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Don’t you (forget about me)

Published: 28/06/24 | Categories: Information & support, Author: Natalie Zhivkova

Ahead of the UK General Election, our Policy & Insights Manager, Natalie Zhivkova, highlights the voluntary sector priorities covered by party manifestos – and the ones they forgot.

We are just days away from polling, yet little is clear about different political parties’ propositions for the voluntary sector. Despite contributing £20 billion to UK’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and enabling around 14.2 million people to volunteer annually, the sector does not feature high on any party’s declared list of priorities.

It is possible (and I do hope) parties have done more thinking about the sector than their manifestos show. The surprise general election announcement did not leave anyone much time to prepare, with some Welsh party branches publishing their manifestos less than two weeks before polling day.


Most voluntary organisations are highly specialised and have a strong interest in specific policy areas. My aim is to cover the overarching issues that matter to a broad variety of organisation.

UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF)

The future of EU replacement funding is a big priority for the sector. Cutting the fund would have devastating consequences for voluntary organisations. Multi-year funding arrangements enable both stability and ambition in designing and delivering programmes to tackle the socio-economic challenges faced by communities in Wales.

WCVA signed a joint letter with our sister organisations across the UK calling on all party leaders to:

‘Extend funding for Levelling Up funds, including the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) to 2030 to match the Levelling Up missions’ timetable.’

We are also advocating for an approach that is much more inclusive of Welsh Government. This will allow strategic and operational alignment between programmes and bring in planning and delivery expertise from the voluntary sector in Wales.

Access to UK Government

Welsh voluntary organisations find it difficult to reach UK Government ministers and senior officials. This means their voices on issues within reserved responsibilities often remain unheard. We want to have more opportunities for dialogue with the new government.

Ideally, we want to see our right to speak to UK Government representatives enshrined in law, just as the Third Sector Scheme requires Welsh Government ministers to meet with sector representatives in Wales. This will enable the voluntary sector across the UK to begin forging a lasting partnership with UK government.

Intergovernmental dialogue

UK Government and Welsh Government strategies, funding decisions, policies and schemes for the sector do not always align. There needs to be better co-ordination between the two governments so that the positive impact of their interventions is amplified while waste and duplication is prevented.

Volunteer recruitment and retention

There are widespread problems with volunteer recruitment and retention across the sector. In November 2023 we conducted a survey of over 150 voluntary sector representatives. 90% reported they are experiencing volunteer recruitment challenges. 82% reported volunteer retention difficulties.

According to the staff surveyed, lack of time, lack of awareness, and financial constraints are the main barriers for new volunteers. When it comes to retention the issues are similar – reduced availability, financial constraints, and worsened physical or mental health. This is not surprising in a cost of living crisis.

The volunteering portfolio is devolved and we are working in collaboration with Welsh Government on a new approach to volunteering in Wales. However, UK Government can alleviate some of the pressure through department policies and guidance that make volunteering more accessible:

  • Department for Work & Pensions – clear guidance on volunteering would stop people on benefits opting out in fear of losing benefits
  • Home Office – comprehensive volunteering guidance for asylum seekers would reduce hesitance to volunteer due to lack of clarity on their rights and restrictions
  • Treasury – as members of the AMAP Coalition, we are calling for a review of the Approved Mileage Allowance Payment, so that volunteer drivers do not have to be out of pocket


Most parties refer to the role of ‘civil society’ or ‘communities’ in relation to restoring nature habitats and helping tackle climate change, alleviating child poverty, and reducing reoffending rates. It is good to see there is an intention to work with community groups on these issues, but disappointing that there is no mention of allocating resources to help them play their part.

On the future of UKSPF, some parties have expressed intentions to eventually cut the programme while others are only pledging to extend it (though there are no promises to make it a permanent fixture). When it comes to managing the fund, intentions range from keeping it with UK Government, through setting up an independent UK-wide joint council, to handing it to devolved administrations.

Some parties mention collaboration and partnership working with the voluntary sector more than others, but no one has laid out a clear strategy to help our sector thrive. It is difficult to predict what to expect from the next government – regardless of the election results.


The forming of a new government always brings new opportunities. We are working with UK partners on scenario planning and influencing priorities for the first 100 days. Our role in these partnerships is to ensure the voice of the Welsh voluntary sector is heard and to seek positive outcomes for voluntary organisations in Wales.


Party manifestos:

Further resources: