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A sustainable voluntary sector

Date: Tuesday 28 May 2019
Author: Councillor Michael Wilson
Title: Vice-chair, Finance, Policy and Resources Committee

We are privileged to live in a borough that has had a thriving voluntary sector for many decades. In some parts of London, they have had to start from scratch and build an infrastructure to support the growing needs and demands of a local community, especially given cuts to services over the last few years. 

I recently attended the HANDS fair - an event to promote voluntary activity in the borough. This neighbourhood care group, like many of the other voluntary groups, rely on people giving time, money and skills to enable us to have a safety net, improve the local environment or provide a community activity that just would not happen otherwise. 

A chair of another neighbourhood care group recently said to me, "the volunteers of today will soon become the service users of tomorrow". It is becoming harder and harder to replenish the volunteer networks of the past - the demographics of the borough are changing, it is very expensive to live here, people are working longer hours in different parts of the city, retiring much later than in the past. Young children or caring for other relatives takes up any available precious non-work time. Also, people do not want to volunteer in the same way they did five, 10 or 20 years ago. 

Yes, there is a supply problem, but the threat is more existential. If today's volunteers are tomorrow's service users (with greater and more complex demands in many cases) how are we going to support them? As residents, as volunteers, as councillors, as voluntary groups we all need to challenge ourselves to think about how we future-proof the amazing work done by groups in the borough. 

It is great to see new examples of new ways of doing good works - GoodGym Richmond combines a passion for a hobby and giving something back to the community at the same time. As we mark Volunteers Week (Saturday 1 to Friday 7 June) we all need to think about ways to refresh and renew our voluntary sector in order to sustain it for decades to come. 

In the meantime if you want to find a way to give back today, I encourage you to attend the Volunteer Fair ‪on Thursday 6 June at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College. If you have not been before then I would encourage you to attend, it is an opportunity to find an organisation for a cause for which you have a passion. 

If you are reading this and you can't make the fair, but do think you have got something to offer then please get in touch with one of the 750 local organisations who are working locally. 

If you are not sure where to go, get in touch with the RCVS via their website www.richmondcvs.org.uk or on 020 8843 7945 - they will point you in the right direction.

Updated: 24 March 2021