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EACEA National Policies Platform


2. Voluntary Activities

2.1 General context

Last update: 26 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 28/06/2020

On this page
  1. Historical developments
  2. Main concepts



Historical developments

Volunteering has a rich history in Wales. In more recent times, and particularly over the last half century or so, both pre- and post-devolution (for details of governance arrangements in Wales, see the article on 'Main Executive and Legislative Bodies' in the Eurydice Network's description of the Welsh education system), successive Governments have sought to bring volunteering into the ambit of Government policy.  Across the UK, the changing relationship between government and volunteering was summarised by anarticle published in The Guardian newspaper in June 2015:

In the 1960s volunteering was seen as a way of diverting youthful energy away from Mods-and-Rockers gang feuds. In the 1970s the emphasis was on professionalising volunteer effort as a reliable appendage to social services. The Thatcher administration of the 1980s saw volunteering very much through a lens of individual freedom, and as a practical response to mass unemployment and inner-city unrest, while the mood music of the 1990s under both Tory [Conservative] and Labour regimes was heavy on active citizenship.

In May 2004, theRussell Commission was established by the UK Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to develop a new national framework for youth action and engagement across the UK. The Commission's recommendations were designed to provide a framework to bring about a step change in the number and diversity of young volunteers and to give them more and better quality volunteering opportunities. In Wales, implementation of the recommendations was a matter for the Welsh Government and a partnership of key organisations, Volunteering Wales, formerly known as Gwirvol, was formed for this task.  This fulfilled the key recommendation of the Commission to have a dedicated implementation body. See the article on 'Administration and Governance of Youth Volunteering' for further information.

Millennium Volunteers is the recognition programme of the Volunteering Wales initiative. It has been running since 1998. Originally a UK-wide initiative, based on a consultation paper, Millennium Volunteers: Labour’s proposal for citizen's service (1996), it has developed differently across the UK. Further information is available in the article on 'Skills Recognition.' 

Main concepts

The Welsh Government’s 2015Volunteering Policy 2015 defines volunteering as activity which:

  • is undertaken freely, by choice
  • is undertaken to be of public/ community benefit
  • is not undertaken for financial gain.

Annex A of the policy document provides highlights some of the different types of volunteering: 

  • informal volunteering
  • formal volunteering
  • virtual volunteering
  • employer supported volunteering
  • volunteering for accreditation
  • internships
  • volunteering as a work-related experience
  • civic volunteering.