Snakes and ladders – volunteering is down….and up!

According to the latest Citizenship Survey published by the Communities and Local Government Department CLG) volunteering has declined.  Bad news.  Indeed the number of people volunteering formally at least once a year has fallen to its lowest level for 10 years. But this isn’t the entire story.

Actually volunteering has not declined outright, it’s changed or rather – we have – It seems that in spite of Government cuts to our sector, volunteering and civic participation in local communities has actually increased.  Informal volunteering defined as “giving unpaid help as an individual to people who are not relatives” increased slightly in 2010/11 compared to the previous year.  

This might be because more people seem to commit to their locality: see the riot clean-up Wombles for proof of that!.  This is certainly evidenced in the faith sector and within our Jewish community.  JVN has witnessed far more younger people volunteering, albeit on a one off basis.  Cynically, this could be as there are more curriculum programmes in place in schools to encourage this type of volunteering and many students do utilise these opportunities to promote themselves in the difficult job market, but I do think it’s due to more flexible volunteering opportunities and a real sense of community. 

The CLG published this information last week from its Citizenship Survey 2010/11, which has taken place every two years since 2001, and Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, said: “It’s very encouraging that the decline in volunteering and civic participation has stopped. And community spirit is on the rise – more people feel like they belong strongly to their neighbourhood than recorded at any time in the last decade. This is very positive news, especially in a time of economic difficulty.”

Quite.  Strangely enough however, the recent government cost-cutting might have actually led to this bounce from the long-term decline in volunteering, as charities are finding it increasingly hard to pay for their professional staff and increasingly reliant on volunteers.  As a result, charities are definitely behaving more flexibly to incorporate their volunteers’ more busy lifestyles and using IT to support this for example, volunteers working from home via webmail.  Organisations like V, Do-it and even our small JVN are also enabling charities to reach out to more volunteers than they could do alone.

Sadly, however, we won’t be able to see if this positive trend continues, as despite their trumpeting of the Big Society, the Government has decided to stop carrying out this very survey because of its cost…..

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Categories: Leonie's View

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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