Pilot Access to Volunteering fund opens

Applications invited from London, west midlands and north west for fund to help disabled people volunteer

Charities in three regions will be able to apply for money from a £2m pilot fund that has been set up to encourage more disabled people to volunteer.

The Office of the Third Sector announced yesterday that organisations in London, the west midlands and north-west England could apply to the pilot Access to Volunteering fund.

The fund was announced 19 months ago in response to Manifesto for Change, a report by the Commission on the Future of Volunteering, which said disabled people were under-represented in volunteering.

A consortium consisting of the Charities Aid Foundation, the RNIB and consultancy Digital Public will manage the fund, and will distribute the first tranche of funding in December. An enquiry line opens today for interested organisations.

An OTS spokesman said the regions were chosen on the criteria of low levels of volunteering, high numbers of welfare claimants and large numbers of disabled people. A lack of specialist equipment, inappropriate premises and the need for support workers were all cited by the OTS as barriers that discouraged disabled people from volunteering.

He added that the success of the pilot fund would be evaluated before a national fund, for a yet to be agreed sum, was established.

The pilot fund was due to open in April. The spokesman said the delay was caused by "taking time to get it right" and to the £40.5m recession action plan taking priority.

According to the OTS, only 32 per cent of disabled adults formally volunteered in 2008/09, compared with 41 per cent of the general adult population.

"Disabled people must not face unfair barriers when they want to volunteer," said Angela Smith, Minister for the Third Sector.

The enquiry line number is 03000 123 346.


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