Cameron’s oxymoron

David Cameron’s latest election wheeze, to require employers of more than 250 staff to give employees three days’ ‘volunteering’ a year, is misleadingly described.

In my world, if people are being paid they are not ‘volunteering’.  The point of volunteering is to give your time, expertise and energy for free, to help others—not to be paid for it.

For instance, the Ramblers have over 25,000 volunteers, who clear paths, lead walks, object to path changes and planning applications, organise social events, take minutes at meetings and much more.  They would not dream of being paid for their time to do this work.

Ynys Mons Ramblers' Silver Slashers build a bridge on Llangoed footpath 6

Ynys Mons Ramblers’ unpaid Silver Slashers build a bridge on Llangoed footpath 6

What David Cameron proposes is in fact paid social work.

 

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
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11 Responses to Cameron’s oxymoron

  1. stravaigerjohn says:

    Quite right! I get very peeved too when he witters on about his “Big Society”. There always has been a Big Society. So much is done by people contributing for the benefit of others. What I do object to is his notion that essential services should be unfunded and carried out by the unpaid.

    • Chris says:

      I’d agree on funding, and that this policy could be seen as an extension of the drive to cut cut cut. That would be damaging.

      In the outdoors world though, a lot of the services I’d see as ‘essential’, Mountain Rescue as an example, don’t want to move to a professional model from what I’ve seen. They sound happy enough with the way they can bring people in and be flexible, working with dedicated, committed people, rather than disillusioned career people (people who join up / stay on because its a wage not a passion). I’m sure they wouldn’t turn down better funding though!

  2. Hugh says:

    Well maybe. But much volunteering is done by people who have retired — aren’t they being paid too, both by their former employers and the state?

    • Chris Beney says:

      No. Because there is no contractual or financial connection between such volunteering and pensions.

      • Hugh says:

        You mean if someone chooses to volunteer during a day’s annual leave, that’s good (although they’re being paid by their employer, they could have decided to put their feet up), but if someone chooses to volunteer during a day’s volunteering leave, that’s bad (not because they’re being paid by their employer, but because they could only have chosen to work instead. Or take a day’s leave of course…).

      • Chris Beney says:

        Hugh’s comment on this doesn’t seem to have a ‘reply’ button so I will reply here:
        He said “You mean if someone chooses to volunteer during a day’s annual leave, that’s good (although they’re being paid by their employer, they could have decided to put their feet up), but if someone chooses to volunteer during a day’s volunteering leave, that’s bad (not because they’re being paid by their employer, but because they could only have chosen to work instead. Or take a day’s leave of course…).”
        No, I neither said nor meant anything at all about good or bad, Hugh had said “…aren’t they [pensioners] being paid too for volunteering?” The answer was and remains, no.

  3. Alan Mather says:

    Also, he’s quick to volunteer others. Why does he not lead by example, get his wellies on, and get down and dirty himself. It’s so easy to volunteer others.

  4. I’d be interested to hear what charities are thinking. The one thing I learned working as a volunteer and trustee of a charity for over 20 years was that managing, assessing and training volunteers is a huge expense. The assumption that someone can swan in for 3 days and be useful is a bit naïve.

    • Chris says:

      Depend on context:

      Could I be a Mountain Rescuer for a day? No

      Could I help Mountain Rescue on the phones for a day? Possibly, but again likely not.

      Could I fundraise for Mountain rescue for a day? Yes!

  5. Chris says:

    I’m sorry, but on this one I disagree (and it hurts to be on Cameron’s side on anything!). I work full time, and can’t avoid that – unless someone comes up with a magic solution to childcare. My local canal society organises a great range of volunteering days – but all ‘Friday Work Parties’. The few Saturday ones they do then suck into family time (both of us work, so it is nice to actually see our children). I have in the past used annual leave to join them. So a national policy to encourange employers to give their staff an extra three days to do something is, I think, a great idea. No one is forcing anyone to take it, no one is subsidising the volunteering, what it is doing is helping create the space and time for people to do a bit more.

    I’d also disagree that ‘swanning in for 3 days’ being not useful is also not the full truth (and a touch dismissive). There are certainly a great many roles that need more consistent time – especially where training is needed. But there are also many other roles where it does provide a benefit. There is also an argument that getting many more people involved in lower level opportunities will provide many additional benefits: spreading the word on certain causes, getting people engaged on issues, potentially being the ‘hook’ that turns some more people into long term volunteers.

    Is it a magic policy that will make provide solutions to all volunteers needs? No. Of course not. But it is a very good piece of the jigsaw. It’s the one decent policy I can ever remember Cameron having, so it’s sad to see it being torn apart with no consideration for those it would bring opportunity too.

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