The government should enourage volunteering by sending promotional packs to all school-leavers, retirees and new British citizens, a group of MPs has said.
The committee of MPs, who sit on the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for social cohesion, also backed plans to develop a volunteer passport so that individuals and charities can work together more easily.
The recommendations were included in the report Building Stronger Communities in Post-Pandemic Britain, which was published last week.
Pandemic created over 4.5 million new volunteers
The report cites data which shows that around 12 million people volunteered to help their neighbours and community during the pandemic. This included more than 4.5 million who were volunteering for the first time, 80% of whom said they would consider volunteering again.
The MPs said that they wanted to ensure that, given the rise in volunteering during the crisis, “positive changes experienced in social connection and community action might be sustained into the future”.
Volunteer passports and information packs
The report recommends establishing a volunteer passport system, echoing calls made last year by Danny Kruger, the Conservative MP and former government advisor on civil society.
It said that the system would “make volunteering more accessible and encourage those less likely to volunteer”, with the passport holding records of criminal record checks, skills training and past volunteer roles.
There should also a central database of volunteering opportunities, in a one-stop online hub developed by the government, the report said.
It suggested that information packs promoting volunteering could be sent to retirees as part of the pension pack, to young people as they leave school, and to people from outside the UK when they are granted the right to live here or when they become British citizens.
The MPs also called on the government to maintain its £25m Community Champions scheme, which funded volunteer recruitment and training during the coronavirus crisis.
Further investment in the scheme will “help to identify and support new community leaders who can take forward initiatives started during the pandemic”, the report said, adding that “those initiatives that are shown to be effective should be further supported and expanded, with best practice shared more widely”.
Risk of losing community spirit
Peter Gibson, the Conservative MP for Darlington who chairs the APPG, said: “The surge in volunteering was one of the positives to come out of the pandemic.
“Millions of people helped their neighbours and communities. Covid changed the profile of the ‘typical’ volunteer.
“Many people from younger and more diverse backgrounds stepped forward, often for the first time, creating new connections and aiding integration by breaking down barriers.
“This new community spirit risks being lost as work and social patterns return to normal. However, with support from the government, businesses and civil society, we can seize this opportunity to transform volunteering – and in doing so help build more cohesive, connected communities.”