The Government must implement a "citizen involvement policy
to recruit more volunteers to the public sector, according to a new report by volunteering body Community Service Volunteers (CSV).
The State of the Volunteering Nation, commissioned for the organisation's 40th birthday, calls for a wider role for volunteers in the NHS, schools, social services, libraries and prisons.
CSV wants the Government to set targets for volunteer involvement to support public-service professionals and help build a better relationship between these services and the community.
The report estimates that more than £14 billion a year is generated by voluntary work across the public services and states that the Government needs to encourage the public sector to use citizen involvement programmes to boost levels of service.
"It's important for the Government to open doors and help citizens get engaged with public services,"said Elizabeth Hoodless, executive director at CSV. "People can't be expected to know how to do this themselves, and I think the real potential of volunteering has yet to be recognised."
The research highlights services such as the Inland Revenue, libraries and fire brigades that have yet to enlist volunteers.
"Most professionals don't know how to recruit, train and match volunteers to positions,"explains Hoodless. "Many customer-care jobs could be done as well, or better, by volunteers who can commit more time to the individual."
Hoodless believes that the public services need to look abroad to realise how effective managed volunteering can be. In the US, the police authorities are required to make sure that 10 per cent of their staff are volunteers.
"There are many examples of countries that have effectively recruited volunteers into public-service bodies and we need to do the same here,
she said. "One of the NHS performance indicators should be citizen involvement. There is firm evidence that volunteers provide invaluable services to both staff and patients."
The State of the Volunteering Nation also explores the role volunteers play in the UK and why the public sector should lead a drive to boost recruitment. The report states that although 22 million people volunteer in the UK, many more are willing to give their time if actively approached.
"We know that 11 million people are just waiting to be asked to volunteer. Many have the skills and time to impact positively on the lives of vulnerable children and their carers,