Headlines: May 12th, 2000

There is a growing response from public services to build new partnerships with volunteers, particularly in the key priority areas of health, education and crime prevention. Volunteers are coming forward in increasing numbers to take part in school reading schemes and mentoring projects. They are also providing specialist skills such as accountancy to voluntary organisations.Although 370,000 hours have been deposited in the BBC Timebank, the initiative is only in the early stages of development. Sir Richard Wilson, head of the civil service, has put volunteering on the agenda by writing to the heads of departments asking what is being done to encourage staff to volunteer. A principal barrier to volunteering is that many people do not know about the opportunities or that time off is available. To overcome this weakness a website is being launched to explain just how people can help and managers will receive e-mails asking them to make staff aware of the site.

There is some concern that the willingness to build partnerships with volunteers may not keep pace with the number of people wanting to help. A spokesperson for the National Centre for Volunteering said that although volunteers generally had a warm reception some organisations found difficulty in adjusting their ways of working.