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Consultation responses on Historic Scotland's Operational Policy for Promoting Volunteering

From the front cover of the consultation on SHEP 3
The Operational Policy paper invited views on the broad principles by which Historic Scotland would promote, manage and recognise the involvement and contribution of volunteers to the work of the Agency.
The overall aim of the policy was to ensure that Historic Scotland followed recognised best practice in working with volunteers and to enable and encourage the organisations the Agency supports to do likewise.

The consultation was launched on 5 December 2005 with a closing date of 31 March 2006.  The consultation paper was also available on the internet and open to all to contribute.  The closed consultation paper can be found on the Scottish Government website .

Summary of the Responses

We received 11 written responses to the consultation. All respondents welcomed the Policy statement which was widely regarded as a well balanced, comprehensive document which recognised the important role that volunteers played in the conservation of the historic environment and set out what was required by an organisation seeking to involve volunteers in its work.

Specific Points

Policy Aim 2.2
One respondent welcomed the fact that Historic Scotland announced its intention to encourage the bodies it supported to follow best practice when dealing with volunteers but raised concern about the extent to which and how Historic Scotland might actually encourage and monitor this.  It also sought guidance on how rigidly the Agency would expect its client organisations to adhere to the volunteering guidelines.

Another respondent also raised concern about the possible financial implications for voluntary organisations if they were encouraged to stick rigidly to Historic Scotland’s guidelines for volunteering.  However the consensus was a broad welcome for the overarching principles set out in the policy statement.

Historic Scotland and volunteers: a mutually beneficial relationship 2.4
One respondent strongly supported Historic Scotland in its desire to draw in volunteers from local community groups and endorsed the statement that volunteering could enrich people’s lives while bringing wider benefits to society.  

Volunteers’ relationship with Historic Scotland 2.5 – 2.7
One respondent suggested that volunteering should be seen as a mutually beneficial relationship and another recommended that the relationship should be seen as reciprocal rather than a ‘gift’.

Historic Scotland’s expectations of volunteers 2.8
Although the paper set out the Agency’s expectations of volunteers one noted that there was no such section setting out what volunteers should expect from Historic Scotland – other than in terms of formal procedures and management.  It was suggested that it would be useful to have a distinct section on the positive outcomes for volunteers from engaging with the Agency.

Involvement, development and management of volunteers 2.9-2.14

Opportunities for all 2.10
The statement that volunteering opportunities were open to all, regardless of sex, race, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or age was welcomed.  However, one response suggested that the Agency should go further and recognise that there could be significant barriers that stopped people volunteering, including physical barriers, attitudes and behaviour by individuals, or access to opportunities in society. It was also suggested that in order to actively encourage people from sections of society currently under-represented amongst Historic Scotland volunteers, targeting of resources may be necessary.  In this context it was recommended that the Agency should consider conducting a survey of its current volunteers and those people local to sites who don’t currently volunteer.  The results could form a basis from which to broaden the range of people volunteering and to create new, targeted opportunities for young people or for people with disabilities.

One respondent was concerned about the potential costs associated with recruiting a volunteer and noted that in some cases the costs incurred might be the same as those associated with recruiting a paid employee

One respondent, whilst recognising that Historic Scotland was committed to providing equal opportunities to the recruitment, training and development of volunteers, expressed concern that reserving the right to specify physical ability seriously risked limiting the opportunities available to disabled people.  It was also suggested that the policy was vague in terms of justifying where the physical ability of candidates would be a requirement.  The respondent suggested that the Agency would need to ensure that its volunteering opportunities were accessible to all including providing equipment or support to meet the needs of disabled volunteers.

Section 2.11
One respondent recommended that this section should note that an enhanced disclosure check would be required if volunteering with young children.

Training and skills development 2.12 – 2.14
There was broad consensus and support for the Agency’s aim to provide volunteers with appropriate induction training and that they should be given encouragement and opportunities to update current skills and learn new ones.  The proposal that volunteers should receive feedback on their performance was generally well received.  However one respondent was concerned about the potential cost implications of the provision of training for volunteers and appraising volunteer performance.

Another hand another respondent recommended that where appropriate, volunteers should be given the opportunity to receive accreditation for their learning and practical work.  It was also noted that this could be a particularly important incentive when encouraging young people to volunteer.

General management, communication and volunteer relations 2.15 – 2.18
One respondent agreed that volunteers deserved to be properly managed and supported and recommended that those responsible for managing volunteers should have this responsibility written into their contract and should be given the necessary time to effectively fulfil this role. Another reply concurred with this view and added that training staff to work effectively with volunteers was very important for getting the best out of both parts of the workforce.

