We asked Welsh Labour, the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru to blog for us about their visions for the future of the voluntary sector in Wales. We’ll be posting them across all of this week. Today, we’ll kick things off with the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt MS, thanking the sector for its amazing work during the pandemic.
Volunteers have long been an integral part of our local communities and services across Wales – you are the invaluable glue that holds our communities together.
This amazing attitude has never been more evident than over the past 15 months where we have seen people of all ages and backgrounds – just like yourself – rise to the enormous challenges COVID-19 presented to us all.
It’s important to note, too, the astounding response we saw to the floods which affected many Welsh communities just before the pandemic reached our shores. This reaction to those in immediate need also highlighted just how important each and every type of volunteer is to the resilience of our communities.
The challenges which these events have thrown up has also highlighted the power and potential which lies in voluntary action and community spirit and has reached every corner of our wonderful nation.
This year’s Volunteers’ Week earlier in June was especially poignant. It was so fitting to take the opportunity to say a massive THANK YOU to every person and organisation who has given their time to help, support and build back our nation.
Diolch yn fawr i chi.
I’m proud that we have such a strong culture of volunteering in Wales. With a long-standing infrastructure of support – including WCVA’s Volunteering Wales platform run in conjunction with County Voluntary Councils – our volunteers and organisations are able to work very closely and successfully with other public services, local authorities and health boards.
Throughout the pandemic, you’ve continued to deliver crucial services to our communities across a huge range of areas, often in the face of adversity and despite uncertainties over income caused by diminished opportunities for fundraising.
I was very proud that we as a Government were able to make supporting the voluntary sector a priority, with a package of support that grew to over £32million by the end of last financial year.
But we know that the problems are not all behind us and, at the same time, the voluntary sector itself still faces huge challenges. Voluntary organisations, from the big charities to informal community groups, have had to change service provision overnight. These organisations need capacity to adapt and to build resilience for the somewhat unknowns we still face.
While we were still in the depths of the crisis, I started a process with the Third Sector Partnership Council to examine what role the volunteers and their organisations could play in our recovery from the pandemic.
I’m keen we find ways to maximise the advantages of some of the positive shifts we’ve seen around volunteering, partnership working and local action which could bring real benefits now and through to our future.
That is why we have funded a strategic element to our Volunteering Wales Grant, administered by WCVA, to support projects which will help deliver significant long-term benefits for volunteering in Wales by unlocking potential, removing barriers and embedding change. You can find details of the new grant and the COVID-19 Recovery Plan here.
The First Minister and I are keen to ensure a stronger, greener and fairer Wales and find ways to take advantage of the positive shifts we’ve seen – building upon the opportunities and momentum the pandemic has created around volunteering and partnership working.
In doing so, we can achieve our shared ambitions of a recovery that sees sustainable and vibrant communities across the whole of Wales. With you, our nation’s volunteers, at the heart – as always.