Government needs to stop focusing on increasing the number of volunteers and trust people in communities, the minister responsible has said.
Baroness Barran, minister for civil society, was speaking last week at an online event organised by Volunteering Matters, where she reflected on what government had learnt during the pandemic.
She highlighted the important role that volunteering had played over the last year, in terms of both formal and informal activity. She said: "One of the bright lights, in a pretty dark pandemic, has been some big shifts in volunteering.”
This surge in volunteering is “something to be proud of” and also something to build on and learn from, she said
'People put their hands up'
Barran said: “In government we’re always worrying about volunteer numbers, and I just said ‘look I think we should stop worrying about generosity’.”
She added: “When there is real need people put their hands up.”
She said this was not just about charities.
“Businesses and individuals all around the country are keen to get involved, keen to help address some big and smaller problems that we face as a nation.”
Her second point was to “let the local bloom”.
She said she agreed with a “bottom up” approach, but said it is “really hard in government to hold your nerve and trust the local”.
Thirdly she said government had a role to “encourage collaboration, where collaboration is needed”, highlighting the Voluntary and Community Services Emergencies Partnership as a “critical” player during the pandemic.
“We can help oil the wheels to make that happen,” she said.
‘Trust the expertise of those on the ground’
Her fourth lesson was to “trust the expertise of those on the ground”.
She said the highlight of her week was talking to volunteering groups, who “just know what is needed on their patch”.
Finally, she said: “We should just trust the difference that volunteers make. From the Olympics to the pandemic and beyond volunteers are making a massive difference.”