26 September 2001

S1M-2245 Voluntary Sector

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 26 September 2001


[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

Voluntary Sector

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-2245, in the name of Jackie Baillie, on Executive support for the voluntary sector, and two amendments to the motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): There is clearly a wide welcome in the chamber for the initiatives to set up councils for volunteering and for volunteering development. The key question remains: are volunteers merely the cannon fodder for salaried staff in the voluntary sector? I was encouraged to hear Jackie Baillie say that there is £39 million for the voluntary sector; that tells us just how important it is.

I found much to agree with in Annabel Goldie's comments, as she pled for diversity through the voluntary sector. We should not be afraid of voluntary agencies taking approaches that diverge not only from one another's but perhaps from those of Government and local authority agencies. We can test other approaches and provide different doors for people with different needs or different attitudes to authority to walk through, if that is what they require.

I will focus on the problems faced by unpaid agencies and their workers and I will give some specific examples from the north-east of Scotland. The Grampian Addiction Problem Service—GAPS—was originally created to respond to a perceived local need and a desire to serve the local community. Highly qualified people work for the service, but they are unpaid. The ethos is therefore to serve the local community and to put local interests first. However, such agencies find it increasingly difficult to deliver their services, because of numerous problems. A voluntary agency with no salaried staff is not an agency with no financial overheads; it will have premises, phones and computers to maintain, and a whole series of activities and expenditures that continue between projects.

There has been a reduction in local government funding. GAPS and the Buchan Alcohol Service Information Centre had funding from Aberdeenshire Council withdrawn a couple of years ago. However, the council has still found £80,000—much more than either of those services got—to create its own in-house service, which has yet to prove that it can deliver anything of particular value.

At local level, there is competition between the professionals, who want to keep control of what is going on, and the volunteers, who work in the front line to respond to people's needs. The lack of core funding is making morale drop in the voluntary sector. It is becoming increasingly difficult for voluntary agencies to sustain themselves between projects. Indeed, agencies can be diverted from providing a service to their clients because they are having to create bids for funding. That is not terribly helpful.

It is great that the Executive has lifted the direct expenditure on the voluntary sector from £23 million to £39 million but, as has been said, £10 million might have to be taken off that total for water and sewerage charges, although the introduction of those charges has been postponed.

Robert Brown made a plea for direct funding from the Executive to many local agencies. I am in two minds about that. It may or may not work, but many voluntary agencies certainly believe that it is the way forward. However, if we cannot find a way of providing core funding to ensure continuity of service, many in the voluntary sector will simply be unable to deliver services and their clients will suffer.


Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP