Voluntary groups deserve cash boost

'Volunteering is a way of boosting self-confidence and making new friends'
'Volunteering is a way of boosting self-confidence and making new friends'

To run alongside Volunteers’ Week 2016, the Scottish Government has put forward a significant investment to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds receive training to become volunteers.

I revealed this welcome news at the start of this year’s Volunteers’ Week.

Volunteering is a way of boosting self-confidence and making new friends

Volunteering Support Fund grants worth £1.1 million have this year been awarded to 117 community organisations working in deprived communities to promote the arts, safeguard heritage and conserve the environment.

These organisations will be encouraged to use the grants to recruit volunteers from vulnerable backgrounds.

This could include people who have mental health issues, have learning disabilities or are unemployed.

Delivered on behalf of the Scottish Government by the Voluntary Action Fund, the funding boost will help organisations across the country recruit, support and train volunteers to address inequalities and poverty in their areas.

It will target people who have been marginalised in the past because of their age, background or health, and support them to become volunteers.

Whether it’s by mentoring young people, refurbishing an old building or coaching the local football team, we know volunteering is a way of boosting self-confidence, making new friends and learning new skills.

Volunteers’ Week is an opportunity to say a big thank you to Scotland’s one million volunteers and celebrate the positive difference they are making to their communities.

The Scottish Government investment in 2015/16 supported 7735 volunteers, including 4753 from disadvantaged backgrounds.

These volunteers then went on to provide over 9000 hours of activity per week.

Now in its fourth round, the Volunteering Support Fund provides grants of up to £10,000 for organisations to increase the diversity of their volunteers, and improve the way they support them.

I recently visited Saughton Park in Edinburgh to meet the Green Team, which will receive £9932 through the fund in 2016/17. The project was set up to help young people improve their local green spaces.

Penny Radway, manager of the Green Team, told me: “The Volunteering Support Fund will enable the Green Team to recruit new volunteers experiencing disadvantages in their lives and give them the support they need to get involved in environmental projects in the local community.”

Volunteers week runs until Sunday.

Visit www.volunteersweek.org for more information on the week and on volunteering in general.