John Swinney and Calum Irving at VAS ConferenceVoluntary Action Scotland (VAS), the network organisation for Scotland’s local third sector support agencies, is marking International Volunteering Day by calling for a distinctive Scottish approach to volunteering. The move comes amidst ongoing welfare reforms from the UK Government which will see some individuals receiving benefits being forced to take up volunteering or face potential sanctions. VAS plans to work in partnership with the Scottish Government and others in the third sector to develop a Scottish policy to volunteering challenging the latest thinking from the UK Government.

The proposals mooted this year by the Department for Work and Pensions would undermine the social value of volunteering by removing free will from the equation. VAS recognises the vast array of benefits of volunteering but fundamentally believes in volunteering for the social value to the community. The impact of people being forced to volunteer could have a damaging effect on the 25,000 volunteers and the 10,000 third sector organisations VAS membership (Scotland’s local Third Sector Interfaces or ‘TSIs’) support every year.

During the VAS conference in October, John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth gave a commitment to working with VAS and third sector partners to define what volunteering means in Scotland. Mr Swinney supports the call from VAS, stating:

“The Scottish Government is fully supportive of embedding a culture of volunteering in society, and appreciates that volunteering can provide life-enhancing experiences and help develop personal growth.

“Volunteering is a choice that people undertake of their own free will. Volunteers choose to give up their time to help others because they want to, and as a result their contribution is greatly valued.”

Calum Irving, Chief Executive of Voluntary Action Scotland commented:

“Scotland has great potential to rally around a volunteering policy which defines a clear Scottish view on volunteering. Very few people believe it is either right or possible to ‘make’ people volunteer.

“I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to challenging the rhetoric from the DWP and embedding social value and free will at the heart of volunteering. On International Volunteering Day it is important that we recognise and stand up for the thousands of volunteers across Scotland who make a significant contribution to their communities because they know it’s the right thing to do.”

George Thomson Chief Executive Volunteer Scotland said;

“Volunteering is simply based on free will. At its best it’s friendly, uplifting and rewarding. The good relationship building that underpins volunteering is totally undermined if anyone is forced into it.”