For the first time, today saw a proper national debate on the role that older people can play in the Government’s Big Society.
WRVS has been urging the Government to give pride of place to older peoples volunteering in its Big Society vision over the last year. We’ve felt that the volunteering agenda that really excites ministers focuses on 19 years olds gap year volunteering and not older volunteers.
Today we started to see some recognition that the Government is getting more serious about the older peoples volunteering agenda. Nick Hurd said that volunteers could play a crucial role in keeping people out of long term care. He zeroed in on the ‘Baby Boom’ generation of people due to retire in the next five years and emphasised the considerable skills that they have.
A fellow speaker, Antonia Cox author of a report on mobilising volunteers drew attention to the findings of WRVS’ report, Gold Age, which shows how much older people are already the mainstay of the Big Society.
When I spoke I highlighted the work that we are doing to reach out to people who have not volunteered before with our Carebank project in Maidenhead. I and members of the audience pressed Nick Hurd on the need for local authorities to ‘step up’ and use their considerable contacts with older people to make individuals aware of volunteering opportunities.
Geraldine Bedell spoke from the Gransnet charity and argued that one barrier to getting more older people active in their communities was a feeling that their contribution was not fully recognised and valued. Geraldine herself was a judge for WRVS’ Gold Age Power List that recognises older people’s impact across our society.
So where do we go next? WRVS will be knocking on ministers doors again asking them to follow up on some of the ideas that came, not only from us, but from Conservative activists who spoke in the meeting.
Matthew Sowemimo, WRVS Head of Public Policy spoke at the ResPublica Fringe meeting during the Conservative Party Conference.
Wednesday 1 June sees the start of this year’s National Volunteers Week. What better time for us to say a huge thank you to all of the wonderful WRVS volunteers in England, Scotland and Wales who give their time help make Britain a great place to grow old.
Every day our volunteers provide a wide variety of services to older people, from delivering a nutritious meal or much appreciated library books to shopping and transport services. And that’s not all they also provide services in hospitals from welcoming and guiding to retail and catering. There is so much going on and with more of us living to a grand old age there is always more that we can do.
So thanks to you all for the time that you give in your local community. Without your fantastic efforts life could be so much more difficult for older people everywhere. Thanks to you WRVS is a trusted national charity which is recognised as being personal, practical, positive and professional.
Not involved yet? If you are not already a WRVS volunteer and would like to get involved we have great news for you. We are expanding our services across England, Scotland and Wales so there will be even more varied and exciting opportunities for volunteers. It’s a good opportunity to meet new people, gain new skills or use the ones you already have to help other people and its fun!
Posted by Chris Dobson, Head of Volunteering
Sometimes, in policy work, its a little tiring to have to constantly prove and reprove empirically what everyone already knows to be the case but in the name of evidence-based policy we keep on going. That's why, for me anyway, the results of a recent WRVS survey on what Scottish older people wanted out of support services, now and in the future, held few surprises. The good thing is that its more proof of what they do want that can be used to back up our efforts to make sure they can get it. Oh, and having it covered on BBC Radio Scotland and in the Scottish Daily Express and in the Herald, Scotland's primo left-of-centre broadsheet, was pretty gratifying too! You can read a short summary and analysis here