Fall in volunteer numbers sees vital Suffolk charity support dwindling

Doctor holding a patients hand

Charities and voluntary sector groups across Suffolk have found themselves with a serious lack of volunteers due to the cost of living crisis. - Credit: Archant

Charities and voluntary sector groups across Suffolk have found themselves with a serious lack of volunteers due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Not only have organisations across the county experienced a decline in committed volunteering hours due to the pandemic, but they now face new issues in the form of fuel costs and volunteers switching to paid employment.

A recent report from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport found the number of hours given by volunteers aged between 25 and 34 fell by as much as 50% as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report also showed a drop in volunteering by those over 65 and an average decrease of 40% in formal volunteering hours.

Chief executive of Community Action Suffolk Chris Abraham emphasised that if this continues, the provision of vital community services and activities could be further restricted.

Chris Abraham

Chief executive of Community Action Suffolk Chris Abraham emphasised that if this continues, the provision of vital community services and activities could be further restricted. - Credit: Warren Page

She said: "Naturally, fewer volunteers means some of the services which have been so vital to the county's communities throughout Covid and beyond are now becoming more vulnerable - from rural transport to befriending services and support groups for those most in need."

Nick Corke is the chief executive of Hour Community which offers a range of support services to the residents of Framlingham and its surrounding villages.

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He said: "We will do everything possible to make sure no one misses a medical appointment due to a lack of transport, but our costs are rising, and volunteers are having to do a lot of soul searching regarding just how much time they can afford to offer us when they need to earn money to pay their own bills."

Let's Talk Reading, a charity aiming to eradicate low literacy in Ipswich, has noted increasing difficulty with delivering pre-pandemic levels of support.

The charity's co-ordinator Jenna Gifford said: "Covid has meant that we have been unable to run our full programme of activities and as we return to these, without recruiting further volunteers, we are unable to fulfil our commitments."

In response to the rapid decrease in volunteers, Community Action Suffolk intends to run a focus group for charity leaders to identify new ideas for recruiting and retaining people.

If you would like to become a volunteer with a Suffolk charity or voluntary sector group, please register with Volunteer Suffolk.