Paul Buddery, Director of Strategy at Volunteering Matters, discusses why councils should support all types of volunteering, from the most informal to the most ambitious

No community could get by without volunteering.  Everyday acts of help and support hold us together; and for the most part, they’re given and received as a matter of course. But does that mean that volunteering is only good for simply keeping the status quo?

What about our toughest challenges?  For families that are struggling, for young people leaving care, or for the socially isolated, does volunteering have a role to play? Or are these the kind of situations that can only be dealt with by paid professionals?

At Volunteering Matters, we believe councils have a crucial role in both promoting community resilience, and supporting the most vulnerable; and we think that volunteering can help with both.

Our own programmes range from relatively informal peer-led activities that keep people connected, active and feeling useful, to carefully designed projects that enable volunteers to take on the toughest challenges in partnership with public service professionals.

In Brent for example, we’re evolving our well-established Volunteers Supporting Families work to provide intensive support where there are concerns about potential gang involvement, or a history of domestic abuse.  Volunteers spend time with the family up to three times a week.  They provide advice, a listening ear, time with someone ‘on their level’ and from their community.  Through careful training, risk management and information sharing, volunteers can offer a flexible and knowledgeable supplement to the work of statutory services.

As we celebrate Volunteers’ Week our hope at Volunteering Matters is that councils recognise, celebrate and support all types of volunteering, from the most informal and light-touch, to the most ambitious and integrated.  Volunteering helps communities find community solutions to community problems.  Councils should be as ambitious about what they ask of their communities, as they are serious about the professional support communities need to function at their best.