Volunteers 'want to boost society'

People from poorer backgrounds are more likely to volunteer to 'make a difference in the community' rather than to further their careers, according to recent research.

The study of 40 volunteers in a deprived community found that 'wanting to put something back' came top of the four main reasons it identified for motivating people to volunteer.

The project, Doing One's Duty: a case study of volunteering in a deprived community, also found that many volunteers are likely to be "beyond the labour market" because of care responsibilities, disability and age. It claimed policy focused on volunteering as a way of developing a person's career risks excluding and discouraging those who can't work.

The second most common motivation given by volunteers was wanting to help others they felt were less fortunate. Volunteering as a form of self-help or to help the volunteers to cope with their own life-changing events, such as retirement or bereavement, was the third most common reason.

However, volunteering as a way of developing 'new skills and experiences that are valued in the labour market' was the least common response.

The study was carried out by Professor Irene Hardill from Nottingham Trent University and Dr Susan Baines from Newcastle University.

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Other research released last week suggests that volunteering can improve mental health. Up to 51 out of 60 mental health service users taking part in a CSV project reported positive effects from volunteering, according to a study by the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. These included acquiring new skills and knowledge, improved confidence and greater ease at meeting and socialising with others.

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