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Citizenship and Humanisation of the Public Sector

The changing role of volunteer organisations in the care sector (completed)

  • Duration: 2015-2018
  • Status: completed

Research into the changing role of volunteer organisations in the care sector, and an examination of the ‘Vrijwillig Dichtbij’ (‘Voluntarily Nearby’) programme. 

Final report

At the request of the Dutch Association of Volunteer Organisations (Nederlandse Organisatie Vrijwilligerswerk, NOV), a team of researchers headed by Professor Evelien Tonkens conducted a monitoring study into the changing role of volunteer organisations in the care sector, and the significance of various interventions. The final report was presented on 1 November 2018, titled Aan de andere kant van de schutting. Inspelen op de toenemende vraag naar vrijwillige inzet in het lokale sociale domein (‘On the other side of the fence: responding to the growing demand for volunteer efforts in the local social domain’).

PDF fileDownload final report

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The restructuring of the welfare state means that people are required to develop more self-sufficiency, to use their own networks, and to show more self-organisation as citizens. Participation, self-care/self-action, personal responsibility for oneself and one’s relatives, and the social network are key policy concepts. The Social Support Act (Wmo) of 2015, the extra-muralisation of care and encouraging senior citizens to live independently for longer are already resulting in an increased care need at the local level, leading to a greater reliance on local volunteer organisations in the care and welfare sectors.

Care demand and complexity are increasing, not just in terms of implementation but also of administration. The Wmo 2015 challenges municipal bodies and organisations to do more with less funding. This necessitates the exploration, stimulation, design and organisation of collaboration between formal and informal care at the national and local levels. 

As a result, it is not just formal care that is undergoing a transformation but informal care as well.

The programme Vrijwillig Dichtbij (VD; ‘Voluntarily Nearby’) aims to support local volunteer organisations in responding to the changing care and welfare arrangements. The devolution is having a direct impact on the implementation, the interaction and the changes in activities by paid workers and volunteers in the social sector.

To ensure that informal care is supported during these transitions, it is necessary to invest in:

  • supervising and increasing the expertise of volunteers facing complex problems;
  • transforming national organisations into ones having sufficient capacity and competences at the local level;
  • an efficient collaboration between local volunteer organisations in care and welfare in order to achieve an effective cooperation between formal and informal care.

In short, the VD programme should give nationally operating volunteer organisations more power to reform and to respond effectively to the devolution drive.



An interim report was presented in January 2018 titled Aan de andere kant van de schutting (‘On the other side of the fence’)

Research into the changing role of volunteer organisations in the care sector, and an examination of the ‘Vrijwillig Dichtbij’ (‘Voluntarily Nearby’) programme.