I have been curious to ask those who have already taken up the challenge, why now and not before. The majority have replied that they were unaware they could. The climate of Criminal Record Checks (CRB or DBC) has dissuaded many from participating or volunteering for anything including helping with their child’s school outings, in the playground, with Scouts and Brownies, or visiting the elderly.
The British are probably the best at volunteering in the world. As a nation we are kind, helpful, innovative and generally good at noticing where and when help is needed and getting stuck in. For reasons which have been well over played, in recent years this willingness to help has been thoroughly broken due to unreasonable precautionary rules and regulations.
Of course it is important to keep children, the elderly and the vulnerable safe, but the consequences of the excessive rules and regulations has lost an army of good people who just want to help. Let us hope this new initiative will bring some common sense back into the system.
Yes, no doubt the occasional odd ball with slip through the net and there will be an outcry when something goes wrong. But we must ensure that it will be taken as just that, and the good people are allowed to continue helping out.
They are the God send that those who are lonely and often feel isolated in hospitals and care homes, where professional staff are just too busy, have been praying for.
The Good Samaritans whom Justin Welby and the public so admire are indeed worthy, our society could not function without those who volunteer. They are all around us, and often go unnoticed but make a huge difference to all our lives.
The Daily Mail’s Campaign encouraging us to volunteer is high profile. The number of people telling anyone who cares to listen that ‘they are going to volunteer’ is indeed admirable. But let us not forget those who do so without fanfare, all the time and without being asked.
Last week I had the privilege to visit the Newhaven National Coastwatch Institute. Their HQ is located by the Newhaven Fort. This organisation whose volunteers help to keep the public, who frequent the shore line, beaches and coastal cliffs safe, and note every single vessel passing by, provide an invaluable service to the community both locally and nationally, and are manned 100% by volunteers.
They are an important link in the chain between the Coast Guard, police, RNLI and other emergency services. Without them the strain on public resources would be considerable.
Newhaven Coastwatch Institute, one of 54 National Coastwatch sites, has been in operation since 2004. The team of volunteers, which currently stand at 70, transformed the old watch tower which had fallen into disrepair and was about to be demolished by Lewes District Council. Using the skills amongst their numbers, they fixed the roof, installed new steps and stairs, replaced the windows and generally made the building habitable and functional.
They then raised funds to install the equipment needed to carry out their surveillance. They run a daily three hour rota which ensures there are two alert watchmen on site from 8am until dusk. Volunteers come from across Sussex, their backgrounds are very varied, thus bringing a range of valuable skills.
When asked whether their work is rewarded or acknowledged locally or nationally, they said knowing their work kept the local community safe was reward enough.
We must remember many of the institutions that we take for granted are supported by volunteers who work alongside the professionals, a vital link in the chain. Volunteering is integrated into British life, it is important and should be acknowledged as such.