Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Friday, March 2, 2012

What Big Society? Volunteering is a bureaucratic nightmare

I was a Girl Guide. Not a very good one – fear of spiders and a general dislike of the cold saw to that – but for four years I pulled on the blue jumper and pledged an oath of allegiance to God, Queen and Country. Finally, at age 14 I was awarded my Baden Powell, the award named after the founder of the Scouting movement.

If you'd asked at the time I wouldn't have admitted it – campfires and cook-ins not being high on the list of "cool activities for teenagers". But that's changing. According to the latest figures, the movement grew last year, with the 500,000-strong organisation's numbers swelling by 8,247 Guides, Brownies and Rainbows.

It should be welcomed that young girls are involving themselves in something fundamentally about building skills and improving self-confidence. But there cannot be guides without guide leaders. Girls eager to join the organisation won't be able to do so without adults volunteering to take the helm. Likewise, sports clubs, arts and craft groups, holiday camps, organisations for the disabled and the elderly: all those exist in part because of the efforts of volunteers. But becoming a volunteer in this country is a cumbersome process, bogged down with red tape and the notorious CRB check, brought in ten years ago. Read More