Volunteer Ireland is the national volunteer development organisation. We are the voice for volunteering and the national support and development organisation for Volunteer Centres in Ireland. We exist to make volunteering as good as it can be, to affect the quality of volunteering experiences and to shape volunteering for the future in service and support of a highly functioning society.
We advocate on behalf of volunteering in Ireland, volunteers and organisations that involves volunteers. Our vision is an Ireland where everyone who wants to volunteer can volunteer to create a better society. We work with Government and other bodies to make this vision a reality.
Volunteer Ireland currently has 3 key policy priorities:
1. A National Volunteering Strategy for Ireland
Volunteer Ireland has long believed there is a need for a national strategy for volunteering in Ireland. While we receive funding from and work closely with the Department of Rural and Community Development, there is currently no formal plan approved by Government for what it is we are collectively trying to achieve for volunteering.
Over 8,000 community organisations depend on over 1 million people a year to deliver about 233 million hours of volunteer work valued at over €5 billion/year. It is no exaggeration to say that Irish society is dependent on volunteering.
The Department of Rural and Community Development published a ‘Call for Input’ in December 2018 on the development of a national volunteering strategy. The document posed a number of questions on the current state of volunteering in Ireland, the challenges faced by volunteers and organisations and how we can develop the future of volunteering. Answers to these questions will inform the development of a national volunteering strategy.
To inform our submission, we held a number of regional consultations and ran a national survey addressing key areas of the call for input. You can read our full submission here.
The strategy is currently in its final draft stage and it is hoped that it will be published before the end of 2020.
2. Statistics on volunteering in Ireland
There is currently a dearth of research on volunteering in Ireland. While Volunteer Ireland has undertaken small scale research in recent times, we do not have the resources to conduct research on a large scale. Nationwide, comprehensive data will allow us to understand the areas where more research is needed to inform practice. For example, knowing whether more volunteering is formal or informal and knowing the ratio of rural to urban volunteers will allow us to direct our resources where they are most required. This type of information can also inform the work of government, particularly in areas such as homelessness and mental health – services currently heavily supported by the community and voluntary sector.
The most recent CSO data comes from a module on volunteering with a focus on subjective well-being which was included in the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) in the three months from July to September 2013 (Q3). Prior to this, the most recent data was a question on volunteering in the 2006 Census.
Volunteer Ireland, along with the network of Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services, have consistently asked the Central Statistics Office to produce more statistics on volunteering. You can read our latest submission advocating for a question on volunteering to be included in the 2021 Census here.
In October 2019, the CSO confirmed that there will be a question on volunteering in Census 2021.
3. Reducing the burden for jobseekers
If someone is in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance and wishes to volunteer, they may do so as long as they remain available to take up paid employment. Volunteer Ireland frequently receives reports of jobseekers being refused the option to volunteer by their Deciding Officers. This is primarily due to a lack of training or understanding of the benefits and eligibility of volunteering for jobseekers. Volunteer Ireland advocates on behalf of jobseekers to the Department of Employment and Social Protection to ensure eligible jobseekers are not just permitted to volunteer, but also that it is understood as a positive activity that increases employability. You can read our leaflet for jobseekers on volunteering while seeking employment, here.
Volunteer Ireland also works on a number of areas that involve or affect volunteering in Ireland. A selection of our recent submissions can be found below.
Pre Budget Submission
Volunteer Ireland has made a submission to Government in advance of Budget 2021. Our core priorities for Budget 2021 are:
- Establish a budget to deliver the National Volunteering Strategy
- Support further development of the national volunteering database, I-VOL
- Secure continued funding for the 8 new Volunteer Centres that are currently being established
- Increase funding to the network of Volunteer Centres to continue to support volunteering within our communities.
The full submission can be read here.
Submission on the EU Whistleblowing Directive
The EU Whsitleblowing Directive is a piece of legislation which must be transposed into Irish law by the end of 2021. Currently in Ireland, volunteers are not included under legislation around whistleblowing and protected disclosures. However, the new EU Whistleblowing Directive will enshrine this protection into law for volunteers. With thousands of voluntary organisations in Ireland engaging hundreds of thousands of volunteers each year, it is vital that volunteers are protected under whistleblowing legislation. It may prove more difficult to enshrine protection for volunteers in law when there is no legal right to volunteer, however we believe this can be achieved in a nuanced and appropriate way as outlined in our submission.
Submission to the Loneliness Taskforce
The Loneliness Taskforce was established by Dr. Keith Swanick in collaboration with Seán Moynihan of ALONE to coordinate a response to the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation in Ireland. Volunteering plays a dual role in tackling loneliness in Ireland. Volunteers support hundreds of organisations across Ireland helping those suffering from loneliness while volunteering itself has been proven to reduce loneliness through increased social interaction and community belonging.
Read the full submission here.
Governance Code for the Sector
Volunteer Ireland was one of the founding members in the development of the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable organisations in Ireland; and we continue to be an active member of the working group that oversees this code. The topic of charity governance is of huge relevance to us, since all 50,000+ charity trustees across Ireland are volunteers. In 2017, the Charities Regulator undertook a public consultation on the governance of charitable organisations. Volunteer Ireland submitted a response to this consultation, which you can read here. In 2018 the Charities Regulator announced that they will be issuing their own governance code for the sector, and Volunteer Ireland was invited to sit on an advisory group overseeing the development of that code.