Charities need to work to address the ‘structural barriers’ preventing people from volunteering, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, a new report has revealed.
The report, Time Well Spent, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the NCVO, found diversity continues to be an issue among volunteers, with those from middle class backgrounds almost 50% more likely to have volunteered in the last 12 months than those from working class backgrounds.
“Those from lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to say they have never been involved in volunteering, and those who have are less likely to be in certain leadership or representative roles, like being a trustee,” the report said.
“Research on volunteering, and on participation more broadly, consistently indicates that inequalities of resources and power mean that some people are more likely to be excluded from certain activities.”
The survey also found older people were more likely to volunteer than younger people. However, it revealed a higher number of 18-24 year olds found volunteering to be a good way of combatting isolation.
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said: “Volunteering can be truly transformative for people’s lives. It reduces isolation, improves confidence, provides new experiences, improves employment prospects and fundamentally it’s deeply rewarding. But sadly, those who stand to benefit the most from volunteering are less likely to be involved.
"Institutions – charities and the public sector – need to take a hard look at themselves and think about what barriers they may inadvertently be creating.
"In particular, we need to make sure it’s easy to start volunteering. Our research suggests young people have higher expectations of the process being simple and quick than older people.
"We know that building stronger connections within communities helps people live healthier, more satisfying lives, and takes pressure off public services."
The report revealed one of the main barriers for those who have never volunteered is that they have never thought about it, highlighting the need for charities to raise awareness about volunteering and the benefits of getting involved.
“But providing opportunities that resonate with people’s own lives and aspirations, and ensuring they can shape the way they get involved are as important as raising awareness,” the report said.
Overall, the survey found 69% of respondents had volunteered at some point in their life. Of those who had volunteered, it found 38% have done so in the past year.