Thursday, 5 March 2015

"Where will the volunteers come from?"

the Senior Cat asked me.
He had been to a Seniors' Concert the day before and now he was back from a visit to the bank and the post office in the local shopping centre.
The Seniors' Concert happens once a month. It is a local event, a joint venture between a local church and the council. They get a great variety of musical talent along - anything from African drummers to harpists an choral groups. The Senior Cat goes as much to support the organisers of the events as for the music (which is not always to his tastes). 
Like everything else it takes volunteers to help organise it.
And yesterday he observed, once again, all those "volunteer" grandparents doing the essential baby-sitting and child-minding.
A friend of his had surgery yesterday. She won't be looking after the grandchildren for a while. It's been a major drama making alternative arrangements. 
I know someone else who wants to go to a relative's wedding - but he and and his wife can only go if alternative arrangements can be made for the care of his very elderly mother who lives with them. Getting three days in non-emergency "respite" care is also a major undertaking. 
The world would not end if the Seniors' Concerts stopped. It would be a pity but the Senior Cat knows they might well cease for a number of reasons  - and one of those is the reliance on volunteers. The world won't end if grandparents aren't going to be available for the care of children either. Nor will it end if someone cannot go to a wedding. But the world would be a very different place. Children might not be as safe or they might spend more hours in day care or a parent might need to give up work to care for the child(ren). An elderly person might fall or fail to feed themselves  or even die alone. No right minded person wants that to happen. 
But the Senior Cat asked, "Where will the volunteers come from?"
I know what he means. The current generation of volunteers are women who were housewives or women who ceased to work at sixty. Because many of them were at home they did things that are now done by both partners over the weekend - the time when they might have been volunteering. Children have more outside activities. Some, but  by no means all, parents will be involved in that but for others it is a passive role. Grandparents who might have volunteered in other ways are being used by families.
And it is more difficult to volunteer. Volunteers need police checks (and they need to pay a hefty fee and sometimes multiple hefty fees to get the necessary certification). They have to do courses in occupational health and safety, in customer service and so on - just to volunteer. We're told it is all about safety. Perhaps it is. It also halts some would-be volunteers in their tracks. I know someone who would have been happy to volunteer at a large charity concern. The building is just around the corner from her. She could get there in her wheelchair. They would like to have her. She once worked as a secretary and she knows office procedures. But their organisation does not pay for police checks and she would have to do the courses in health and safety and customer service - neither of which she could get to, nor needs to do. 
They are losing ten volunteer hours and paying for fifteen - using money which could be used to help the people the charity serves. The person they employ in the office could be employed out in the field. 
So yes, where will the volunteers come from. Has the government really thought all this through? Have charities thought this through? Have those who claim to be concerned about occupational health and safety and customer (or client) service really thought it through?
I don't think they have.  There needs to be a hefty dose of commonsense applied as well. 

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