Fewer people volunteering, says DCMS survey

30 Jul 2019 News

Fewer members of the public in England took part in formal volunteering last year, according to the latest Community Life Survey.

The annual survey, carried out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, says that 36 per cent of people volunteered at least once in the year to March 2019, the lowest level recorded since the survey began in 2012.

Meanwhile, the number of people who volunteered at least once remained at 22 per cent, the same level as the previous two years, but lower than in 2013 to 2015.

Market research firm Kantar Public conducted the survey on behalf of DCMS via a self-completion questionnaire. Some 7,902 online responses and 2,725 paper questionnaires were completed over the course of the year.

Barriers to volunteering

Almost half of respondents (49 per cent) who did not volunteer said work commitments were a barrier to volunteering while 35 per cent said they had other things to do in their spare time.

Other reasons given for not volunteering were:

  • Looking after children – 23 per cent.
  • Never considering it – 16 per cent.
  • Having an illness or disability – 11 per cent.
  • Not aware of groups that need help – 11 per cent.
  • Unaware of opportunities – 10 per cent.
  • Having to study – 10 per cent.

Reasons for volunteering

Meanwhile, some 45 percent of people that do volunteer said wanting to improve things and help people was a reason they did so, while 31 per cent said they volunteered because the cause was really important to them.

Other reasons given for volunteering were:

  • Having spare time to do it – 26 per cent.
  • Wanting to meet people – 24 per cent.
  • A chance to use skills – 22 per cent.
  • Feeling there was a need in their community – 20 per cent.
  • Helping people a part of their philosophy – 20 per cent.

Social action

The survey also asks questions about social action, which it defines as being involved in issues affecting the local area by doing things like setting up a new service, stopping the closure of a service, running a service on a voluntary basis or organising a community event.

In 2018/19, 15 per cent of respondents said they had been involved in social action at least once in the last year, the same as the previous year.

As with the previous year, people living in rural areas were more likely to have been involved, with 22 per cent saying they had been involved, compared with 13 per cent of those living in urban areas. 

Those living in the most deprived areas were less likely to have been involved in social action, with 11 per cent saying that they were involved, compared with 19 per cent in the most affluent areas.  


Three-quarters of respondents said they had given money to charitable causes in the last four weeks, which is the same as the last two years but lower than 2013/14 when 82 per cent had donated.

The mean amount given in the four weeks prior to completing the survey was £24, which is the highest amount recorded since the survey began.

Women and older people reported giving more than men and younger people, which is consistent with previous surveys.

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