'Upgrade' charities minister to cover volunteering, Conservatives group urges

The new post would include 'capturing and enhancing the mutual aid phenomenon', a new report says

A group of influential Conservative parliamentarians has called for the minister for civil society to be “upgraded” to a new minister for volunteering, according to a new report on the lessons learned from the first national lockdown.

The report, called Connecting Communities, was undertaken by the One Nation Conservatives parliamentary group of about 100 current and former Tory MPs and peers, including Amber Rudd, the former home secretary, and Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary. 

The report drew on evidence from constituency surveys, national data, and case studies to highlight what could be learned from the first Covid-19 restrictions between March and July this year.

Key findings included that 97 per cent of first-time volunteers would do so again, and the experience had a positive impact that made respondents feel more connected to their communities.

The report highlighted how the removal of red tape in the NHS enabled support to be provided to help speed up volunteer background checks, for example.

It also calls for an NHS volunteering arm and a new minister for volunteering with joint responsibility across the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care.

“Our recommendation is to upgrade the minister for civil society to a minister for volunteering, whose work would include capturing and enhancing the mutual aid phenomenon,” the report says.

“This would enable the breaking down of barriers within public services that prevent community and individual initiatives.”

It also recommends the creation of a Nature Reservists Network to focus on the young and unemployed in rural and coastal settings, and for volunteering pathways to be encouraged through schools, workplaces and job centres.

The findings indicate a role for community clippers or street-level volunteer support to check in on vulnerable and isolated neighbours' wellbeing and mental health.

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