VSO fears slump threatens its volunteering targets

The charity has warned that 20 per cent of its placements could go unfilled this year because the economic downturn is affecting people's willingness to volunteer.

Only 48 professionals have gone overseas on two-year placements since April, VSO said, and enquiries from prospective volunteers have slumped.

The charity's target of recruiting 335 volunteers for two-year placements is under threat. If current trends do not change, 70 jobs will be left unfilled by the end of March next year.

Enquiries about volunteering in the year to the end of August were down 1,236 on the previous 12 months. To complete the bleak picture, 55 professionals withdrew their applications in the summer.

VSO said a failure to meet volunteer recruitment commitments would mean planned activity could not go ahead and people in developing countries would suffer.

"The current economic climate is a real concern for everyone and it's natural that UK professionals are concerned about giving up their job security," said chief executive Mark Goldring. "But people living in developing countries are not facing two or three years of credit crunch; they are living in poverty that threatens their long-term education, health and livelihood."

However, young people's overseas volunteering charity Raleigh said demand for its expeditions had grown. "September 2008 has been one of the best months for recruitment to Raleigh volunteer placements for years," said Anne Grenyer, PR and campaigns manager.

"Forty-six new recruits signed up in September 2008, compared with 25 in September 2007. We believe it is because we work with young people who fundraise to come out with us and as yet they are not feeling the effects of the current economic climate."

Mark Restall, a volunteering consultant, said: "Taking a year or more out of you career is a massive commitment and I can see why there could be an impact if the economic situation is uncertain. But everyday volunteering is different."

Dame Elizabeth Hoodless, chief executive of UK volunteering charity CSV, said: "The reality is that many UK volunteers find it very hard to identify a chance to serve despite the enormous needs. If CSV had VSO's problem, we would look to older people, who bring immense skills, time and commitment. As it is, CSV's full-time, long-term volunteer numbers are steadily rising."


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