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Voluntary sector hustings see united opposition on Tory plans to mandate volunteering

Melanie May | 19 June 2024 | News

A microphone against a backdrop of blurred lights. By Brett Sayles on Pexels

Current Civil Society Minister Stuart Andrew faced united opposition on plans for mandating volunteering through a new national service at today’s voluntary sector general election hustings, while candidates unanimously agreed that charities can and should campaign on behalf of their communities. 

Organised by NCVO, the voluntary sector general election hustings saw representatives from Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens, and the SNP all saying what they would do for charities, volunteering and civic space should their party win seats at the general election in two weeks’ time. 

On the national service plans recently announced by PM Rishi Sunak, the current Civil Society Minister, Stuart Andrew stood firm in support of mandating volunteering, saying that young people wanted opportunities to volunteer and the Conservatives felt the best way to ensure youth participation was to introduce mandatory national service. 

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Responding to the civil society hustings and comments from the party representatives, Sarah Elliott (formerly Vibert), CEO of NCVO, issued a plea on behalf of the sector for it not to be drawn into ‘so-called culture wars’ and also said:

“For too long, charities and volunteers have been overlooked, undervalued and not listened to by decision makers. Yet these same charities are the ones who are picking up the pieces from creaking public services and filling gaps to ensure that support if there for those who desperately need it.

 

“Politicians pledged today to work with the voluntary sector, to ensure the voices of communities is included in key decision making, and demonstrated the importance of working in partnership to ensure we tackle societal challenges, together. We remain committed to this as we know that only through this approach, can real and lasting change happen.”

Commenting specifically on national service/mandated volunteering, Elliott said:

“Volunteering in its very nature, isn’t volunteering if its mandated. Any type of forced participation is not only off-putting for people, it can also prevent them from building a love of giving their time to the causes that matter to them. We know people who do volunteer, get so much out of it, so instead we want to see politicians support our vision for a long-term plan to motivate and inspire people to give something back.”

Commenting specifically on campaigning, she added:

“There is no doubt after today that charities should be celebrated not stifled from campaigning on the issues that matter to them and the communities they represent. The sector has made it clear how tired they are of being dragged into culture or being told they have no right to speak up on important causes. Only though listening to varied and diverse voices, can we ever make strides in creating a fairer, more equal society where everyone has choice over how they live.”

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