Maintaining a sustainable volunteer workforce is a looming issue. Identified errors in DFES’ records of volunteer numbers suggest that the actual number is about 20 per cent less than the reported 29 000 members. Compounding this is an upward trend in volunteer turnover, a declining number of volunteer groups, especially in regional areas, and a rising concern about volunteer fatigue.
But since forming in November 2012, DFES has made considerable progress in identifying ways to improve how it recruits, prepares and supports its volunteers. A number of projects should deliver improvements in these areas though many are still in planning or early implementation stages.
DFES rely on local governments to provide it with data about their volunteers but records on volunteer availability, training and attendance at incidents is often inaccurate. As a result, DFES lacks data to identify gaps in volunteer service capability and to inform its recruitment and retention efforts.
Since 2012, DFES has been developing good training programs for volunteers and has made major changes to its professional development branch. However, volunteers are often unable to access training due to unavailability of DFES trainers and assessors and cancellation of training courses.
Volunteers generally had the equipment they needed to perform their roles. However, there is room for improvement in DFES’ consultation and engagement with volunteers around equipment decisions.
DFES provide recognition and support services to volunteers but communication around which services are available to volunteers needs to improve. There is a gap in the awareness and understanding about what services are available to both DFES and LG volunteers.