Rise in volunteering last autumn vindicates Big Society, say ministers

Rise in volunteering last autumn vindicates Big Society, say ministers

Rise in volunteering last autumn vindicates Big Society, say ministers2

Governance | Tania Mason | 12 Feb 2013

The government has hailed the findings from its new Community Life Survey as evidence that the Big Society is alive and thriving in British communities.

The figures, published today, show that the proportion of people volunteering at least once a year rose from 65 per cent in 2010/11 to 71 per cent in 2012, along with a 9 per cent jump in the proportion volunteering regularly.

The results are based on interviews with 2,262 people aged 16 and over, conducted between August and October last year – during and just after the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

There were also increases in the numbers who felt a very strong sense of belonging to Britain (55 per cent, up from 51 per cent); and in those that donate to charity (74 per cent in 2012, up from 72 per cent in 2010).

Overall, 84 per cent said they were satisfied with their local area and nearly half said they wanted to be more involved in local decision-making.

In a statement, the Cabinet Office said: “Ministers believe that the figures are a vindication of their Big Society agenda to support people to get more involved in their communities.”

Launch of Dementia Friends

The survey results were released today to coincide with the launch of Dementia Friends, a new £2.4m Alzheimer’s Society initiative funded by the Department of Health and the Cabinet Office that aims to educate one million people about dementia over the next two years and train thousands of new volunteers to support dementia sufferers.

Minister for civil society Nick Hurd said: “These figures show a very positive picture of how well Britain has responded to tough times. We should take pride that so many people have helped reverse the decline in volunteering.”

The Community Life Survey is a new study commissioned by the Cabinet Office to provide official statistics on issues that are key to encouraging social action and empowering communities, such as volunteering, charitable giving, community engagement and wellbeing.  

Where applicable, the government has compared data from Community Life with data from the 2010/11 Citizenship Survey.

Join In, the new charity launched by the government in a bid to harness the volunteering spirit engendered by the Games, delivered over 6,000 events across the UK with more than 300,000 people taking part. Of those that took part, 10 per cent volunteered on the day and over 10 per cent signed up for future volunteering.

Bubb: Remarkably positive figures

Acevo chief executive Sir Stephen Bubb, who described the Big Society as "effectively dead" in a provocative letter to the Prime Minister earlier this year, responded to today's news with the following statement:

"Given the tough economic climate, these are remarkably positive figures that demonstrate both the generosity of the British public and the resilience of the voluntary and community sector.

"The voluntary sector benefits hugely from the support and participation of so many people, and the challenge now is how to grow and protect this great national asset at a time when many charities are feeling the effects of public spending cuts."

Rob Jackson
12 Feb 2013

From my reading of the data, formal volunteering at least once a month and once a year have risen back to 2005 levels after a dip over the last few years. We'd have to be cautious to call this a consistent rise though as it could be a post Olympic bounce and the trend data (if indeed this new stuff is comparable) has shown fluctations up and down over the last thirteen years.

In terms of the headline figure of 71% of people did formal or informal volunteering at least once a year that may be up on 10/11 but is down on 07/08 (73%) and lower than at any time since the citizenship survey. Lies damn lies and statistics! Interestingly the dashboard on the Cabinet Office website doen't show a comparion of this headline figure with past years.

The good news is informal volunteering which saw a big dip in 09/10 (and which nobody could explain) is back up to the level of before 09/10, albeit at a slight decrease and 6% lower than in 2001.

Mike Storey
12 Feb 2013

Aside from negatives of the wrong organisations/people hijacking the 'big society' terminology for their own purposes, we'd agree totally with the results of this report. In fact, it probably hasn't gone far enough to discover the number of real instances where volunteering has taken place or goes on.

We have actually seen a consistent and marked increase in volunteer opportunities at all levels and in all quarters of social society, especially here in the northeast.

On the back of National Volunteering Week last year, we began piloting a new regional online portal.

(Content removed for breach of community standards - advertising)

As part of our research we discovered that many young people, particularly NEETS, but also adults actually volunteered their time in lots of ways that weren't recorded, or they didn't consider as being about 'traditional' volunteering. It would be good to see somebody record more data in this area.

mike storey


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