Include information on volunteering in government pension information, says Lords' report

The Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement, chaired by Tory peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, also recommends an Access to Volunteering scheme

Volunteering: can combat loneliness for older people
Volunteering: can combat loneliness for older people

Information on volunteering opportunities should be included in government pension information and an Access to Volunteering scheme should be created, according to a House of Lords committee.

A final report from the Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement, which was chaired by the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, says that including information on volunteering in pension packs could increase levels of volunteering among older generations.

The report, called The Ties that Bind, published today, also recommends the creation of an Access to Volunteering scheme along the same lines as the government’s Access to Work scheme.

It says the National Citizen Service should be used to "create a lifelong habit of social action" and be expected to make partnerships with charities.

NCS organisers should also be expected to work with the government, charities and schools to ensure its graduates continue to find volunteering opportunities, according to the report.

The report says that the government should stop denying that the NCS is a citizenship scheme, a claim that was repeated by the charities minister Tracey Crouch during her evidence to the committee.

It adds that job centres should play a more active role in encouraging jobseekers to volunteer and explain that volunteering can count for up to half of their "reasonable action to find a job" requirement.

The government should work with local authorities to carry out an audit of public space to see how it could be used by the charity sector, the report recommends.

The committee calls for reforms to the lobbying act suggested in 2016 by Hodgson in his government-commissioned review to be enacted and says the social value act should be used to ensure public service providers have a public engagement element in their contracts.

The report further suggests that the Office for Civil Society should publicise its guidance on nominating volunteers for honours, and that charity sector umbrella bodies should provide guidance on the issue to local authorities and health and social care organisations.

In a statement, Hodgson said: "A cohesive and dynamic society is dependent on citizens feeling secure, engaged and fulfilled. The government has not given sufficient focus to establishing long-term programmes that build trust and confidence between state and citizen.

"Our proposals do not require large amounts of taxpayers' money. They may require some reallocation, but above all they require consistent long-term application, learning from experience and reinforcing success."

Ashleigh Milson, campaigns and public affairs manager at the Charities Aid Foundation, welcomed the proposal to include details about volunteering as part of pensions information as "a simple, low-cost first step towards getting more people involved".

She said: "We know that older people fear boredom, loneliness and a lack of purpose, and volunteering can help to combat this. Our research also shows that more than 40 per cent of people would like to learn more about opportunities to volunteer."

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, highlighted the committee’s recognition of the importance of volunteering in society.

He said: "The NCS is the government’s flagship social action scheme, but opportunities to encourage further participation are being missed because of a lack of integration with the wider sector.

"This report provides a positive vision for how the NCS can play a more effective role in the civic journey, while addressing continued concerns over its value for money."

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