New infrastructure needed to capitalise on Covid-19 volunteering boom, MPs say

A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration warns that first-time volunteers might be discouraged if they do not have a satisfactory experience

A volunteer delivers a food parcel in Aylesford, Kent (Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A volunteer delivers a food parcel in Aylesford, Kent (Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The government should introduce a new programme to strengthen volunteering infrastructure to capitalise on the wave of people putting themselves forward because of the coronavirus pandemic, MPs have suggested. 

A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, published today, says the Covid-19 crisis has resulted in “more and new types of volunteering”, with more than 750,000 people signing up to help the NHS. 

“However, there is not yet the infrastructure to respond to so many volunteers and many people who have offered their time to the NHS have yet to be offered tasks,” the report says.

Organisations that recruit volunteers, including government, must start planning to harness the volunteering legacy now, it says. 

“There is a risk that first-time volunteers who offer their time may be disappointed if they are not allocated tasks to undertake, discouraging them from further volunteering.”

It adds: “The government should put in place a new programme of work to strengthen local volunteering and increase its levels among groups less likely to volunteer.”

It says all councils in England should have a cabinet lead whose remit covers social isolation and volunteering.

The report says that digital divides mean that charities are having to fall back on “old-school” methods such as letters, phone calls and leaflets in order to communicate with some of the most isolated groups in society during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Many efforts to reach isolated groups during the Covid-19 crisis have successfully moved online, it says, but that can leave some of the most isolated individuals even further excluded because they do not own or cannot afford devices, WiFi or data to get online. 

Peter Gibson, the Conservative MP for Darlington and member of the APPG, said: “There has been a hugely encouraging upsurge of willingness to volunteer and to look out for each other. 

“The challenge for policy-makers is now to make sure we have the infrastructure and capacity to ride that wave and to work out how best to deploy and sustain it.”

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