Tuesday, 3 July 2018

A Decline in the Honorary Police: Markers of a Wider Trend

"A CHANGING work culture is the biggest challenge facing the honorary police as it struggles to find new recruits, according to long-serving St Helier Centenier Danny Scaife. Mr Scaife, who is also the chairman of the honorary police chiefs’ committee, said that people were working more irregular hours, which made fitting in honorary police duties more difficult. "

‘Over the last five to ten years, it has become more problematic,’ he said. ‘The changing work culture certainly is a problem.’ He suggested that more people were working long hours and odd shifts, as technology changed how people worked. ‘Some bosses are very supportive and very good about allowing employees to take time off for honorary police duties or training and that’s good, but otherwise it is a challenge,’ he said.

(JEP 02/07/2018)

I think what Danny Scaife says is part of the issue, but it is not the whole one. If you look at declining church attendances, and then a declining in formal volunteering in general, I think it indicates a wider cultural trend.It's not just to do with time taken off from work.

Back in 2010, Alan Travis, writing in the Guardian, noted that in the UK:

“Charitable giving and volunteering has declined in England over the past five years despite official attempts to encourage both, according to the annual citizenship survey. The findings show that only 26% of people in England in 2008/09 took part in formal volunteering at least once a month, compared with 29% in 2005.”

The same trend can also be observed across the water in the USA, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015, showed that: “The volunteering rate has slowly dwindled from 29 percent to 25.4 percent in just 10 years. It’s clear that Americans are volunteering less, both in numbers and hours.”

Moving forward to 2017 in the UK, and David Aisnworth reported that:

“Volunteering levels have declined by 15 per cent over a decade, according to Office for National Statistics figures published today. Over the same period, the population grew by 7.8 per cent, meaning the average number of hours volunteered by each person fell by 21.5 per cent over the 10 year period. “

And this year, Joy Williams noted that:

“While volunteering remains common in Britain, using many different measures, the consensus is that there has been a drop in the amount of time dedicated to volunteering since the turn of the millennium.”

The paper “Study on Volunteering in the European Union” noted that “There is evidence to imply that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find volunteers who are willing to commit to long-term voluntary positions of responsibility/leadership. Busy working lives have negatively impacted on the time and energy people have to engage in long-term voluntary activities.”

The same trend to decline can also be seen in political participation, as Colin Rochester noted this year:

“Across the UK there has been a marked decline in the involvement of citizens in the conventional political system at national and local level. Fewer people vote in general elections, and the membership of political parties – and active involvement in their activities – have fallen off sharply. And there has been an erosion of the role and status of elected members of local authorities. By contrast there has been an increase of participation in single issue politics and new kinds of campaigning activities for new kinds of causes.”

A local example can be seen in the surge of popular support for the more informal and individualistic “Jersey Lifeboat Association”, contrast with what was seen as a more rigid and formal structure in the RNLI. That’s not to say that either perception is accurate, but this is how and why people engage in single issue causes.

“There is a growing consensus that the ways in which people engage with volunteering have changed. Changes in sports volunteering were summarised by Gratton and colleagues, who ‘concluded that a European trend towards more informal participation in health and fitness related sports and a decline in more traditional team sports was replicated in England’

With busy lives, there has been an increase in what might be termed “episodic volunteering”, where people volunteer their time in a manner which is limited in its scope was expected to be intrinsically rewarding

That of course is another part of the culture shift in society. The historian Tony Judt asks the question:

“In an age where young people are encouraged to maximise self-interest and self advancement, the grounds for altruism or even good behaviour become obscured.”

Crispin Truman described this change:

“In the past, we could be confident that as people matured and had more time they would often develop new interests and priorities that led them into volunteering. We can no longer be confident that will happen.”

“There is a societal shift in public participation. The trends that have led to the closure of pubs and churches, the decline in traditional forms of joining and contributing to society, are the same trends that will undermine charity volunteering.”

The psychology of the modern age finds identity is bound up with such notions as self-discovery or to use Carl Rogers phrase " self actualisation". And it is very much this desire for these that attractive and seductive.

They also take time away from leisure time which might otherwise be spent on community matters. Because of the time that they take, and even more in the way in which the whole philosophy is antithetical to the idea of community service, we have a society in which the older forms of service such as working in charity shops or helping with scouting or helping with the honorary police, come very low on these individualising agendas.

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