Red tape and bureaucracy is discouraging people from volunteering, says a report by the Commission on the Future of Volunteering published today.
The Manifesto for Change report urged the government to invest in basic training schemes for volunteers and adopt a “non-interference” position, instead of creating more new initiatives.
The Commission’s chair, Baroness Julia Neuberger, said the sector must “rethink the obsession with risks” when recruiting volunteers.
Neuberger added that “time consuming” criminal record checks, through the Home Office’s Criminal Records Bureau, should only apply to volunteers who work with children and vulnerable adults.
During the consultation of 1,190 people and organisations, the Commission found the public and voluntary sectors lacked leadership in setting up volunteering opportunities for their staff.
The voluntary sector also failed to enlist staff who were disabled, had mental health problems, or were asylum seekers, refugees or homeless, it said.
The Commission was particularly critical of the voluntary sector for failing to support staff to participate in volunteering opportunities.
In response to its consultation, it is calling on the government to set up an annual £5m Volunteering Matched Fund over three years to support partnerships between organisations and local authorities.
It also wants a £1m Access to Volunteering Fund pilot to be established to support disabled and under-represented groups to volunteer, and £1.75m to improve volunteer training.
In addition to funding, it urged the government to set up a working group to identify the barriers to volunteering and a parliamentary select committee to champion volunteering.
Neuberger said: “Our vision is a society where volunteering is part of our DNA so that – by giving time – we enrich our own lives and those of others.”