Plan for volunteers to help run South Tyneside Council services - and allow staff unpaid leave to do community work
Volunteers could soon help run services at cash-strapped South Tyneside Council – with staff also given unpaid leave to help work in the community.
Council chiefs say the radical ‘volunteer policy’ will allow the authority to offer services it otherwise could not afford to provide, as well as build relationships between it and the community.
Under the plans, residents will be able to apply for volunteer placements across council services.
Council staff could also do their part by offering their time to support organisations in the borough.
A report from council officers reads: “The council recognises the vital role played by volunteers, community groups and the third sector in potentially bridging the gap between what services the community expects to receive and those we are able to deliver.
“Volunteers make a significant positive impact on many economic, social, cultural and environmental issues.
“Volunteering can empower people and communities to fulfil their potential.”
Councillors will be asked to rubber-stamp the ‘volunteer policy’ at a meeting on July 10.
According to the report, drafted for the authority’s Human Resources Committee, council employees will be granted up to three days of unpaid leave per year for volunteer work.
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Eligible areas include community care work, environmental schemes and fundraising for communities and charities.
The report said the scheme aims to give council staff the opportunity to pass over skills including leadership qualities, alongside improving morale, health and work-life balance.
Supporting volunteers, the committee report adds, will help the council build relationships with the community and “improve how it is perceived within it”.
Under the policy, any residents volunteering with the council will be kept in check through formal agreements covering matters around confidentiality, health and safety and safeguarding.
In some cases, the report adds, volunteers can also provide support to users of council services that paid employees may not be able to provide due to “financial constraints placed upon the council”.
According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, South Tyneside has been the third-worst affected authority from loss of government grants.
In its recent 2019/20 budget, council bosses had to make £12million of savings.
This is on top of the £156million the council has already seen slashed from its funding since 2010.