Volunteering levels fall, government figures show

The annual Community Life Survey of people over 16 shows reductions in volunteering levels in all major categories in 2016/17, compared with three years ago

Volunteering: all levels declining
Volunteering: all levels declining

- This story has been updated; please see final paragraph

The proportion of people who say they volunteer has fallen over the past three years, official government figures show.

The figures come from the annual Community Life Survey, which is run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and is a survey of adults aged 16 and over about their levels of community cohesion and engagement.

The survey, for which research was carried out between August 2016 and March 2017, shows reductions in volunteering levels in all the major categories over the past three years.

The proportion of people who said they volunteered at least once a month fell from 44 per cent in 2013/14 to 39 per cent in 2016/17, according to the figures.

The percentage of respondents who volunteered at least once a year also fell, from 70 per cent in 2013/14 to 63 per cent last year, the latest survey shows.

The DCMS said the 2016/17 figures were not directly comparable with the 2015/16 survey because of a change in methodology, where face-to-face interviews have been removed from the 2016/17 survey in favour of a complete focus on online and paper responses.

There were a number of differences between the 2016/17 and 2015/16 figures.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents said they took part once a year in informal volunteering – unpaid help to non-relatives, which came out as 60 per cent in the previous survey. Thirty-seven per cent said they took part once a year in formal volunteering – unpaid help through an organisation – this figure was 41 per cent in 2015/16.

Approximately 22 per cent of adults said they took part in formal volunteering at least once a month in 2016/17, and 27 per cent of adults said they volunteered informally once a month or more.

In 2015/16, 27 per cent of respondents formally volunteered at least once a month, and 34 per cent informally volunteered on a monthly basis.

The latest survey found that volunteering fell across most age groups since 2013/14 and among both men and women.

Older people and women were found to be more likely to give to charity than younger age groups and men.

Three-quarters of respondents to the 2016/17 survey said they gave to charity in the four weeks before completing the survey, donating an average of £22, which was the same as in the previous year.

Respondents to the survey numbered 10,256, compared with 3,256 in 2015/16.

Kristen Stephenson, volunteering development manager at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said that this year's survey used a new methodology, so people would have to be careful about how they interpreted the findings.

She  said it was still "really positive" to see that volunteering levels "remain high and stable".

"However, we also know that there are still barriers to address if we are to encourage more people to volunteer," she said. "This is why we are asking the government to consider requiring employers to allow time off work for charity trustees, which is already the case for magistrates or school governors."

- A number of amendments were made to the story after the DCMS said the latest figures were not directly comparable with last year's because of a change in methodology

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