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Celebrating our volunteers

4 June 2020

COVID-19 and the challenges it brings has meant the incredible support of volunteers has never been more important.  

In 2017/18, 20.1 million (38%) people in the UK volunteered formally at least once a year, with at least three million of these regularly volunteer within health and social care services.

And this figure has risen over the past few weeks; over 750,000 people responded to the national call for volunteers to support the NHS and many more signed up to the National Care Force to support our social care services. Resources have also been developed to ensure the safety of volunteers in these pandemic times. 

Type in #volunteersweek2020 into a social media search and you quickly see great and wonderful examples of volunteering, many of them in the social care sector. Indeed, there are many organisations in the sector which simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for their volunteers and it is heartening to see 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups be recognised for their work by being awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

There are volunteers out there in the care sector providing transport, picking up medications and other essential supplies, making PPE and helping with the ever-mounting back end office admin. There are others too listening – on the phone, skype or zoom - when an isolated person needs to talk. People are getting creative with fundraising so care workers and other sector organisations can get the financial support they need to see them through this pandemic. 

Volunteering does transforms lives, not just for the person or organisation being supported, but for the volunteer themselves; volunteering creates relationships, connections and friendships, reveals previously hidden talents and has been shown to improve mental health

Community awareness

The pandemic has bought at the good side of human nature; Office for National Statistics (ONS) research into the social impacts of COVID-19 has shown communities have grown stronger in challenging times. 

Nearly two in three adults had checked in on neighbours who might need help at least once in the last seven days, over one in three adults had gone shopping or done other tasks for neighbours and nearly two thirds of adults said other local community members would support them if they needed help during the pandemic. 

The future

It is challenging times for everyone and the sector needs to find ways to nurture this community support beyond COVID19, and make it a sector of choice for volunteers; in doing so, it may well lead to more people seeing the sector as a genuine employment and career pathway option too. 

Volunteers can and do make a difference to people’s lives, on both sides. 

A huge thank you to every volunteer who continues to support our sector in these challenging times. Whether you’re a volunteer collecting medication or calling someone in their home, we’re in this together; you are an essential part of the sector and your time and talents are greatly appreciated. 

Lisa Lenton

Chair, Care Provider Alliance