The proportion of people in England taking part in formal volunteering activities has fallen in the past year, new government data shows.
The Cabinet Office's Community Life Survey, published last week, shows that the proportion of 5,105 respondents who said they carried out formal volunteering work at least once a month fell from 29 per cent in 2012/13 to 27 per cent in 2013/14.
The proportion of people doing formal volunteering work – defined as giving unpaid help through groups, clubs or organisations to benefit other people or the environment – at least once in the previous year was 41 per cent, down from 44 per cent last year.
Volunteering levels were up in 2012/13 after years of steady decline.
The proportion of people doing informal volunteering once a month in 2013/14 dropped by one percentage point from the previous year to 35 per cent, but there was a rise in the proportion of people doing any informal volunteering in the year, from 62 to 64 per cent.
This resulted in a rise of two percentage points in the overall proportion of people doing any volunteering work in the year, with the figure reaching 74 per cent, the highest figure since 2005.
But in every other area levels were either down or remained flat.
The only region of the UK where monthly formal volunteering increased between 2012/13 and 2013/14 was in the West Midlands, where 32 per cent of people now participate, compared with 27 per cent last year.
The West Midlands came out tied with the south west as the national leader in this category, while the north east was the region with lowest level of monthly formal volunteering, at just 13 per cent of the population.
As was the case in the past two surveys, the 65-74 age group is the one most likely to volunteer formally each month, on 32 per cent. The only age group that experienced a year-on-year rise in this respect was that for ages 16 to 25, moving from 28 per cent to 31 per cent. The lowest level of monthly formal volunteering was by those aged 26-34 or those aged 75 and over, both at 21 per cent.
Women were more likely to have done any formal volunteering in the year than men (41 per cent, compared with 40 per cent), but the male rate for having done any formal or informal volunteering in the year was, at 74 per cent, one percentage point above the rate for females.
The survey also showed continued gradual declines in the extent to which people spoke with the neighbours, felt neighbourhood cohesion or felt they had the power to influence decisions made in their local areas.
The nation has, however, become slightly happier during the year, with people's average score out of 10 for how happy they said they were yesterday rising from 7.3 last year to 7.5 in the latest survey.