Volunteering – a noble tradition now perverted

There were many reasons why people volunteered in the olden days and by-and-large, these were altruistic reasons.

Fast forward to a few years back and reasons included:

# Give Something Back
# Unique Opportunities
# View a Culture from the Inside
# Personal Growth
# Personal Benefit
# A Sense of Accomplishment
# Recognition and Feedback
# Learn New Things
# Friendship and Belonging
# Skills and Experience
# Learning a Foreign Language
# To Get a Job
# To Have Fun

Third Sector, in 2009 noted the sharp increase in volunteering by youth:

Fiona Dawe, chief executive of YouthNet, said the increase in volunteering was due to rising unemployment. “More people are recognising volunteering as a valuable way to improve employment chances in a turbulent job market,” she said. 72 per cent of volunteer centres planned to start offering back-to-work training alongside volunteering opportunities.

Philanthropy UK also saw many professionals getting into what might have been a field for retired people once wishing to give back and to enjoy the companionship:

Increases of up to 200% in the number of lawyers, bankers, accountants and other professionals applying to volunteering organisations have been seen by several philanthropy organisations.

Placements abroad were very popular:

Professionals are looking further afield for volunteering opportunities too. Challenges Worldwide (CWW), an Edinburgh-based organisation that places a variety of professionals in three-month placements abroad has also experienced an increase in applicants during the past year.

Of course, now we’re looking at people made redundant or just unemployed, looking for a way back in to employment and this has given rise to micro-volunteering:

Paul Wilson, deputy director of Volunteer Centre Edinburgh, explained that the trend of completing online questionnaires, awareness raising or offering online skills to charities such as Amnesty International, popularised in the US by sites such as sparked.com, could soon be coming to Edinburgh.

All of this is positive and provided volunteers have a financial basis on which to work for no money, bar expenses, then it clearly helps sectors which cannot exist without volunteers, e.g. charity shops. Those on benefits, having the time to volunteer, can register with the DWP and their benefits are no longer affected, as they once were.

There is a tendency for volunteers to be of a type who don’t mind working for nothing and this, in turn, greatly benefits organizations because they’re largely getting quality people for no outlay beyond training.

The Big Society

In steps the Government, both during the Labour dystopia and in the current Big Society. You can trust the government to ruin anything it touches and so it is now. Blind Freddy knows what the game plan is – bring as many onto benefits as possible, change the guard at Westminster and send those people out volunteering.

There are so many reasons for the government to stay TF out of it and some are:

# Resentment by the employed. New Deal centres reported that those sent to Parcel Force, for example, were bitterly resented by regular employees and a certain amount of bullying was alleged. The chance of any of these shining and taking incumbent workers’ jobs were minimal.

# Heather Allen, Third Sector community member said: “I quoted the lack in some prisons of volunteer expenses, the withdrawal of volunteer manager roles in areas of work where volunteers need regular support and supervision, and the interpretation of DWP guidance which makes people feel that they must volunteer in order to retain their benefits.”

The quality of the volunteer sector then proportionally diminishes and volunteer organizations bite the dust.

And then we get to the directive within the DWP of the scheme about to be rolled out, beginning in the Wirrall, whereby job centres are to direct long term unemployed into 35 hour week unpaid work in designated firms. It is apparently not just being rolled out in the Wirrall either and the scandal of the Poundland shop in Hemel Hemstead is a case in point:

Jobseekers have been volunteering at a Poundland shop after being told by job centre staff that they were likely to lose their Jobseeker’s Allowance if they did not do voluntary work, according to a local volunteer centre.

Heather Allen, manager of Volunteer Centre Dacorum in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, said she had encountered “demotivated” volunteers who had been doing voluntary only work because staff at the local job centre had “strongly suggested” to them that they would lose their entitlement to benefits otherwise.

She said a new leaflet from the Department for Work and Pensions, which included private sector copanies on a list of places where volunteering could take place, had led job centre staff to arrange volunteering placements at the local Poundland shop.

“The voluntary work being done by these people is mainly stacking shelves,” she said. “At best, that is work experience rather than volunteering. At worst, it is exploitation. When these unemployed people appear at our door, they are demotivated and they are volunteering only because they are afraid of losing their benefits.”

Naturally, the DWP denies they are doing this but tales are appearing all over of the pressure now placed on even genuine jobseekers to go into unsustainable positions for no remuneration and of course:

# How is anyone meant to apply for work while “volunteering” a full week with a DWP designated firm?

The socio-political ramifications need hardly be spelt out – a volunteer workforce, supported by State money provided by State debt, a controlled sector which gives new meaning to the term “compliance”. And who is the ultimate winner in all this?

