In recent years there has been an increased interest in volunteering amongst the general public. This has occurred at a time when government spending cuts are significantly reducing the resources available to local authorities. To limit the impact of these spending cuts, local authorities have sought to capitalise on the increased enthusiasm for volunteering by encouraging volunteers to assist in the delivery of local services.
East Lothian Council's Countryside Service is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the area's path network and wider countryside. However, with reducing budgets and increasing demands on staff time, the Countryside Service has been unable to review each path as often as would be preferred.
East Lothian Council sought to develop and co-ordinate a volunteer workforce to support the work of its Countryside Service. It had previously responded to volunteer interest on an ad-hoc, needs basis. Whilst successful on the small-scale, it found that the absence of a strategic framework with which to nurture the interest in volunteering precluded a strategic mechanism to deliver wider benefits to volunteers and the communities in which they live.
East Lothian Council engaged the services of a consultant to develop a strategy for the use of volunteers within its Countryside Services department.
The resultant feasibility study reviewed the current situation in East Lothian, highlighted best practice in other countryside areas, and made recommendations for development and coordination of conservation volunteering. Recommendations included the engagement of volunteers for litter picking, tree planting and other general maintenance tasks. It also recommended the establishment of a Path Warden scheme. This scheme would employ volunteers to carry out regular checks of the path network, spotting any problems at an early stage and therefore preventing expensive repair work.
As a result of this project, the number of countryside volunteers has grown and the number of hours each volunteers contributes has increased. The ways in which volunteers contribute their time has also diversified and the volunteers themselves are now exploring opportunities to resource their own development and expansion.
The Strategy recognises the benefits and positive impact of volunteering for individuals, communities, and organisations. These include a sense of pride, the ability to provide services not otherwise possible and building stronger and more harmonious communities.
The project also encourages the use of greenspace for recreation and active travel through the maintenance and development of the countryside path network. It is hoped that this will enable a wider range of local residents to access the nature and wildlife of East Lothian.
East Lothian Council has been working to implement the recommendations made in the Countryside Volunteer Development Strategy. In 2011 it launched its Path Warden project and has sought funding for the employment of a Volunteer Co-ordinator.
|2010||CSGN Development Fund||4,000|