Book News: April 8th, 2008

By Baroness Neuberger

This report focuses on volunteering in health and social care. There is huge potential for the expansion of volunteering in this area, particularly in relation to the role of volunteers who are also service-users. Much of this expansion cannot be unlocked without a change of culture within the public sector, particularly in the level of understanding of volunteering.

The review has unearthed some interesting anomalies in how volunteering is approached in these various sectors. In particular there needs to be more debate about the role of volunteers in private sector service provision, such as in care homes for older people. Statutory agencies commission such services,so recommendations mostly focus on the public sector and the need for commissioners to think about how volunteers can be incorporated into services.

This report recommends some immediate easy wins, such as ensuring that NHS Direct provides links to volunteering opportunities to boost recruitment. But if the Government is really serious about wanting to improve health and social care services through the involvement of volunteers, a much longer term cultural change will be needed. The message needs to be communicated both to statutory providers and to commissioners that volunteers do not present an unnecessary risk and that they can really add value. But that is only true if they are invested in seriously and managed properly.

The report is available from the Cabinet Office.