The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has joined forces with other leading third sector organisations to highlight concerns over the effect of Brexit on volunteering numbers.

Alongside Volunteer Scotland, SCVO has prepared a letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP which highlights the contribution of Non-UK citizen volunteers.

The letter – which has been countersigned by Camphill Scotland, Cyrenians, Volunteering Matters and L’Arche – requests an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary to discuss concerns over the impact of Brexit, and the treatment of Tier 5 applications from Non-EU Citizens wishing to volunteer in Scotland.

The letter highlights that the number of people taking part in longstanding volunteering programmes has dropped since Britain voted to leave the European Union, and calls for dialogue to ensure that volunteering schemes are enhanced. It also notes an increase in rejections of Tier 5 applications from potential volunteers from Non-EU countries.

SCVO Chief Executive Anna Fowlie said: “Charities in Scotland need to recruit more volunteers than ever, and it is vital that current volunteering schemes – which help us attract volunteers from across the world – are not only maintained, but further enhanced.

“We believe it is of the upmost importance that the UK Government commits to recognising the important contribution made by volunteers and voluntary workers across the UK, instead of closing the door on greatly valued and much needed volunteers from Europe and beyond.”

George Thomson, Chief Executive of Volunteer Scotland, said: “It’s challenging trying to cope with the complexity of Brexit, however that’s what we’re doing by focusing on the impact on volunteers coming from abroad and going abroad.

“It might be a small piece of the national picture, but it’s a vital one nonetheless. We’re aiming to ensure that the voice of those impacted is heard and that we minimise the potential threat.”

Camphill Scotland Director, Dr Neil Henery said: “Camphill was founded in Scotland by Austrian refugees and remains very much a European, and an international, movement. 170 (or 68%) of the 251 short-term volunteer co-workers currently living and working in Camphill communities in Scotland are from other EU countries.

“Volunteer co-workers and employees from non-EU countries also make a major contribution to the work of Camphill. We are already experiencing a negative impact from Brexit and can now also report a significant rise in the refusals of Tier 5 Charity worker visa applications from non-EU nationals.

“This is very alarming as without a supply of volunteers and staff from abroad, Camphill in Scotland could not continue in its present form to the great detriment of the over 600 people with learning disabilities and other support needs who depend on us for their care, education and support.”

Cyrenians Chief Executive Ewan Aitken said: “As an organisation that has a long history of successfully supporting, and being supported by, volunteers we are greatly concerned by the recent decline in successful Tier 5 volunteering applications.

“By excluding individuals who have the desire to support vital services delivered by a wide range of third sector organisations, our government is directly impacting the quality of the services available for Scottish citizens in need of our support.

“Volunteering is the heartbeat of the third sector and international volunteers should be celebrated for both their willingness to get involved and the diversity they bring to our sector. We strongly urge the government to explore this worrying trend and address the current inconsistencies in regards to international volunteering.”

The letter can be found at https://scvo.org.uk/post/2018/08/20/joint-letter-to-the-home-secretary