service is "worth the pain" it is inflicting on existing volunteering organisations.

Kevin Curley, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, told MPs at the Public Administration Committee's fifth evidence session on the big society yesterday that local authority funding for volunteering for 16 to 25-year-olds had disappeared completely in Liverpool, Swindon and Bradford.

He added that councils in Hartlepool and Essex had ended all funding for volunteer support.

At the same time, said Curley, the government had pledged to spend £15m this year on pilot schemes for the service, which encourages teenagers to learn skills and help in the community during summer placements.

It planned, he said, to spend a further £37m next year, and it had been estimated the initiative could cost £355m if it were to be extended nationally.

"You do have to ask whether that new initiative is worth all the pain that's being caused in terms of the loss of support for volunteering at a local level across the country," said Curley.

He said there was a mismatch between "the very attractive rhetoric of the big society" and the withdrawal of support for volunteer centres.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the chief executives charity Acevo, who also appeared before the committee, said charities did not need new initiatives to encourage volunteers. What they needed, he said, was more backing for volunteer support workers.

"What's plagued our organisations over the last decade is new government initiatives on volunteering," he said.

"Government, councils and many people who look at volunteering assume that the only issue is how we get more people to volunteer and forget that volunteers need to be organised, supported, trained and managed.

"If you want to get people to volunteer you have to support the organisations that support volunteers."

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