What happened to the UK’s volunteering spirit?

By Florence Howarth

With Volunteers Week upon us (June 1-7th) and The Coronation’s Big Help Out just passed, there are concerns that volunteering has reached a new low in the UK. The UK Government’s Community Life Survey 2021-22 recently reported that 34% of respondents volunteered at least once a month, down from 41% the year before and 44% in 2013-14.

The pandemic brought communities closer together in a time of isolation, with volunteering in the health and care sector thriving with people eager to help the NHS in its time of need. But since then, volunteering has dwindled – so what has happened to the UK’s volunteering spirit? 

We recently worked with Helpforce, the not-for-profit organisation which partners with health and care organisations across the UK to accelerate the growth and impact of volunteering, to release findings from its first Back to Health impact report and survey. The results were clear that problem isn’t lack of interest in volunteering – with 56% of the UK public wanting to volunteer in the health and care sector.

The biggest barriers to volunteering discovered were people not having the time to commit to set hours of volunteering on a regular basis (44%) and feeling that they do not have time in their schedule to volunteer (41%). When asked what would motivate people to volunteer, many of the respondents stated that they wanted to make a difference to individuals (34%) or their local community (28%). Having a sense of purpose (26%) was also a key reason. The benefits of volunteering are countless, for both volunteers and the people they help – so what can be done to reignite the UK’s community spirit?

Coupled with more flexible volunteering roles and the promotion of volunteering through work schemes – volunteering can be boosted in the UK. We must recapture the sense of community the UK had during the Covid Pandemic through the power of volunteering, by making time in our busy schedules to help those who need it most.

Useful links:

Government Community Life Survey https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/community-life-survey-202021-volunteering-and-charitable-giving

Helpforce Back to Health Impact Report https://helpforce.community/back-to-health

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