Demand for volunteers expected to rise due to budget cuts

Doreen Smith, the new chief executive of Voluntary Action North Somerset (VANS).

Doreen Smith, the new chief executive of Voluntary Action North Somerset (VANS). - Credit: Archant

A ‘surge’ in demand for voluntary workers to provide vital community services has been predicted by the new chief executive of Voluntary Action North Somerset (VANS).

Doreen Smith believes volunteers will play a bigger part in helping to run a wide range of services due to funding cuts in the NHS and local authorities.

Mrs Smith is now leading the Weston-based organisation which promotes volunteering and social enterprise for the benefit of the community.

Her plans include linking up with more businesses to show firms how they can help voluntary organisations and running masterclasses so charities can learn from experts.

She is also keen to set up a strategic forum so members of VANS can discuss issues affecting communities and find out how the voluntary sector can help.


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She said: “VANS is about community benefit and supporting organisations to run effectively with volunteers.

“Volunteering has been around a long time and I think there’s going to be another surge of interest towards volunteering.

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“They can play a key role in providing services when the NHS and councils can’t due to a lack of funding.

“These organisations now have to look creatively and be innovative and that’s why they are looking at the voluntary sector.

“There has already been a lot more interest in what volunteers can provide.”

VANS is working with the clinical commissioning group to ensure the voluntary, community an social enterprise sector is represented in plans for health services across North Somerset.

The group has 177 members and according to the 58 organisations who took part in a recent survey, they benefited from 60,000 volunteer hours per week which saved them £32million a year.

The sector benefits businesses but it is also rewarding for volunteers who gain new skills, experience or a sense of purpose.

Mrs Smith said: “Voluntary organisations often don’t have the funds to be able to pay for a website designer or a graphic designer to produce their report. These are the kinds of things businesses can provide.”

Any businesses interested becoming a memmber of VANS or those keen to learn about volunteering can find out more at www.vansweb.org.uk

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