Signing Off

Thanks if you have found your way here from the information in my book (or elsewhere).

As there has been little reaction to what I have written in the past I’ve decided to stop posting for now. I may put something new up in the future. Richard

After the Election

Like everyone else I am amazed at the result of our election and wondering what the implications might be for the voluntary sector.

The Evangelical Alliance and the ‘Show Up’ campaign are encouraging Christians not just to sit back and wait for the next election in five years time but to continue to be committed to the political process, starting with getting to know your MP. I can vouch for the importance of that as I have found our local MP very helpful on various occasions, and supportive of church and community events. See more at:

There is a useful discussion of what this result might mean on the NCVO site, which includes things such as mentioning that there are a number of voluntary sector people who have just been elected and picking up on the Conservative’s pledge to offer three volunteering days for employees. You can read their full comments, and join in the discussion at –


Soft skills are worth £88 billion a year to our economy – and are often ignored

Soft skills are worth £88 billion a year to our economy, so claimed Entrepreneur James Caan, famous from Dragon’s Den on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme this morning.

The skills they are talking about are:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Teamwork
  • Time and self-management
  • Decision-making and initiative-taking
  • Taking responsibility

These things are, of course, key skills for volunteers too. This campaign is all about improving the UK workforce’s soft skills, but I think we can both learn things from this approach, and perhaps contribute to it. I believe we need more people with good soft skills, and more people to see the value of developing them for themselves. What do you think?

James Caan is part of a campaign launched today that aims to make employers more aware of their value and employees more aware of how important it is to prove you have them.

Their research suggests that:

  • By 2020, over half a million UK workers will be significantly held back by a lack of soft skills – an issue forecast to affect all sectors.
  • At the same time, soft skills contribute £88 billion to the UK economy today – with this contribution predicted to increase to £109 billion during the next five years.
  • 97% of UK employers believe soft skills are important to their current business success, and over half say skills like communication and teamwork are more important than traditional academic results. However, three-quarters believe there is already a soft skills gap in the UK workforce.
  • Meanwhile, UK employees say they struggle to sell their soft skills. One in five would not feel confident describing their soft skills to an employer and more than half (54%) have never included soft skills on their CV.

(Source: Development Economics Ltd, January 2015 and YouGov Plc, September 2014)

The full report can be downloaded for free from the web site – – where you can also offer suggestions about improving their use.

When James Caan was asked whether he would rather employ someone with a 1st Class Degree or things like good communication skills and the ability to understand inspire people he said – the latter! It was what led to his own achievements. I can see the sense in that.

If you want to hear the interview (for the next 29 days) you can do so at:

It starts at 23 mins 30 secs into the programme.

 The consultation finishes on 15th April. I look forward to reading the results.

David Cameron praises volunteers in Christmas Message

In this year’s Christmas message, Prime Minister David Cameron praises the work of volunteers abroad and in the UK – making specific reference to the Christian values that underlie so much of what people do for others.

“Among the joyous celebrations we will reflect on those very Christian values of giving, sharing and taking care of others,” he said.

“This Christmas I think we can be very proud as a country at how we honour these values through helping those in need at home and around the world.

“So this Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Christ with friends, families and neighbours, let us think about those in need at home and overseas, and of those extraordinary professionals and volunteers who help them.”

The full message is not actually up on the Government’s web site yet but there are reports in many of the media already.

Another stunning statistic

Volunteering is worth £200bn per year to the British economy. That’s the figure the Chief Economist at the Bank of England gave in a recent lecture.

Andrew G Haldane  was giving a lecture to the Society of Business Economists on 9 September – and with his pedigree and that audience you can be pretty sure of the validity of that figure.

The lecture was entitled “In giving, how much do we receive? The social value of volunteering” – an unconscious echo of the Prayer of St Francis perhaps?

To be honest the report is pretty dense and technical but lets use that figure where we can to talk up the importance of volunteering beyond the immediate.

Another fascinating fact in it is about the increase in wellbeing volunteers experience. He writes – “It is possible to translate these into monetary-equivalent values – the money an individual would need to be given to increase their well-being by the same amount. On this evidence, you would need to be compensated around £2,400 on average per person per year for forgoing the opportunity to volunteer.” (my emphasis). Paying people not to volunteer takes a bit of getting your head around. He doesn’t mean that of course, but rather that is the ‘value-added’ people get from volunteering. He goes on to point out this is about 10% of the average wage, a significant sum.

Let’s hope the ‘powers that be’ take note of these facts when it comes to supporting volunteering with adequate resources

You can read the full report at:

95 years of volunteering

Betty Lowe is still volunteering – at the grand age of 106.

She joined the Girl Guides in 1919 when she was 11 and is still a member of the association. She also still helps in the cafe at her local hospital with the Royal Voluntary Service.

According to the Times last Saturday she says that she has no plans to ‘retire’ from volunteering – ‘My sight isn’t very good, but I can use my hands. As long as I can keep volunteering I will.’


See more at:


Churches in England reach 1 in 6 of the population through caring activities

A report published last month seems to have slipped under the radar for many media outlets. One might ask why, when it suggests that the Church in England (i.e. all the churches) reaches 1 in 6 of the population, approximately 10 million people each year, through its community activities (and that is excluding such things as Sunday services, Christmas, Easter, Harvest, baptisms, weddings, and funerals).

If that sounds a large number it explains its methodology – Using polling organisation ComRes, they asked respondents whether they, or an immediate family member, had accessed community (non-statutory) services in the last 12 months and whether they had been provided by churches or church groups. 48% of adults had accessed community services, with 51% of these accessing services provided by churches or church groups. Using ONS population figures for England, this equates to just over 10 million adults.

It reports that “These activities include foodbanks, community events such as lunch clubs or cafés, healthy living activities such as community nursing, exercise classes and healthy eating courses, relationship support, financial education and advice, access to computers/ the internet, and providing opportunities for volunteering. Among the most frequently used community services were children and youth services, cultural events, and activities for older people. However, churches had also provided support for asylum seekers, for people with addictions, counselling and ‘street pastoring’. The activities and community services were more likely to have been used by younger people (18-44) than older ones.

“In contrast to other institutions, our case study churches were a stable institutional presence yet also human, relational, personal and locally ‘owned’. This meant that they were able to marshal human, financial and physical resources at some scale, without becoming bureaucratic or disengaged from the local community.”

It provides 12 detailed case studies, which show that “churches do not just provide services but also build platforms for neighbourliness, relationships and social connection.”

In its conclusion it says that “There is both opportunity and motive for churches to take on a greater social welfare role, and a strong base on which to build” and that “Churches are alive to what is often a hidden dimension of deprivation, which is a dearth of social connections – relationships – that make life both possible and meaningful.

It suggests that “Given pressure on public finances and the ongoing difficulty of achieving increased prosperity in many urban centres outside of London and the South East” the churches will be called upon to provide increasing amounts of such care.

Knowing how stretched the volunteers in my own church already are I wonder how we, as Christians across the country, might meet that need? But I’m sure it’s something we will, and should, aim for.

You can read the full report at: