On 31st August, David Blunkett MP launched a report†calling for
the creation of a new National Volunteer Programme†(NVP) as a
response to the recent urban riots in the UK. You can access his
Such a programme of national†community†service for young people isn’t
new. Mr Blunkett has made such suggestions in the past. Yet this particular proposal leaves me
rather cold. Here’s three reasons why:
Lack of evidence
Rather than giving any evidence of why he feels his proposed approach would
solve the complex problems at the root of the recent unrest, Mr Blunkett justifies
his projected costs for the programme by arguing that they are drop in the
ocean compared to the cost to the nation of youth crime and re-offending. Yet Mr Blunkett fails to draw any link
between the proposed National Volunteer Programme and evidence that it would
reduce such costs to society. If
any voluntary and community sector organisation submitted such a proposal to a
funder on so dodgy an evidence base it would be immediately rejected.
More money for young people’s volunteering
The last government spent millions on†v. This government is spending a†small fortune on National Citizen’s Service.
Now we are being encouraged to spend ¬£950million on Mr Blunkett’s
NVP with no evidence that it will
solve the problems that led to the riots.
Don’t get me wrong – young people’s volunteering is an important issue. v†has done some great work as did Millennium Volunteers
before it. And, with a fraction of the budget, Orange RockCorps do similarly
great work engaging young people in volunteering. Yet young people are a
shrinking proportion of this country’s ageing population and a group that the
UK will rely upon to pay the taxes needed to meet the pension deficit, the
health and social care deficit, the national debt repayments etc.† When
exactly will they have time to volunteer?
Perhaps, as was suggested by Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince’s
Trust, the money might be better
spent engaging the over 25’s – who volunteer much less – to engage in their
communities and provide more services for the young people many are so quick to
Involvement of people†knowledgeable†about volunteering
As with many such proposals, warm words are used about†working†with
existing “major volunteer organisations” to make Mr Blunkett’s ideas
a reality. Yet his proposed
operational board seems to exclude agencies with expertise in volunteering in
favour of health, crime prevention etc.
Crucially, where is the emphasis on helping and supporting organisations to
provide nine-month, full time volunteering placements for young people? Is that what organisations want and need in terms of volunteer engagement? A recent article suggests it doesn’t seem to be the case for the British Red Cross.