Why, our old friends the EU, of course [courtesy The Albion Alliance]. The tagline for the EESC is “a bridge between Europe and organized civil society”.

Organized Civil Society. Y-e-e-e-s-s-s …

13 comments for “Volunteering – a noble tradition now perverted

  1. May 5, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Oh, that’s a train wreck just looking for a place to happen… 🙁

  2. May 5, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Government intervention kills voluntary work. It raises the bar to make volunteers unpaid employees, which is the problem. Volunteers aren’t.

    • Paul
      May 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      You’re right.

      I’m on benefits for a range of hidden and not-so-hidden disabilities. I went to help out at the local library with computers as a volunteer. In many respects I was being tasked to fulfil the state’s programme.

      It took over six months from them asking me to actually starting to set up the scheme that I was helping out with. Criminal checks, more checks, bureaucracy, endless delays and so on.

      I pulled out eventually after finding that the software they were using made it more difficult to teach people than if I could show them myself (and telling people so). It didn’t stop the accusations of ‘selfishness’ from the idiot local councillor I know though.

      Which begs the question: people are being ‘encouraged’ to volunteer and are being scorned when, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out for them – accusations of selfishness, laziness and not being a team player are very common. People are increasingly being taught to fear one another and that the only way of volunteering is through the state.

      Volunteering as a tradition has been perverted by the State for its own ends.

      • windsock
        May 5, 2011 at 4:13 pm

        I’m in a similar position to you Paul. What gets my goat are the people who tell me if I’m well enough to volunteer, I’m well enough to work, without taking into account that flexibility makes volunteering possible in ways that paid working isn’t. The other thing is that if you claim any benefit, you are assumed to be not contributing in any meaningful way to society, but through charity volunteering I support people on the margins of society living in extreme circumstances.

        I wouldn’t mind the DWP scheme so much but they are putting people to work for a pittance (JSA is about £65 a week) for a profit making business, which doesn’t even reimburse the DWP.. Since when was it the state’s duty to increase profitability for private enterprise and therefore dividends for shareholders?

        • Paul
          May 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm

          windsock: I wouldn’t mind the DWP scheme so much but they are putting people to work for a pittance (JSA is about £65 a week) for a profit making business, which doesn’t even reimburse the DWP.. Since when was it the state’s duty to increase profitability for private enterprise and therefore dividends for shareholders?

          What?! That’s wrong on so many levels and I’d call it nakedly exploitative myself.

        • Steven Robert Gill
          October 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm

          ”the people who tell me if I’m well enough to volunteer, I’m well enough to work”

          I don’t understand that attitude, the point is you .are. working, and more than that, you’re working for nothing apart from the pittance that is the Dole.

          Also, it’s this bizarre implication from some that you’re only volunteering to get out of doing paid work,

          ”yeah, that’s right guys, I’m avoiding paid work by………working :???:”

  3. May 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Couldn’t agree more.

  4. May 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Fortunately, the only mention of volunteering during my recent period of signing on was along the lines of I could if I wanted to and it might help my CV if I did. There was no pressure to do so.

    • May 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm

      I can’t help but think in a few years time, the pressure will be there.

      • Paul
        May 5, 2011 at 6:32 pm

        Spot on. I very slowly but surely see this one growing. As a member of the non-working disabled, it’s subtle to most but fairly obvious to me.

        I even had an argument on a forum I’ve since left with a woman who wanted to encourage/pressure/cajole/eventually force the unemployed do voluntary work.

        Can anyone see the contradiction in terms there? The unemployed/disabled should contribute to ‘society’, even if that means bullying them into working for a profit-making discount chain!

        Everything is about pressurising people these days. No wonder we’re so pissed off as a country.

  5. john in cheshire
    May 5, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Why can’t government keep its sodding nose out of things. Humanitarian aid, immigrants and their benefits, voluntary help, racial equality, human rights. Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing. Especially when it involves other races, other religions, other cultures and other countries. And I appreciate this is a rant, which is slightly off topic, but it is symptomatic of the attitude of socialists that when they see something they ‘don’t like’, their unnatural reaction is that ‘we must do something’. In my opinion, ‘ No, we don’t have to do anything’.

  6. May 5, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    It all dovetails nicely into the Big Society, which in itself dovetails nicely into the Citizens’ Committees, which are CP led. Nice one.

  7. Morgan
    May 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Even the military recognises the difference between a conscript and an enlisted man (or woman)

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