Written Answers. - Voluntary Activities.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin


111 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the plans he has to further encourage volunteering in society in the light of the White Paper on a framework for supporting voluntary activity amid reports that many voluntary bodies doing important community work find it difficult to attract and retain volunteers. [20496/00]

The publication of the White Paper is the start of the Government's long-term strategy to develop and support the community and voluntary sector. The White Paper formally recognises the role of the community and voluntary sector in contributing to the creation of a vibrant, participative democracy and civil society.

The White Paper also recognises the need to promote the active involvement of people in community and voluntary groups as an essential component of a democratic society. Volunteering benefits society as a whole, individual communities and the volunteers who offer their services. The contribution of volunteers to the broad range of community and social services throughout the country is recognised. The role of the volunteer is at the heart of the sector's work and, indeed, participation of volunteers is a defining characteristic of organisations in the sector.

The White Paper provides for an allocation of £400,000 for a research programme which will include quantifying the full extent of community and voluntary activity in Ireland, its contribution to social development, to the economy and to employment. The findings of the research programme will be important in informing the ongoing debate on the issues involved in the relationship between the State and the community and voluntary sector.

The year 2001 is the UN International Year of Volunteers. As provided for in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, a national committee on volunteering will be established this year, with participation from all the relevant interests and stakeholders. It will devise strategies and actions for supporting and developing volunteering, not just during the international year, but for the longer term. Its work will take account of the importance of proactivity fostering a culture of support for volunteering in schools and third level institutions.
The international year provides an opportunity to further raise the profile of volunteering in Ireland and progress the Government's policies with regard to development of social capital and encouragement of voluntarism. The committee will have a budget of £1 million for initiatives to further support and develop volunteering.
The work of the committee will include examining and making recommendations on: the possibilities for recognition and accreditation for voluntary work and for training undertaken as a volunteer; measures to widen the pool of volunteers; the range of supports needed in order to promote, sustain and develop volunteering.