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Suffolk voluntary sector set to widen its services

PUBLISHED: 10:45 22 October 2010

VOLUNTARY groups across Suffolk are ready to help the county council deliver services to people on the ground, it has been claimed.

However, they would like to be involved more in decisions that are now being taken as the council embarks on its “New Strategic Direction”.

The chief executive of the Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations (Savo), Jonathan Moore, said there was already a strong culture of volunteering in the county.

Mr Moore said it was estimated that there were about 50,000 people who regularly volunteer in the county, effectively doing the work of 4,000 full-time workers.

“If the county wants to rely more on this sector that would be good but it is not something that could be introduced overnight. It will take time to build up,” he said.

The county is talking about “divesting” as many services as it can – that means transferring them to voluntary groups, private businesses, or new “social enterprise” organisations.

Mr Moore said in many ways voluntary groups could be more efficient than the traditional way of delivering services.

But he does have concerns about whether all parts of the county could be served equally.

He said: “I am aware that in some parts of the county, to be honest the more affluent areas, it may be a lot easier to find volunteers on the ground or for the voluntary sector to engage as a whole than in some others.

“In those parts of Suffolk where there is deprivation, there needs to be great care taken before services are transferred and we need to have much more consultation.”

Mr Moore also urged the county to talk to his sector more before taking any final decisions. He said that so far county officials had had very little contact with the sector that it wants to take on some of the burden.

He said: “We are ready and willing to help, but we need to know what they are talking about.”

The county council has said it intends to consult widely over the next six weeks before its next full meeting at the beginning of December

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