Giving time to public services

Nathalie Thomas

CSV is bringing a representative from the Tempe Police Department in Arizona, US, to a Home Office-funded seminar next week to explain how volunteers can help UK forces fight crime.

British police officials will hear about schemes in which volunteers drive and park 'bait' vehicles in areas of high crime and act as interpreters between police and non-native speakers.

The seminar is one of four such events being hosted by CSV and the Home Office to push through the charity's long-term agenda of increasing volunteering in the statutory sector. The other three will look at volunteering in schools, healthcare and the care of older people. The public services series is being funded by the Home Office with part of last year's Year of the Volunteer budget.

"This is a legacy of last year," said Paul Donohoe, senior press officer at CSV. "The profile of volunteering has been raised, and we want to maximise that."

CSV hopes the momentum gained during the Year of the Volunteer will help it introduce more volunteers to the statutory services.

"We've spent a year increasing people's awareness of volunteering," said Donohoe. "What we need now is to match that interest with opportunities.

The seminars are being pitched at representatives from each of the relevant public service areas, and will highlight existing projects in the UK and abroad.

At the healthcare conference on Friday, for example, NHS staff will learn about volunteers driving sick patients to surgeries instead of GPs making home visits. According to research by the Institute of Healthcare Management, each such journey saves the NHS £45.

At next Friday's policing seminar, volunteer co-ordinators from the Metropolitan Police will report on the success of volunteer special constables since their introduction three years ago.

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Help the Aged has criticised the Home Office's volunteering strategy.

The charity said schemes aimed at youth volunteering, such as the Russell Commission, were too specific and risked excluding other volunteers, including older people.

It also found fault with the £3m strategy, announced last week, to tackle barriers encountered by disabled volunteers, volunteers from black and minority ethnic communities and people without formal qualifications.

"I'm not sure about the advantages of a strand-based approach except where there are specific issues," said David Sinclair, policy manager for social inclusion at Help the Aged.

Sinclair added that government strategies should address volunteering in general, to ensure that all age groups and sections of society would be properly involved.

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