Friday, 13 November 2009

Cameron's Tory voluntary work

"On a more local level [Camron's policy] would publish booklets giving advice on how a local community could organise on behalf of itself, whether it is parents setting up schools or tenants forming more active associations."

I am not hostile to this, far from it. It would be grand.
But it would need far reaching changes to back it up.

At present people are working far too long hours, are heavily stressed by unjust and corrupt companies and councils. Bullying is epidemic and so is its twin, depression.
If not working long hours people are being cut adrift into the hopelessness and lethargy of unemployment as jobs are cut, debts cannot be serviced, bailiffs become brigands, repossession stalks the land.

I know from bitter experience that organising volunteers in today's climate is almost impossible. People are too exhausted, time starved, depressed and despairing.

More factors need addressing.

Women, who were always traditionally the backbone of the voluntary sector have been pressed into far more paid employment than they actually want. That's the property bubble. It's not going to get better soon as legacy debts still have to be serviced.
In fact a large part of voluntary work lack, desert estates, feral young, is lack of mothering.

People, both women and men, have been de-educated out of working in groups. In trying to run groups I've found it almost impossible over the last decade compared to the previous two decades. People have little or no idea how to put a group beyond individual "complaint." That has been steered so that action groups don't form, and problems are reduced to (weak) individual complaints.

Finally the restrictions on voluntary work by the unemployed are destructive especially in a period of high unemployment. The more voluntary work the better but the huge army of the unemployed is actually prevented from maintaining their morale and contributing to society.
I can't see why the puritanical powers that be couldn't allow a long term unemployed person to stay on benefits given proof of satisfactory voluntary work. It's contributing after all and at a cheap cost.

Anyway reviving and expanding the voluntary sector is going to take a LOT more than encouraging leaflets, and funding. Ken Livingstone and the GLC did just that but those were very different times without the exhaustion and despair, with a pool of women available, and a strong cooperative group ethos available.

Looking at Red Ken's early projects in the GLC would help Cameron a lot. One important lack in that period was long term advice to projects in how to use their funding. Some schemes were simply unrealistic, embarrassingly so. Too many used it to create jobs that when the tap turned off, collapsed the whole project because it had become dependent on those paid workers. Funds need to be used instead, to recruit and coordinate volunteers, to find and renovate cheap ramshackle properties etc that will serve the project even if politics whips away the funds.

It's going to need a lot more than leaflets and funding.


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