During a time of continued economic uncertainty and cuts to public services, the value placed on volunteering is higher than ever. During National Volunteers Week (1st-7th June 2011) national charity Citizens Advice is calling on people from all backgrounds with different skills to get in touch.
Citizens Advice relies heavily on the generous contribution of volunteers who make up 75% of the total workforce, and this year the charity needs even more volunteers than ever. Last year* the service saw a huge increase in demand: 2.1 million people were helped with 7.1 million enquires – an 18% increase from the year before.
Volunteers are needed for a variety of roles: to train as advisers, to campaign on social policy issues, to work as receptionists or help out with marketing and finance - right through to sitting on the trustee board. Opportunities are flexible, depending on the amount of time people want to commit. Some volunteers help out for a short period while others have supported Citizens Advice for many years. In 2009/10 a strong core of 10% of Citizens Advice volunteers had dedicated between ten and twenty years of service.
Volunteering experience is also a very valuable way to enhance skills. Of the volunteer advisers who left the service in 2009/10, 27 per cent left for paid employment and nine per cent went into further education.
Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy said: “As a result of the many recent reforms and cuts to services, as well as the biggest shake-up of welfare benefits for decades, Citizens Advice Bureaux across England and Wales are facing increasing demand and our work influencing policy is more essential than ever. Our volunteers give over £106 million worth of hours a year between them. Without their passion and generosity the service would struggle to survive and the cost to the economy of unresolved problems would soar."
“Every Citizens Advice Bureau across England and Wales is an independent charity and each CAB recruits its own volunteers. To find out more about the volunteering opportunities in your area pop into your local CAB,or visit the Citizens Advice website to fill in an online form which emails the bureau on your behalf - http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/join-us/volunteer_bureau_search.htm
Citizens Advice aims to recruit volunteers from diverse backgrounds and all age groups. Last year 17% of new volunteers were black, Asian or minority ethnic and 19% of new volunteers were under the age of 25 – two groups under-represented in formal volunteering statistics**.
Sheila volunteers as a trained adviser with Stretford CAB. She says, “I get a real feeling of satisfaction from making a difference, especially for people less able to stand up for their rights.”
Kail is a CAB trustee. He says “As a CAB trustee, my voice is heard, and with other trustees we can bring about change collectively.”
Jagdeve volunteers as an administrator. He says, “I wanted to get more experience of admin work and help the community at the same time. I’ve gained lots of skills and confidence and learned more about my local community.”
Volunteers Week is co-ordinated in England by Volunteering England and is celebrating its 27th year.It is an opportunity for organisations to publicly recognise the work of their volunteers. This year is also the European Year of Volunteering 2011. In the UK over 40% of adults volunteer, this is much higher than the European average of 20 per cent***.
DCLG Citizenship Survey statistics (2008-09). 2008-09 Citizenship Survey Volunteering and Charitable Giving Topic Report- http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/statistics/pdf/1547056.pdf
***Volunteering in the European Union (European Commission, 2010) - http://ec.europa.eu/sport/library/doc/f_studies/volunteering_final_report.pdf