Rise in volunteering last autumn vindicates Big Society, say ministers

12 Feb 2013 News

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 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."

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