Monday, 15 October 2012
The relative value of voluntary work
During a rather pointless debate with a guy on Twitter, he made the most scurrilous claim – that voluntary work is only of value if it is performed by someone who is in paid employment. What a disgusting thing to say!
If you ask the Employment and Vocational Services department of my local mental health provider, SEPT, you would get a rather different view. Indeed, one of their aims is to try and get people into paid employment, voluntary work or an education course.
Some would say that voluntary work performed by someone on benefits is of more value because the only resource they have in abundance is time. A person in paid employment has the luxury of not having to struggle to find money for their next meal or new clothes or travel expenses or rent so their time, limited though it may be, is free of worries. A person on benefits struggling with the issue of day-to-day survival who gives up some of their time in the pursuit of helping others makes that pursuit much more valuable, both for them, the people they help and society as a whole.
It is a fact that the UK is dependent on volunteers – from litter picking to vital services such as carers – and, if the view that only people in paid employment provide valuable voluntary service becomes more wide-spread, those on benefits who perform vital functions on a voluntary basis will stop doing so, causing the UK to grind to a halt. I was once a carer for my Grandma. I was not paid to be her carer and there was no real reason for me to undertake such a role as my mother was her carer and there were employed carers from the local authority. There was an emotional reason for undertaking the role of carer and an in-built moral reason but I could have refused if I had wished; however, I did not shirk my responsibility. I am quite sure that my mother and my Grandma valued my voluntary efforts and I am quite sure that, if I had not made the effort, the financial cost of providing care for my Grandma would have been extremely high so I am sure society would value those efforts too.
A voluntary worker on benefits gets paid a damn sight less money than a paid worker would cost society to undertake the same duties so it is only safe to assume that their work is of value to society. If nothing else, someone, regardless of their employment status, undertaking voluntary work is fulfilling their role in Cameron’s vision of The Big Society, a vision that asks people to run services for nothing on a voluntary basis because the Government has not got the money to pay people to do the work. The Big Society is a financially bankrupt society run by a morally bankrupt administration that get paid more in a year, individually, than most people on benefits will get in a decade. The least a voluntary worker on benefits deserves is the respect of the society they serve.
Until next time…