Volunteers give time worth £34 billion volunteering alongside public services
A new report by innovation foundation Nesta has found that the public in England give time valued at £34 billion1 a year in support of public services, and calls for the creation of more opportunities for people to help.
People Helping People reveals that volunteers contribute £34 billion a year, equivalent to two percent GDP or the total 2013-14 budget for pre-primary and primary education, by giving their time to support their community alongside a local public service. Broadly referred to as social action, including regular informal and formal volunteering, and types of community action, examples of this include reading to pupils in schools or holding the hands of hospital patients with no family around.
The report calls on public services to create more opportunities for citizens to use their talents and capabilities to support each other through social action and outlines a number of steps needed to make public services more open to the benefits:
- Creating senior roles in local government charged with mobilising volunteers to help meet city-wide needs like the ‘Chief Service Officers’ now employed by Bristol, Kirklees, Plymouth and Portsmouth Councils.
- Rewarding the contribution of volunteers publically, such as the council tax rebates given to volunteers who become Special Constables in Hull’s police force
- Public services should map the assets of the local community and consider them in their service planning, as King’s College Hospital London did and who now have 1500 volunteers giving time to patients.
People Helping People: The Future of Public Services compliments Nesta and the Cabinet Office’s work as part of the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund. This fund works alongside public services to support the growth of innovations that mobilise people’s energy and talents to help each other.
Brooks Newmark MP, the Minister for Civil Society, said: “Social action can change lives. From special constables to school governors, social action is a fundamental part of the fabric of life for thousands of communities. Yet in many areas we are only at the start of our journey to unlock the power of social action. This report lays down a challenge to us all - to think differently about how services are designed in the future mobilising the energy, commitment and skill of inspirational citizens, communities and businesses.”
Philip Colligan, Nesta’s Deputy Chief Executive and manager of the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund said: “Our analysis shows that £34 billion is already being generated in value, but the potential is far higher if we can make social action an organising principle across public services. Opening up to create more opportunities for ordinary people to help each other has to be at the heart of our vision for the future of public services. From our work supporting innovators all over the UK we’ve seen the benefits in improved lives, better connections between people and reduced costs to the taxpayer.”
This report will be launched at an event co-hosted by Nesta on Wednesday 3rd September where the Minister for Civil Society is expected to address 300 public service, charity, and business leaders.
The full report is available on request.
1. To calculate this figure, researchers used data on volunteering from the Community Life Survey 2012-13 and applied hourly rates to the different types of activity people reported doing in support of public services each month, producing an estimate of the value of this activity.
Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund: The report builds on Nesta’s practical experience running the £14million Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, in partnership with the Cabinet Office. To date it has backed more than 40 social action innovations and mobilised thousands more volunteers to give their time alongside public services.
About Nesta: Nesta is the UK’s innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. www.nesta.org.uk