Government fails to galvanise workforceOn 23 Jan 2001 in Personnel Today Chancellor Gordon Brown announced a £300m boost forcommunity volunteering earlier this month. The state-of-the-art metallic podiumgave way under the considerable political weight of Lord Falconer, ministerresponsible for the new initiative and Gordon Brown uncharacteristically joked,“I think it’s in shock at the sight of me giving away money”.Launching the initiative the Chancellor spoke less thaneloquently. “A new era of active citizenship and the enabling state is withinour grasp, and at its core is a renewal of civic society,” he said. Heproclaimed an end to “centralising government”, saying the man from Whitehallno longer knows best, but the woman from the WRVS does.Unsurprisingly, political commentators seized upon theapparent contradictions. Many were suspicious of government seeking morevolunteers – was this a cheapskate way of cutting services? Unison’s assistantgeneral secretary, Keith Sonnet said, “If this is intended to use unpaidvolunteers to do the work of paid public employees it is a daft idea. How arethe authorities going to deal with vast numbers of volunteers walking around hospitalsand going into schools?” With regard to the end of “centralising government” andempowerment in the field, Polly Toynbee pointed out in The Guardian that “underLabour every social programme comes with rigorous targets to be monitoredruthlessly”.So much for the sceptics. The facts are that voluntarygroups are struggling to find enough people to help out with existing tasks.With more women in the paid workforce the female army that voluntary groupsused to rely on for voluntary work has dwindled. The Financial Times says thereis a decline in the hours of voluntary work carried by men between 35-to-50,largely due to the pressure of their jobs. Gordon Brown believes that up to100,000 over-50s can be encouraged to supplement the work of nurses, teachersand the social services. As usual our political commentators have missed the bigpicture. This is a long-awaited move that on its own won’t solve the problem,but it is a great start. There isenormous need and enormous scope for effective actions. Already 170,000 peopledo voluntary work for the NHS and as chairman of an NHS Hospital Trust, I knowwhat an enormous contribution they make to the stretched full-time staff.For me this scheme is not embracing enough. It only looks atthose out of work who are volunteering to help public services. What aboutthose in work? Despite all talk of pressure of work, the evidence of businessbenefit from encouraging employees to contribute in the community isoverwhelming. Come on Chancellor, let’s encourage all sections of society tobuild our communities and benefit their businesses, whilst developingthemselves at the same time. By Professor Clive Morton, Chairman of Whitwell Learning,author and former vice-president of the CIPD Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed.