MPs call for national platform to help sustain pandemic volunteering efforts

A new report from an Inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Social Integration calls on the government to remove barriers to volunteering

(Photo: Hugh Hastings/Getty Images)
(Photo: Hugh Hastings/Getty Images)

A group of MPs has called for a UK-wide platform and a “volunteer passport” to help preserve the upsurge in volunteering during the pandemic.

A new report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, Building Stronger Communities in Post-pandemic Britain, highlights what action is needed to try to avoid a drop-off in volunteering that has had significant benefits for social connection.

The research focused on the role of volunteering and of business in local communities and in people’s lives, and collected evidence from a wide range 
of stakeholders.

It highlighted research from the charity coalition The Together Initiative, which found that about 4.6 million people volunteered for the first time during the pandemic, 3.8 million of whom said they would consider doing so again.

The APPG inquiry heard evidence that volunteering had created new connections between people of different faith, social and ethnic backgrounds and groups that were previously less engaged in community action. Young people, people with disabilities and minority ethnic groups had also become increasingly involved.

But it warned that more needed to be done to encourage a wider range of people to volunteer because it had found that traditional volunteer recruitment drives tended to draw upon people already active in their community, and often from the same social backgrounds. 

Organisations using formal volunteering can learn from the successes of more than 2,700 mutual aid groups that sprang up during the pandemic, the report said. 

It called on the government to set up a UK-wide online volunteering platform, linking potential volunteers with organisations that need them.

The APPG also recommended the creation of a promotional pack encouraging volunteering that would be sent to all school-leavers, new British citizens and the newly retired, as well as a “volunteer passport” to record activity and offer incentives.

As part of this new push to reduce barriers to volunteering, the report said that all children and young people should be given the opportunity to volunteer during their years in formal education.

It also acknowledged the positive role played by businesses of all sizes in supporting communities during the pandemic. 

It recommended that the government run a high-profile campaign, fronted by business ambassadors, to highlight the business case for social connection, volunteering and community involvement.

“The surge in volunteering was one of the positives to come out of the pandemic. Covid-19 changed the profile of the ‘typical’ volunteer,” said Peter Gibson, the ​​Conservative MP for Darlington and chair of the Social Integration APPG. 

“Many people from younger and more diverse backgrounds stepped forward, often for the first time, creating new connections and aiding integration by breaking down barriers.” 

Gibson warned that the community spirit risked being lost as work and social patterns returned to normal. 

But, he added: “With support from the government, businesses and civil society, we can seize this opportunity to transform volunteering – and in doing so help build more cohesive, connected communities.”

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