Thursday, 3 July 2008

Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector

What is the Voluntary Sector?
The best way to define the voluntary sector is by first defining what it isn't. There are two sectors that most people come into contact with on a regular basis, public and private.

Public sector
The public sector is anything run by the government, either national or local.

Private sector
The private sector is anything that is run by business for commercial gain. Their main focus is on making profit.

The voluntary sector is a third sector which covers anything that doesn't fall into the public or private sectors. They provide the services that would otherwise not be met by either the public or private sector. It includes charities and other Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that aren't focused on making profit. It includes organisations that can't be defined as charities such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace.

What is social inclusion?
Reducing inequalities between disadvantaged groups and the rest of society. This involves opening up oppurtunities who wouldn't have them otherwise and making sure support reaches those who need it the most.

Amina - Muslim Women's Resource Centre
The Muslim Women's Resource Centre is a charity (so as such is part of the voluntary sector) which operates in Scotland. It is based in Dundee and Glasgow but operates country wide. It was set up in 1997 after it was recognised that the specific needs of muslim women were not being met by the public sector in Scotland. It is campaigning to encourage the public sector to meets these needs, but also provides services to the community to meet these needs in the interim. It is as such an example of social inclusion. These services include a helpline, counselling services, PPP (Prevention, Provision and Protection) for domestic violence, and capacity building. For capacity building it runs various courses including arts & crafts and personal development through the Pacific Institute's Steps Programme. Part of the helpline's role is to act as a third party reporting service to encourage muslim women who feel they can't report racist or ismalist abuse to the police directly to report it to someone neutral. The helpline is also there to offer advice, and where necessary to sign post appropiate services for the callers.

As it provides for the needs of muslim women, Amina is able to apply for grants to enable it to keep on running from the Government. This is fine in the interim as it means that muslim women's needs are being met, but in a way it might mean that the government might feel that they don't need to provide services for muslim women directly, as they're funding a charity to do it for them. This is in essence one of the downsides of the existence of the voluntary sector, as the public sector could get complacent. As Amina is campaigning for the publc sector to meet Muslim Women's needs, it is in essence aiming to not exist, as all the services would be provided directly by the state.

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