Government's volunteer brokerage scheme 'rushed through'

Charities say plan for jobseekers is impractical

The Government's £8m volunteer brokerage scheme, a key part of its action plan to help the sector through the recession, got under way last week amid concerns from some practitioners about its practicality and benefits.

The scheme, run by environmental charity BTCV in association with volunteering charities CSV, Volunteering England and v, aims to match 34,000 jobseekers with volunteer placements over the next two years.

Tom Flood, chief executive of BTCV, said the brokers - volunteer managers at the four organisations - were now ready and the first placements had begun."The scheme has been put together extremely quickly," he said. "The Government's target is ambitious and challenging, but I think it's realisable.

"Whether there is the capacity for this many volunteers may well be an issue, but time will tell."

One senior sector figure, who did not want to be named, told Third Sector the scheme faced huge operational difficulties and had been rushed through with "a gun to the head" of those running it.

Kate Bowgett, volunteer management adviser at museum partnership the London Museums Hub, said she was concerned the scheme was impractical and would not benefit the sector.

She said placements would have to last for only one day to count towards the DWP target and would be of little benefit to many organisations using volunteers.

"The Government thinks that this is a numbers game," she said. "It's not. Volunteering has to meet a need, and sending 100 volunteers to a project that needs only seven is not helpful. Short bursts of volunteering are not suited to the work of many organisations.

"The sector doesn't have the capacity to absorb thousands of new volunteers, and there is no extra funding for new volunteer projects."

She added that the scheme required brokers to match volunteers with placements within five days, which did not allow time for practicalities such as Criminal Records Bureau checks.

Debbie Usiskin, vice-chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers, said the scheme would duplicate the brokerage service already provided by many local volunteer centres.

"It would be cheaper and more effective to give the money to volunteer centres and put posters in job centres advertising them," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions, which is funding the scheme, said it was determined to give jobseekers the right help and support and offer "varied and valuable" volunteering opportunities.

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