Manchester City Council are reviewing a range of voluntary and community sector contracts/grants and are proposing to expand the use of volunteering as a way of reconciling increasing demand for social care support with cuts to social care funding.
This has triggered some concerns and debate within the VCS and within the Macc team about the proposed project that will ‘stretch their local offer on social care support, by expanding volunteering and community engagement’.
Using volunteers to stretch the council’s offer on social care support will provide new opportunities for volunteers as well as significant challenges, the greatest challenge being the economic climate. Ref: www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/volunteering-health-and-care
We know that volunteers already provide a vital role in the personalisation and localism agendas and can improve the quality of care and support, especially when they are working across the boundaries of health and social care.
Following the cuts in public spending the Council say they need to achieve further savings in the social care budget and at the same time, reduce demand for services. As well as meeting gaps in social care needs, can volunteering be utilised to help reduce the demand for services in the first place?
We need to clarify what we mean when we talk about volunteering. Should we include peer mentoring and the idea of active citizenship approaches, alongside more traditional volunteering as part of an approach to creating more resilient communities? Can volunteers improve quality of care and reduce short-term costs, without replacing paid staff from the public sector, or is ‘replacing paid staff’ just a red herring?
We agreed at Macc that we need a more strategic approach to volunteering and this will require input from a number of different stakeholders. We also want to contribute to the debate with the City Council about ‘stretching their local offer on social care’ To make an informed contribution we would welcome views from the VCS, especially organisations who support volunteering in health, social care and wellbeing. Please email your comments directly to firstname.lastname@example.org or post your comments below.