The image of volunteering has undergone a sea change in recent years. Once arguably seen as the province of assorted do-gooders with time on their hands, it’s been calculated by the Office of National Statistics that volunteering is worth £23.9 billion per year. This points to a wider and more diverse pool than traditionally thought
People become volunteers for a variety of reasons: including making a difference to the lives of others; to feel valued and part of a team; to gain new skills, knowledge and experience; to meet new people and make new friends. It’s also increasingly evident that volunteering is beneficial to an individual’s health.
The scale of volunteering nowadays is outstanding, with one in five people across the UK playing their part on a regular basis, and more than half of the population giving their time in some way at least once a year.
While it’s difficult to find reliable statistics on participation rates within the capital, it’s probably fair to say that London, with a 31% higher poverty rate than the rest of the UK,, needs all the voluntary help it can muster.
As the London Assembly Member for North East London, I’m interested in what’s happening on a more local level and, to that end, I recently attended an open day organised by Hackney Council for Voluntary Service. The founder, Adiaha Antigha, made a huge contribution to its success and to the voluntary sector as a whole.
With 36 percent of residents in the borough experiencing poverty and 1 in 10 working-age people claiming an out-of-work benefit, the support Hackney CVS provides to tackle inequalities and find solutions to entrenched social problems is invaluable.
The summer open day included an introduction to the organisation’s new strategic plan, workshops on fundraising, safeguarding and anti-ageism and last, but by no means least, a barbecue in the Hackney CVS garden.
The local council describes volunteering as a tool to harness ’the power of local community action to help our residents’ and it invested £23m in the sector in 2016-17. As austerity continues to bite under this Government, I’m thankful that there are so many motivated and enthusiastic individuals, such as those I met, who work to make Hackney an even better place to live and work.
City Hall also has a volunteering arm that spans the whole of the capital, Team London. Londoners of all backgrounds are encouraged to sign-up to spare some of their time to a number of different causes through the Team London website.