There is now broad agreement about the positive contribution volunteering can have for people’s health and wellbeing.
Recently for instance I was cheered to hear delegates at a recent public health conference recognise how volunteering can improve health and wellbeing – including that of people with conditions like dementia.
Volunteering helps reduce loneliness – now recognised as a serious health risk – and is one of the community-led approaches that can help improve mental health.
Volunteering has been acknowledged as part of the wider health policy with the NHS five-year plan identifying a need to encourage community volunteering.
Italso has an important role to play in tackling social exclusion, through projects such as lunch clubs for older people – assisted gardening schemes or young play leaders.
Volunteering can help to provide people with ways out of poverty by giving them new skills and confidence and aid social integration.
This is of particular value to those who are most excluded from the labour market such as recent migrants or people with disabilities.
But while the benefits of volunteering are clear there is worrying evidence that the people who could benefit most from giving their time are precisely those least likely to be involved.