Fewer volunteers than a year ago

Numbers fall by 2%, according to the Government's Citizenship Survey

Fewer people are volunteering in England and Wales this year than 12 months ago, according to the Communities and Local Government department.

Its Citizenship Survey, published yesterday, reports that 41 per cent of adults had volunteered formally during the past year, down from 43 per cent in last year's survey.

It found that 62 per cent had volunteered informally - defined as "giving unpaid help as an individual to people who are not relatives" - in the past year, down from 64 per cent in 2008 and 67 per cent in 2001.

The report, which for the past two years has surveyed 15,000 people about community involvement, volunteering and charitable giving, also found that 65 to 74-year-olds were the most likely to volunteer formally at least once a month.

The group most likely to volunteer informally on a regular basis was 19 to 25-year-olds.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of not-for-profit consultancy nfpSynergy, said he was depressed by the figures.

"The Government has spent millions on promoting volunteering over the past five years, yet the number of people doing it is falling," he said.

"If we can't increase the number of volunteers during a recession when unemployment is rising, when will we be able to?

"Charities and the Government need a radical rethink of their approach to volunteering. It must focus on the needs of the volunteers rather than those of the organisations they volunteer for."

Angela Smith, Minister for the Third Sector, said she was pleased that volunteering numbers remained high despite the recession.

"The Government is committed to giving more people the opportunity to volunteer and that is why we are investing £137m in volunteering over the next three years to increase numbers," she said.

"We will continue to focus on creating more opportunities to volunteer and I hope to see more and more people taking them up."

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