More than 80 years on from the country’s biggest call up for volunteers to support on the home front during WW2, Royal Voluntary Service is launching a major recruitment drive calling for people to volunteer in the wake of unprecedented pressure on public services.
While the challenges facing the nation are acute, equally as important is the discovery that volunteering is hugely beneficial for the individual. A recent report from Royal Voluntary Service found that volunteering boosts self-confidence, has a positive impact on mental health and teaches new skills.
Among first time volunteers, many said they experienced improved wellbeing after volunteering, with 34% of this group feeling less stressed, 42% saying it had a positive effect on physical health and 65% on their happiness levels. At the same time, almost four in ten (37%) first-timers said their volunteering had made them less lonely.
New research to mark the launch of the recruitment campaign, which is being supported by Legal and General
, shows that volunteering just once a week sparks more joy than any other activity, and matches the feeling of ‘runner’s high’. Of those who claimed to have experienced ‘runner’s high’, the commonly known feeling of euphoria from exercising, almost three quarters (73%) consider the feeling of volunteering to be equivalent or even better.
Highlighting evidence of the positive impact volunteering has on wellbeing, the campaign – which empowers everyone to believe they have something to offer – is designed to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to volunteer in order to experience the mental health benefits. In particular, at a time when levels of loneliness and poor mental health are highest among 16-24 year olds, volunteering could be the antidote.
"In the past, the benefits of volunteering have been disproportionately enjoyed by those of higher socioeconomic groups. We want to see a cultural shift and for people of all ages and backgrounds to be able to integrate volunteering into their everyday life and benefit from the experience. Volunteering should be as accessible as possible so it’s not a huge undertaking but a pivotal part of people’s everyday life.
Rebecca Kennelly, Director of Volunteering
"There is something to suit everyone, whether it’s providing an older person with company at home, running an exercise class for patients on a hospital ward or putting culinary skills to use at a lunch club, our volunteers make a tangible difference to so many people, with millions of acts of kindness. The sense of purpose and joy that can be derived from volunteering and supporting others is incomparable and stays with our volunteers for life."
Ferne McCann, TV presenter and star of First Time Mum
, is backing the campaign to encourage more young people to get involved. She recently spent the day with volunteers at a Royal Voluntary Service community centre and local hospital, getting involved in activities including serving food at a lunch club, working behind the counter at a tea room, and pushing a trolley of healthy snacks and newspapers to isolated hospital patients.
"Having spent the day with Royal Voluntary Service volunteers recently, I was amazed by the range of roles available; there really is something for everyone. I was also struck by the upbeat mood of the volunteers and the joy they obviously experience."
"Volunteering has been life changing and has impacted me hugely. It has given me lots of confidence. Before I started volunteering, I was very timid and shy – now I’m a burst of energy and a much better person for it. I’ve also been able to develop new skills and feel as like I’m really putting something back into the community. I get so much value from the visits, I learn things from the people I spend time with, and we teach each other. It is so beneficial for them to have someone else to talk to, someone outside of their family group.
Tayla Falconer, 22 year old volunteer for Royal Voluntary Service’s Doncaster Dementia Family Support Service
"I think everyone should at least try to volunteer. I work full time, have a business and hobbies, but I’m still able to find the time. For young people in particular, volunteering is a great way to give back. We also need to recognise that one day, it could be us who needs the help. There are no financial rewards for what I do, but I get paid in a different way – knowing people are happy when I leave is so satisfying."