Minister Joe O’Brien launches first National Volunteering Strategy 2021-2025

4th December, 2020

  • Whole-of-government framework to support the voluntary sector
  • New Volunteer Reserve to be established to respond quickly to local community needs
  • Saturday 5th December is International Volunteering Day
  • Fingal Voluteer Centre Manager welcomes the news

Joe O’Brien TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities, today (5th December) launched the first National Volunteering Strategy 2021-2025. As part of the Programme for Government there was a commitment to publish this strategy.

The purpose of the strategy is to recognise, support and promote the unique value and contribution volunteers make to Irish society. Volunteering benefits large sectors of society in the areas of education, arts, heritage, education, health, sport and the socially marginalised. Research has also shown that the act of volunteering has a positive impact on the health and well-being of the volunteer. 

The strategy was produced in collaboration with the community and voluntary and business sectors and will provide a vision and road map for both volunteers and those organisations who benefit from the work of volunteers. 

Launching the strategy, Minister O’Brien said:

“Ireland has always had a long tradition of volunteering. The contribution of volunteering to our society has never been so much to the fore than during the response to Covid-19 over the last number of months.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Volunteer Ireland and South Dublin Volunteer Centre. Both of these organisations, and all Volunteer Centres, have played a central role in the volunteering response to Covid-19. In particular, I would like to congratulate South Dublin Volunteer Centre for their award in the Covid-19 Group Category under Volunteer Ireland’s 2020 Awards.”

Acknowledging that today is International Volunteering Day, the Minister continued:

I am also delighted to launch this strategy on International Volunteering Day, as the strategy includes specific actions to support ethical and skills-based international volunteering.

The strategy contains 56 actions to be implemented over the next five years, with Government working in partnership with volunteers, volunteering bodies, the community and voluntary sector and the business and corporate community to deliver its objectives.

Commenting on the strategy Fingal Volunteering Centre Manager Daiga Martins Borge, said

“Ireland has a strong culture of volunteering and we see that every day here in Fingal. This strategy is about fostering that culture so it can continue to grow and evolve. This year in particular has shown us the importance of volunteering to our communities and now is the right time to build on that with this strategy. We look forward to working with the Minister and his Department on implementing the strategy locally.”

The Minister also announced, as a first step in implementing the strategy, that he has approved funding for a new volunteer reserve to be established to respond quickly to local community needs. Further details of this initiative will be announced in January 2021.

In concluding, the Minister stated

“We want the strategy to help bring new people to volunteering. We want to develop an environment and set of support structures that facilitates the highest standards so that all involved can benefit to the greatest degree. I cannot emphasise enough that through the approval and publication of this strategy, government is recognising the value of volunteering and how important it is to our communities.” 

Contact: Karen Power – karen.power@oireachtas.ie

Notes for editors: 

Impact of Volunteering

  • Over 1 million people in Ireland volunteer each year (according to CSO 2013 QNHS). Annually, this adds up to an economic contribution of €5 billion per year (this is based on the value of the 232.8 million hours given * average industrial wage).
  • In a normal year, about 15,000 new people register on the volunteering database I-Vol. In 2020, as a result of mobilising a huge number of additional volunteers in response to COVID-19, that number will be around 35,000-40,000.  
  • Volunteering has significant benefits to the health and well-being of those who volunteer and by extension their communities – in a 2018 survey, 51% of volunteers reported that their physical health and wellbeing had improved and 62% reported that their mental health and wellbeing had improved. Volunteering also supports those in unemployment to return to the workforce by helping them develop skills and build confidence.

Purpose of Strategy

  • The purpose of the National Volunteering Strategy is to recognise, support and promote the unique value and contribution of volunteers to Irish society.
  • The strategy also provides an opportunity for Government to acknowledge how important volunteering is to the well-being of the nation and to steer the delivery of an agreed and ambitious vision. 
  • The strategy is a whole-of-government framework to support the voluntary sector, the development of which involved extensive public consultations.

Outline of Strategy

  • It is a five-year strategy (2021-2025) and comprises a suite of policy and strategic initiatives led by the Department of Rural and Community Development to support not-for-profit organisations in community development, local development, social enterprise, and community and voluntary sectors. 
  • The strategy comprises five high level objectives, with a total of 56 associated actions
  • The strategy builds upon and strengthens the renewed relationship and partnership between government and the voluntary sectors which has developed during the course of its preparation.
  • Together with the Strategy to Support the Community and Voluntary Sectors in Ireland and the National Policy on Social Enterprise, the strategy will be the final part of a suite of policy initiatives to support the full range of organisations that are providing services to communities. 
  • The strategy is underpinned by the values and principles agreed by the National Advisory Group (representative of all stakeholders established to assist in the development of the Strategy), and includes a range of actions to support volunteers and their representative organisations.

Volunteer Reserve

  • The Government’s Resilience and Recovery Plan for living with Covid-19 includes a commitment to establish a permanent “volunteer reserve corps” within each local authority area.
  • The National Volunteering Strategy also includes a commitment under strategic Objective 5: “Establish a national “Reserve Volunteering Corps” in order to support national, regional and local emergency responses”.
  • Funding for the establishment of the Volunteer Reserve has been approved by Minister O’Brien and further details in relation to this initiative will be announced in January 2021.

Tags: Strategy