I recently visited the Angus Volunteer Centre in Arbroath to discuss their work with Gary Malone and Fiona Walsh. Gary and Fiona showed me around the Centre and discussed their future plans and the issues facing the centre and volunteers.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gary and Fiona at a Voluntary Sector Conference last year in Perth. So it was great to meet them again to find out more about what the Volunteers Centre is doing to help involve Angus residents through volunteering, who might otherwise feel isolated from the community.
Gary and the Volunteer Centre have a refreshingly unique attitude to volunteering. When considering volunteers, we normally focus on how they help and care for others. The Volunteer Centre is pioneering an innovative approach by encouraging those in need of help themselves, to get involved through volunteering, and so help themselves as well as others.
I heard from Gary and Fiona of training and skills provided to volunteers to help them develop work experience, which then can lead on to paid employment. Equally fascinating was Fiona Walsh’s personal experience, where volunteering is not just a route into employment, but has become a passion. Fiona has a well known ability to engage with the younger generation in Angus to discuss drug and alcohol abuse. She thoroughly deserves her BNI Nexus Young Employee of the Year Award.
Gary and I also discussed the Volunteer’s Centre’s role in providing services for Angus Council and developments in the relationship between Government and the voluntary sector.
One common theme I find talking to businesses, farmers, volunteers and individuals in Arbroath and across Angus is the lack of flexibility and common sense central government arrangement provides to local councils. When Councils tender for services, it is understandable that the SNP Government wants to ensure standards of quality, however current national arrangements can unduly benefit large national companies. In some cases these companies will subcontract to volunteer organisations, without passing on the full financial benefit.
The inflexibility of the national arrangements often discourages or discriminates against small, local voluntary groups from offering their services directly. So their invaluable local knowledge, help and experience can get lost. Worst of all, it could also put volunteers off getting involved, which would be an immense shame.