The potential prohibitive cost of training volunteers and training staff to deal with volunteers was raised by 2 respondents.

One respondent advised that the Agency should consider setting out t whether volunteers were covered by employers’ liability insurance and any public liability insurance HS has.

Procedural Guidelines 2.21
The idea that Historic Scotland would produce a guidebook which would set out the organisation’s policy on and expectations of volunteers was broadly welcomed.  One respondent thought that the production of such a booklet would be a key feature of putting the high level aims and objectives of the Operational policy into practice.  However one thought the cost of producing the guidance would be a financial burden that the Agency would have to bear in mind when considering its level of financial support for voluntary organisations.  Another respondent found this section confusing and queried whether or not the handbook was intended for Historic Scotland staff involved with volunteers or for volunteers themselves.

Responsibilities for implementation and review 2.22
One respondent recommended that the implementation and review of the policy should be delegated to a manager with specific responsibility for the development of the volunteer programme.  It was suggested that this would also significantly raise the profile of volunteers within the organisation.

Volunteering in the Voluntary sector 2.23
Whilst welcoming acknowledgement of the contribution made by volunteer board members in managing voluntary sector organisations, one respondent expressed concern about the proposals to ensure that all of the voluntary organisations supported by the Agency followed good practice in their recruitment and management of volunteers.  It was argued that there would be a substantial cost to any organisation in employing volunteers and it was stressed that this cost should be clearly recognised.  It was also suggested that whilst it was possible for the costs associated with recruiting and managing volunteers to the high standards advocated by Historic Scotland to be borne by a public Agency it was much less obvious that voluntary organisations, for which management time is generally already an extremely scarce commodity, could afford them.  If voluntary organisations in receipt of grant support found themselves bound to involve volunteers as a condition of financial support, this would entail the employment of additional management staff to fulfil this requirement.

In short the respondent agreed that volunteering was desirable but that it would have real costs implications.  It was thought that unless the use of volunteer labour was to be undertaken on an extremely limited scale, some voluntary organisations would find it difficult to create opportunities for volunteers without additional support for core management costs.

Contrary to this view 2 other respondents in particular stressed their belief that the encouragement of volunteer support for those organisations the Agency funded was a significant factor in relationship to good practice development and added that where necessary, organisations should be encouraged to contact Volunteer Development Scotland for advice and information on this matter.

Historic Scotland involvement in key volunteering initiatives 2.24
Two responses strongly supported Historic Scotland’s commitment to helping to meet the wider objectives of Scottish Ministers through promoting volunteering and creating opportunities for volunteers from all ages and all walks of life - highlighting in particular the Agency’s commitment to young people’s involvement in volunteering.  Both respondents also suggested that this should be extended include people from other groups who were under-represented in volunteering.

General Comments
One respondent encouraged Historic Scotland to use the Operational Policy as an opportunity for the Agency to close the opportunity gap in volunteering by finding ways to reach out to ‘non-traditional’ groups of potential volunteers, particularly from Scotland’s deprived communities.

One suggested that the Operational Policy should make specific reference to, and endorse, the key strands of the Scottish Executive’s National Volunteering Strategy.

Another response suggested that the document might say more to promote volunteering to young people as a means of improving future employment prospects by providing on-the-job-training.

One respondent suggested that it might be worth stating where and how Historic Scotland would attract volunteers or promote volunteering opportunities.

One recommended that Historic Scotland should broaden its policy to include recognition of the wide range of involvement of volunteers in the sector as a whole, and to look at ways of recognising and promoting their contribution.

It was argued by one respondent that the Policy might set out procedures for recruitment, retention training and development that specifically addressed the needs of disabled people.

Whilst the Policy covered in some depth the issues promoting volunteering one respondent thought that it remained unclear how the Agency would address the needs of disabled people in the recruitment, training, development and support.  It was also unclear in regard to the circumstances under which physical ability would be part of the person specification.  The same response also recommend that the Policy should state its procedures for providing support or making adaptations to meet the needs of disabled people and also that it justify where physical ability was a requirement.

After considering the responses to the consultation exercise Historic Scotland Senior Management Team revised the consultation document.  It is envisaged that the Operational Policy will be published in final form during the second half of 2006.

List of the organisations or individuals who responded to the consultation

Council for Scottish Archaeology
Disability Rights Commission
East Ayrshire Council
Heritage Lottery Fund
Historic Environment Advisory Council for Scotland
Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council
New Lanark Conservation Trust
National Trust for Scotland
Voluntary Arts Scotland
Volunteer Development Scotland

Copies of the individual responses are available from the Scottish Executive Library, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh, EH11 3XD (telephone 0131 244 4565).

Contact us

Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Tel: + 44 (0) 131 668 8600