How Has Volunteering In The UK Changed Since The Start Of The Covid-19 Pandemic?

How Has Volunteering In The UK Changed Since The Start Of The Covid-19 Pandemic?

The pandemic has had far reaching effects on many aspects of our lives. Yet, we have come together despite everything to support those struggling the most! The surge of volunteers, especially in the beginning of the pandemic was considerable. The NHS’ call for volunteers in the early days of the pandemic, for example, was extraordinarily successful as their call for volunteers made the front-page nation-wide: After only 24 hours, the NHS had unexpectedly already reached their target of 250,000 volunteers and after only four days the volunteer recruitment had to be paused as the numbers had risen to a total of incredible 750,000 volunteers (Churchill, 2020).

How Has Volunteering Participation Changed Since The Start Of The Pandemic?

Overall, as research by the Together Initiative suggests, a total of 12.4 million adults volunteered during the pandemic so far with 4.6 million of them being first-time volunteers. 3.8 million of these first-time volunteers even showed interest in continuing to volunteer in the future (Rutter & Puddle, 2021)!

Even though there has been an overall increase in volunteering in the UK since the start of the pandemic (Mak & Fancourt, 2020), volunteering involvement hasn’t risen in all demographics. Volunteering participation in people aged 50+, has reportedly reduced since the start of the pandemic. Many of these volunteers had to reduce, pause or even stop their volunteering activities since the pandemic. The ELSA longitudinal study of aging found 18% of their participants (6,443 people) had reduced their volunteering activity, 43%  stopped their volunteering activity, and only 9% increased their volunteering activity (Chatzi et al., 2020).

However in other demographics, volunteering involvement went through the roof! Groups that were less likely to volunteer, such as 18-24-year-olds, people with disabilities or long-term illnesses, and people from the poorest fifth of neighbourhoods actually increased their volunteering participation since the beginning of the pandemic (Rutter & Puddle, 2021).

Despite the hardship Covid-19 has brough for many of us, research shows it has also brough us closer together and has businesses, councils, faith, and civil society working together to provide vital services to those who need it the most. To make all this possible, pre-existing social networks, higher levels of social support, cohesion, and trust were important factors (Mao et al., 2020).

Amazing Community Response – #thankyou

Research into volunteering since the start of the pandemic has shown that volunteering motivated by Covid-19 and the struggles it has been imposing on people since the outbreak are quite diverse. In response, people across the nation set up both formal and informal volunteering support groups, offering various different types of important services. Some Third Sector organisations even changed or adjusted their services to the new needs of their communities (Mao et al., 2020).

The networks of informal support groups, set up across the nation by people with previous volunteering experience, have been providing much needed support in local communities with numerous mutual aid groups having been set up as well (Mao et al., 2020). The most popular services are (Mao et al., 2020):

  • Providing information about COVID-19
  • Shopping, packing, and delivering food
  • Fundraising and making donations
  • Collecting prescriptions
  • Dog walking
  • Offering emotional support through telephone helplines

Research by Rutter & Puddle (2021) shows just how much the pandemic has brought communities together: their data shows informal volunteering to have crossed even ethnic and faith divides in mixed neighbourhoods and thus helped heal rifts in many communities and it is deemed likely for those changes to last beyond the pandemic!

What does that mean for Clackmannanshire?

For charities based in central Scotland, 43% reported a decrease in their number of volunteers, 53% reported no changes, and 12% reported an increase. Compared to charities in other areas such as Glasgow where reported numbers of decreased volunteer participation were the highest with 49%, charities in Central Scotland, such as Clackmannanshire-based organisations, are among those with the least negative impact of Covid-19 on volunteering numbers (OSCR).

When taking a closer look at the impact of Covid-19 on volunteers in central Scotland, data (OSCR) shows that 39% of charities’ volunteers are unable to work, with 17% of charities having no capacity to make use of the available volunteers. Since the start of the pandemic, charities in Scotland have struggled significantly. Data by OSCR shows the cancellation of planned work and events (78%), and the loss of income from fundraising (51%) as the top two ways in which charities have been impacted by the pandemic.

Volunteers’ Week 2021 – Chance To Show Your Appreciation To All Your Covid-19 Volunteers!

As part of this year’s Volunteers’ Week, everyone is encouraged to show their gratitude for volunteers past, present, and future. Keep an eye on our social media channels for lots of great content highlighting the amazing efforts of local volunteers.

Key Points
  • Massive increase of volunteering since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic
    • A total of 12.4 million adults volunteered during the pandemic so far
    • 4.6 million of them are first-time volunteers
    • 3.8 million of these first-time volunteers even show interest in continuing to volunteer in the future
  • Volunteering went through the roof in some groups
    • Volunteering rose in groups that were less likely to volunteer, such as
      • 18-24-year-olds
      • People with disabilities or long-term illnesses
      • People from the poorest fifth of neighbourhoods
  • Yet, many older volunteers had to reduce, pause or even stop their volunteering activities since the pandemic. The ELSA longitudinal study of aging found:
    • 18% of their participants (6,443 participants in total) had reduced their volunteering activity
    • 43% had stopped their volunteering activity
    • Only 9% had increased their volunteering activity
  • Pre-existing social networks, higher levels of social support, cohesion, and trust were important factors for setting up the local support networks that help so many of us since the start of the pandemic
  • The pandemic has brought communities closer together: informal volunteering reaching across both ethnic and faith divides in mixed neighbourhoods
    • It is deemed likely for those changes to last beyond the pandemic
  • Clackmannanshire-based organisations, are among those with the least negative impact of Covid-19 on volunteering numbers
  • 39% of charities’ volunteers are unable to work, with 17% of charities having no capacity to make use of the available volunteers
  • The cancellation of planned work and events (78%), and the loss of income from fundraising (51%) are the top two ways in which charities in Scotland have been impacted by the pandemic

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