Monday, April 13, 2009

Stelmach Gov't Pays for Police Checks for Voluntary Sector.

One of the little Alberta Budget 2009 gems that got lost in the deficit spending headlines was the province funding of $2.4 million for a three year project to compensate police services for criminal record checks for the not for profit and voluntary sector.

This is an idea that goes to the very beating heart of safe and vibrant communities. This is also an idea that has been long time coming and reflects the new focus on Premier Stelmach's personal commitment to community and values.

The need to ensure that people who volunteer time and talent to community service are not dangerous or inappropriate because of past criminal or other behaviours has been pushed by Volunteer Alberta for a number of years.

Cambridge Strategies was commissioned in 2006 by Volunteer Alberta to do a survey and analysis of "Volunteer Screening Initiative." We found that police checks were an expensive and difficult process for the not-for-profit voluntary sector to absorb and that no grants were available to pay for this protection of the public. I encourage you to read the study because it is a window into the plight of these volunteer dependent community service agencies.

The report we did, like so many in those days, fell on deaf ears as the PC government was going through a leadership transition so anything new and innovative was shelved. Well I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see the Stelmach government step up to the plate on this concept. It will ensure that the community based not-for-profit, volunteer supported service agencies who work with our most vulnerable citizens, can do their jobs better, clients can be safer and communities can thrive from the good works of caring and committed citizen volunteers.

Congratulations to the Board and Staff of Volunteer Alberta for persevering and making this progressive policy change finally happen.