Total number of formal volunteering hours down by 40 per cent last year, figures show

The total number of hours provided by volunteers in England fell by 40 per cent during the Covid-19 crisis, latest government figures show.

Data for the year to the end of March 2021, when the country spent several months under national lockdown in response to the pandemic, shows that volunteers worked a total of 0.7bn hours, down from 1.2bn hours in 2019/20.

The information was published today by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of the Community Life Survey, and covers formal volunteering opportunities through clubs, organisations and other charities in England.

Previous research found that levels of informal volunteering, which is defined as “giving unpaid help to individuals who are not a relative, rose during the pandemic.

Today’s figures also show that the average number of hours 65- to 74-year-olds spent volunteering in 2020/21 held up despite the pandemic, falling slightly from 148 to 144.

By comparison, the average number of hours volunteered by 25- to 34 year-olds fell by 50 per cent, from 108 to 54, while volunteers over 75 worked an average of 71 hours, down from 105.

Paul Reddish, chief executive of Volunteering Matters, said: “Volunteering trends continue to shift and change, and the pandemic has been an accelerator for many of these shifts.

“We have seen the return of many older volunteers to our programmes and other community projects throughout the country, which is great news for civil society and communities throughout the country.

“Continuing to support this vital group of volunteers, as well as recognising some of the shifting trends and expectations of young people and other new volunteers who took part in the pandemic, is a key challenge for voluntary sector organisations.”

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