Government plans to reward social care volunteers with credits to fund their own care have been criticised by sector leaders.
Over the weekend, care services minister Paul Burstow floated proposals to reward volunteers with credits they could later redeem to help finance their own care.
Burstow praised a scheme run along similar lines in Japan.
But Ruth Cartwright, joint manager for England at the British Association of Social Workers, said that, by creating another group with a right to publicly-funded care, the rewards system could exacerbate rather than solve the problems of under-funding and an ageing population.
She said: “You will have an ageing [set of volunteers to fund care for] as well as an ageing population.”
Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, described the proposals as only making a “modest contribution to meeting rapidly rising care needs”. She said the need to increase revenues in the care system was a more pressing problem.
Increasing material rewards for volunteering may fail to encourage more people to volunteer, said Lynne Berry, chief executive of older people’s charity WVRS, which uses thousands of volunteers. “Policymakers should investigate how far volunteers are motivated by direct material benefits rather than the emotional impetus that comes from making a strong impact within their community,” she said.
Reforming social care funding and incentivising volunteers need to remain separate objectives, said Ann Blackmore, head of campaigns and communciations at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).
“Incentivising volunteers is a good thing but we do have reservations about a system that offers a welfare benefit, which should be a right, not a reward,” she said. Blackmore added it would change volunteering into a job and give rise to questions about volunteers’ motivations and the need for robust safeguards to be in place.
Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, reflected Blackmore’s concerns, saying the proposals could improve support for some voluntary services but should not be seen as an opportunity to reduce the involvement of professionals in delivering personal care.
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