Little at Large: Brown's champ volunteers gap in her knowledge

Baroness Julia Neuberger, the Lib Dem peer and Gordon Brown's official champion for volunteering, is facing grumbles from the grass-roots.

When an unemployed caller to a recent Radio Five phone-in complained benefits staff had told him he couldn't volunteer, Neuberger lamented the barriers to volunteering and agreed to talk to the Prime Minister about it.

But on the Association of Volunteer Managers' website one blogger said later: "It would be nice if our 'champion' of volunteering was able to tell the man who rang in that he was wrongly advised by the Job Centre and that he can actually volunteer for 16 hours a week and be paid expenses."

Charities are used to having their buildings painted three times a year by enthusiastic accountancy firm staff on staff volunteering schemes, but Quarriers has taken partnership to a different level by getting the Army to build a footbridge in the village where the care charity is based.

A team from the Royal Engineers 53 Field Squadron (Air Support) constructed the bridge as part of a commitment to "promote the professionalism of the army in the community". So much for military overstretch.

It all started with the innocent abbreviation NGO. But now the initialisation of the sector has gone so far it's getting difficult to see the charities for the abbreviations. Civil servants like to refer to the VSC - voluntary and community sector - but community organisations prefer to call it the community and voluntary sector, or the CVS. That's confusing because it's the initials for councils for voluntary service. Maybe it's all right, because CVSs are now generally known as LIOs - Local Infrastructure Organisations. If all else fails, there's TSO, which is Third Sector Organisation. Is everything clear?

Mathew Little is a freelance writer


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