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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Public Sector Cuts - how voluntary sector workers have lived for years

I keep hearing how public sector employees are up in arms at the cuts heading their way as the Government attempts to sort out the deficit.

On a human level, I feel sorry for anyone who loses their job and livelihood. I am also suspcicious that some cuts are more to do with Tory ideology and long-held wishes and that the financial crisis is providing a convenient bit of spin for them.

When I was a little girl, my Mum used to say, "Get a job in the council, you'll have security for life". She also used to delight in pointing out council workers on endless tea breaks. She clearly saw local authority work as a cushy number. I am not saying whether she was right or wrong but that was her view. If anything, I think the huge amount of public sector employees will mean that their is great diversity in terms of weak or strong work ethics.

When I left university, I had lots of lucrative options open to me. However, I knew that I wanted to change the world for the better. After a stint as a volunteer in an advice agency which combined helping members of the public with campaigning on social issues, I felt I had found my niche. Welcome to the Voluntary and Community Sector - you are in for a bumpy ride!

So from the early Nineties, I have done countless jobs. The number of jobs would go against me in public sector or private sector job interviews. However, with funding insecurity and cuts, I have often found myself "redundant" despite the service being valued, efficient and well-delivered.

I coped with this when I was single and did not have children. Sure, it meant moving all over the country seeking work but I had made my choice. Strangely enough, I did not see unions taking to the streets to protect the voluntary sector workers or questions being asked in Parliament. I was on my own - my fault for being idealistic apparently.

Things got a lot harder when I had a family. Three children - two born days or weeks after redundancy situations for my husband, another idealist.

So yes, I feel for public sector workers but where was the support for such as me when we were trying to do good works? You were our partners often and used our resources in a myriad of ways. I don't even remember a public sector worker ever saying, "Sorry to hear that" when unemployment was on the cards again.

So this bleeding heart through bitter experience has scabbed over a bit. They say voluntary sector workers end up "selling out" and becoming consultants or burn out. Perhaps like me they escape to the country and get out of the race altogether.

The irony is that because the voluntary and community sector was not supported in the past, it won't necessarily be there to pick up the pieces for the individuals and families affected by the cuts, from whatever sector.


  1. I have just lost my job in the voluntary sector because of cuts and my husband works in the public sector and is facing an uncertain future too. Voluntary sector pay is lower, but the job satisfaction is greater. I think you make a balanced argument here and agree that years of under resourcing mean that the vol sector can't plug all the gaps.

  2. Thanks for saying the argument is balanced. I thought I might get a bit of a backlash from public sector workers to be honest. I feel for all people who lose jobs but am not sure that job satisfaction is always bigger in the voluntary sector. Or maybe I just got jaded after 20 years at it.
    I wish both you and your husband very well in the future which I hope is very bright and soon

  3. Ha! I had a conversation with 2 public sector workers at a meeting who were contemplating the possibility of losing their jobs. I said well I've worked for charities for years so it's normal for me. One replied, yes but we've always worked for the council. That'll be worse for them then!