Earlier this month, we attended the first live Volunteer Expo event at the NEC in Birmingham. The event celebrates volunteering and specifically volunteers that give up their time for others.
The expo was a fantastic opportunity for my colleagues and I to speak with attendees about the many volunteering opportunities across Age UK, The Silver Line and the network of local Age UKs. We also got to speak to others about the opportunities for them across the UK with Age Cymru, Age Northern Ireland and Age Scotland.
While it was lovely to discuss the opportunities and hear lots about what we’re doing well, perhaps the most important part of the event was hearing from volunteers about what we could be doing better and how we adapt our volunteering opportunities to the changing needs and expectations of volunteers.
With changes to how, when and where people work, people understandably expect more flexibility in volunteering roles too. Given that we need volunteers for services such as the Age UK Telephone Friendship Service, this input has inspired us to explore and consider new ways of volunteering that might involve things that can be done from home or during their lunch break.
Why is it harder to find volunteers?
This isn’t an Age UK-specific problem. The sector more generally is evidently finding it more challenging to fill volunteering roles, highlighted this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS revealed a significant decrease in the percentage of people involved in formal volunteering in the last year.
This is no surprise. We’ve heard from lots of our volunteers who so generously gave so much time during the height of the pandemic that they simply need to focus their efforts elsewhere at the moment. We’ve heard from others about their changing working patterns, with many now having to work more hours again following the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions. Many others volunteers have spoken about needing some time to re-adjust to their work-life balance and have told us they will re-consider volunteering options once they’ve properly adjusted.
This Volunteers’ Week
Of course, we completely understand all these reasons – and all the other reasons different volunteers will have for having to re-consider how they spend their time and what they’re able to commit to. But this Volunteers’ Week we still want to celebrate them all, and all of those still offering their time for the benefit of others in Age UK volunteering roles. This Volunteers’ Week is for all the 200,000 volunteers who have supported and continue to support Age UK services in such a selfless and truly inspiring way.
Thank you to those who drive older people to essential hospital appointments. Thank you to those who offer put 30 minutes aside each week to have a friendly chat with an older person who might not have spoken to anyone else that week. Thank you to those that are completing intensive training so they can offer accurate information and advice to those facing financial or housing challenges. And thank you to all of our other volunteers, whether you’ve written to your MP about the needs of older people, taught new digital skills to a grandparent who now enjoys video calls with their family and all of those that help raise money by looking after donations to our shops. Thank you all. And Happy Volunteers’ Week!
We need more telephone friends
Ruth Lowe, National Manager - Friendship Services, explains why we need more volunteers for the Age UK Telephone Friendship Service and how rewarding the service is for older people and their telephone friends alike.