Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

42.  Memorandum submitted by Volunteering England


  1.1  Volunteering is a fundamental part of life in the United Kingdom. Three-quarters of the UK population are involved in volunteering, either through an organisation or group, or on a more informal basis. They make a rich and diverse contribution to society. They are engaged in mutual aid and self-help, participation, advocacy and providing services, as well as helping others. They spot and articulate unmet needs and emerging issues; they campaign as activists. However the opportunity to volunteer is denied to many visa nationals and other people requiring entry clearance to the UK.


  2.1  Volunteering England is clear from previous guidance issued by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate that asylum seekers and recognised refugees are free to volunteer (and that this is not unpaid work). Moreover the National Asylum Support Service is ". . . keen to see asylum seekers and recognised refugees take an active interest in the welfare of their own communities and the local community by undertaking voluntary activity while they are in the UK . . .".

  2.2  However there is an anomaly. Visa nationals and other people requiring entry clearance to the UK with a work prohibition (which includes unpaid work)—are prevented from volunteering. Volunteering England would like to see the provision for asylum seekers and recognised refugees to volunteer extended to all visa-nationals and other people requiring entry clearance to the UK (whilst accepting that visa-nationals should not be led to believe that volunteering could be regarded as a step towards changing their immigration status).

  2.3  This could be achieved with an unequivocal, consensual definition of volunteering. The terminology used in the Immigration Nationality Directorate policy, guidance and in the enforcement of immigration control, in particular the use of unpaid employment causes significant confusion. From the voluntary and community sectors perspective volunteering is not synonymous with unpaid work. Volunteering is a gift relationship, with no intention on either side of creating a contract of employment or service.

  2.4  There may well be no need to move towards a statutory definition of volunteering as the Compact Code on volunteering offers a clear definition. Volunteering is ". . . the commitment of time and energy for the benefit of society and the community. The principle of non-payment of volunteers is central to society's understanding of volunteering . . . Furthermore volunteering is an activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or individuals or groups other than (or in addition to) close relatives."


  3.1  With considerable cross-party support for volunteering and a number of high profile initiatives there are fewer barriers to volunteering than ever. Volunteer England believe that volunteering should be open to everyone and that anybody wanting to volunteer should be able to do so. Promoting inclusive volunteering is a means of promoting social inclusion. All visitors coming to the United Kingdom, either as visa nationals or others requiring entry clearance should be both encouraged and allowed to volunteer.


  4.1  Volunteering England is the integrated national volunteer development organisation for England. We work across the voluntary, public and private sectors to raise the profile of volunteering as a powerful force for change. Membership is open to organisations and individuals operating in England with an interest in volunteering. Volunteering England was formed in April 2004 following a merger between The Consortium on Opportunities for Volunteering, The National Centre for Volunteering and Volunteer Development England.

  4.2  Volunteering England is the accountable body for the activity of the Volunteering Hub. The Volunteering Hub will work to achieve the ChangeUp high level objective that by 2014 there will be a leaner, effectively marketed and high quality volunteering infrastructure reaching, recruiting and placing a greater number and diversity of individuals coupled with improved volunteer management.


  5.1  Volunteering England would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the Home Affairs Committee increasing the quality and quantity of volunteering by visitors to the United Kingdom. If you have any questions about this response or would like further information about Volunteering England please contact Andy Forster, Head of Policy at Volunteering England.

Andy Forster

Head of Policy and Campaigns

1 December 2005

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