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03 Jul 2022

Laois among seven counties to get new dedicated Volunteer Centres announced by Minister

National Volunteer Week runs from May 17-23

Laois among seven counties to get new  dedicated Volunteer Centres announced by Minister

Seven new volunteer centres across Ireland including one in Laois are among seven to be officially announced this week by the Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities Joe O'Brien on the first day of National Volunteering Week.

The new Volunteer Centres serve Kilkenny, Leitrim, Laois, Offaly, Roscommon, Waterford and Wexford, meaning there is now a volunteer centre in every county.  The new Laois centre launches on Tuesday, May 18.

A statement said Volunteer Centres are supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development to provide a placement service between individuals and groups who want to volunteer and organisations that are seeking to involve volunteers.

They also provide training, Garda vetting, advice and supports to volunteer organisations. Funding for the establishment of the new centres came from the DormantAccoutnts  Action Plan, and ongoing funding support will be provided from the Department’s Volunteering Supports budget. 

A statement said the announcement is a key deliverable of the National Volunteering Strategy which Minister O’Brien launched in December 2020. It added that the opening of these seven Volunteer Centres is a hugely positive step and will ensure volunteers are supported in contributing to developing and maintaining vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities through volunteering.

Launching the new Volunteer Centres, Minister O’Brien said volunteering is vital.

“My Department’s funding to Volunteer Centres is designed to strengthen and foster volunteering in Ireland. With the opening of these seven new centres throughout National Volunteering Week, we are further strengthening our volunteering infrastructure across the country and this will provide invaluable support to volunteers and volunteering activity in our communities.

"As we know, the most effective volunteering doesn’t happen by accident and the correct infrastructure combined with strong volunteer management can help ensure that volunteer efforts are maximised across our communities.

“I would like to acknowledge and thank Volunteer Ireland for their support in this project and to sincerely thank the Boards and staff of the new Volunteer Centres who have worked so hard to open their doors,” he said. 

He said that back in March 2020 the country was called on to step up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The response by volunteers was staggering. With the support of the thousands of volunteers in communities across Ireland, the Community Call was successfully able to support those most vulnerable in our communities during the pandemic.

“Over 26,000 people registered to volunteer through the I-VOL app by the end of the year, and their contribution to supporting their communities during these difficult times has been invaluable.

“As part of National Volunteering Week, we take the time to acknowledge and showcase this, and all, volunteering efforts and I look forward to attending the events being organised across the country,” he said.

William Earley is the Chair of Volunteer Ireland.

“This is a momentous day for volunteering in Ireland. We are lucky to have a strong culture of volunteering in this country, but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

“The supports provided by Volunteer Centres to both volunteers and organisations alike from referral and training to Garda vetting will be hugely beneficial to these counties.

“Volunteer Ireland were delighted to play an integral role in the establishment and development of these Volunteer Centres, and we look forward to continuing our work with them and the wider network of Volunteer Centres across the country to support, advocate for and celebrate volunteering in Ireland,” he said.

 National Volunteering Week is the annual week where we celebrate all things volunteering. A local and national communications campaign supported by a programme of events will take place from 17th – 23rd May 2021. This year’s theme is Small Actions, Big Impact. Events will take place across the country (mostly virtually) covering everything from training, recognition and wellbeing.

The Department says more than 1 million people in Ireland volunteer each year (according to CSO 2013 QNHS). Annually, this adds up to an economic contribution of €5 billion per year (this is based on the value of the 232.8 million hours given average industrial wage).

In a normal year, about 15,000 new people register on the volunteering database I-Vol. In 2020, as a result of mobilising a huge number of additional volunteers in response to COVID-19, that number will be around 35,000-40,000.  

Volunteering has significant benefits to the health and well-being of those who volunteer and by extension their communities – in a 2018 survey, 51% of volunteers reported that their physical health and wellbeing had improved and 62% reported that their mental health and wellbeing had improved. Volunteering also supports those in unemployment to return to the workforce by helping them develop skills and build confidence.

The purpose of the National Volunteering Strategy is to recognise, support and promote the unique value and contribution of volunteers to Irish society.

The strategy also provides an opportunity for Government to acknowledge how important volunteering is to the well-being of the nation and to steer the delivery of an agreed and ambitious vision. 

A statement said the strategy is a whole-of-government framework to support the voluntary sector, the development of which involved extensive public consultations.

The Dormant Accounts Fund Action Plan 2018 included a provision of €1.2m in 2019 for the establishment of seven new full Volunteer Centres in order to provide a consistent level of volunteering infrastructure nationwide. The seven counties involved are Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Offaly, Roscommon, Waterford and Wexford and, are hosted by the local development companies.

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