Volunteering 'not cheap public service'

Stephen Cook

Volunteering should not be "a way of offering public services on the cheap", according to the chair of a new commission on the future of volunteering.

Speaking in advance of today's commission launch, Baroness Julia Neuberger said volunteering was a gift of time freely given by individuals. "The relationship between this gift and the development and implementation of policy are areas the commission will explore in depth," she said.

The commission is an initiative from the England Volunteering Development Council, which represents the whole volunteering sector. Members range from Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, to David Robinson, founder of Community Links and co-author of Change the World for a Fiver.

The inquiry is intended to be non-political and has been prompted by the recent interest in volunteering from government, business and the voluntary sector itself.

"I cannot remember a time when volunteering has featured so prominently in the thinking of policy-makers," said Neuberger. "Although this is encouraging, I do not believe volunteering should be a way of offering public services on the cheap."

The commission will look at emerging trends in volunteering, including growing levels of activism and campaigning. It is due to produce a final report, complete with recommendations, in 2007.

- See Budget special, page 4, and Editorial, page 22.

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