Volunteering Victoria Calls for More Support Programs
22 April 2010 at 12:55 pm
If the volunteer community is to become the mechanism for social inclusion, then the Federal Government needs to deliver equipment, in the form of well designed volunteer support programs as part of its National Volunteer Strategy, according to Volunteering Victoria.
The volunteer organisation was commenting on a new issues paper commissioned by the Government promoting the idea of volunteering as a vehicle for social inclusion.
Volunteering Victoria CEO Dianne Embry says her organisation has been analysing the information the government is working with as it develops a National Volunteer Strategy, in particular the Centre for Social Impact’s (CSI) paper called Addressing Social Disadvantage Through Volunteering.
Volunteering Victoria says the CSI paper was commissioned by the government and presents an analysis of volunteering that is a challenge for the current systems that underlie volunteering activity.
Volunteering Victoria says the idea of volunteering as a vehicle for social inclusion – i.e. inclusion of those excluded- is a conceptual shift that is both welcome and challenging.
Embry says she assumes the CSI paper will be only one input into the thinking around the National Volunteer Strategy. But she says it indicates an important fact: that volunteering is increasingly seen in instrumental terms by government, i.e. what it can be used to do, rather than just what it is.
She says in the face of significant demographics and community change, and increased regulatory requirements, volunteering as a community activity is now faced with challenges it may be not be able to meet in its current scope.
Embry says this is clear from the CSI paper’s view that volunteering is in some ways an activity of the socially dominant, at least in terms of educational and income levels (human capital) and in terms of connections/networks (social capital).
Volunteering Victoria says the key challenges the CSI paper presents to volunteering are:
- The need to shift volunteering from an activity predominantly carried out by advantaged groups in the community to one that is more inclusive of disadvantaged community members
- The mechanisms for doing this – targeted recruiting and supporting more volunteers from excluded groups (with no real resources to recruit or support them, and the potential use of the Disability Discrimination Act to ensure volunteer organisations become accessible )
- The underlying notion that volunteering as a social phenomenon can somehow act to implement changes as if it is a kind of service system: in fact the reality is that volunteering is millions of people carrying out thousands of activities with no real coordinating or management model and minimal resources
Volunteering Victoria says it welcomes the significant intellectual value of the CSI paper. The debate about volunteering as a mechanism for social inclusion is one the community needs to have. But Dianne Embry says it is going to be important that the Federal Government understand that volunteering is not a (social outcome) machine.
Embry says if the volunteer community is to become the mechanism for social inclusion, then government needs to give it some equipment, in the form of a well designed volunteer support program, noting that the current recurrent spending by the Federal Government on volunteering is around $5 million per annum.
The Federal Government’s National Volunteering Strategy will be released to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Year of Volunteering in 2011.
The CSi paper by Dr Debbie Haski-Leventhal is attached.