Young charity volunteers risk being overwhelmed by ‘triple burden’, report concludes

Young charity volunteers risk being overwhelmed by a “triple burden” of work, family life and poor mental health, the government has warned.

The report, which is called Volunteering Journeys and was published yesterday by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, says events in the UK and around the world “were affecting confidence and emotional security” in volunteers aged between 16 and 30.

Volunteers mentioned the climate crisis, war in Ukraine and the Black Lives Matter movement as issues that affected their mental health and, as a result, made it harder to engage with good causes.

The report, prepared for the DCMS by the Institute for Community Studies, drew on survey responses from more than 2,000 young volunteers.

“The way global and national events were affecting confidence and emotional security for young people, particularly in the older, post-18 years age groups, was striking,” it says.

Several interviewees “referred to mental health as a factor affecting their engagement in volunteering. This was referenced across all life stages, with the past two years of the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbating impact for many,” the report said.

It found that “a ‘triple burden’ exists for the younger age group, namely balancing volunteering with their work, family life and mental health”, which led many volunteers to say they feel burned out.

The report says that “coupled with burnout is a level of guilt that can occur with volunteering, particularly if you’re overwhelmed due to other factors in your life and despite wanting to volunteer are unable to”.

It recommends voluntary organisations include “wider structures of support, including mental health services and mentoring, into the volunteering offer”.

The paper also argues that, while there has been growing interest in more informal volunteering in recent years, “fluid and informal models were not exclusively sought”.

It says: “In fact, both the under-15 data and the 16- to 30-year-old data showed there is interest in volunteering through formal organisations, and for young people to take what could be called ‘high-impact’ roles in organisations and centres supporting some of the most vulnerable in society.”

The research comes in the same week that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations released its own analysis, which found “an elevated level of anxiety and fatigue among pandemic volunteers as well as their strong sense of guilt".

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