Headlines: April 30th, 2004

Setting targets for the recruitment of volunteers to work with public services could help to tackle crime, health and social problems and reverse the pressure on services, according to CSV – Community Service Volunteers. In a new document – ‘Reports on Active Citizens and Civil Renewal’ – it looks at ways volunteers can contribute to services.It demonstrates how citizens can play an active part in renewal through schools, doctors’ surgeries, prisons, social services, libraries and the media. The Executive Director of CSV, Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, believes what she calls ‘citizen engagement’ can help rebuild communities and reverse the kinds of pressure on public services that led to tragedies such as the death of Victoria Climbie. “Many people sit in front of their televisions too afraid to make the links in their communities that might protect a child or prevent isolation for the elderly,” she said.

The report says although there are encouraging signs that the Government will beat its target for increasing voluntary and community sector activity, more than 11 million people are waiting to be asked to volunteer but they do not know how to become involved. The challenge, CSV says, is to make it easy for them to respond. The report says targets should be set for volunteer citizen engagement in every public service.In one example of the impact engaged citizens can have, the document points to California where volunteers have reduced child abuse by 44 per cent through daily visits to children. Now, through its own ‘Volunteers in Child Protection’ project, CSV is exploring the contribution they can make in working with social services professionals. With the backing of the Monument Trust the project is being delivered in partnership with Bromley and Sunderland social services departments.