Charities are being invited to put in bids to three new grant funds worth a total of £4m designed to boost volunteering among the over-50s.
The three funds, from the Office for Civil Society and the innovation foundation Nesta, are designed to help charities explore how they can tap into the skills and experience of people over 50 and encourage them to volunteer to work alongside public services, Nesta said this morning.
Grants of up to £250,000 will be available from the Second Half Fund – Sharing Time and Talents for Life to support the growth of new ways to mobilise the time and talents of over-50s through projects focused on children and young people, parents and families, ageing well and creating resourceful and resilient local places.
The Join In Stay fund will award grants of up to £50,000 and non-financial support from behavioural science experts for organisations to carry out randomised controlled trials to understand best encourages volunteers to continue to give their time regularly.
And up to £100,000 in grants will be available from the Give More Get More – Exploring Intensive Volunteering fund to support organisations in trials of intensive volunteering placements, such as gap year-type trips, for people approaching or in retirement.
The findings of any studies that are funded by the grants will be published in 2017 and 2018 and shared with policymakers and the public sector to help inform future volunteering programmes.
The grants are the second stage of the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, a joint Nesta and OCS initiative to encourage volunteers in public services, which has previously focused on youth volunteering.
The announcement comes after the August publication of a study by the universities of Southampton and Birmingham that concluded volunteering has a positive impact on the mental health of people aged over 40 but no effect on the mental wellbeing of young people.
Vicki Sellick, director of Nesta’s Innovation Lab, said: "We know that many over-50s are already generously giving their time to help others – from reading to children in classrooms to keeping patients company in hospital.
"Given that those who do report far higher levels of wellbeing, and that more local communities could benefit hugely from their skills, we want to see how we can bring to bear the talents and experience the over-50s possess to benefit even more people."
Rob Wilson, the charities minister, said: "These funds represent an excellent opportunity to replicate our fantastic achievements in youth volunteering, and I urge as many organisations as possible to apply."
Organisations interested in applying for funding can do so through the Nesta website.