Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration which recognises the contribution that millions of volunteers make across the UK. Every year, 20 million people volunteer to support their communities and charitable organisations.
Volunteers’ Week was first established in 1984, and is supported every year by small grassroots organisations as well as larger charities.
However, this year will be different. Two of the major organisers of Volunteers’ Week – the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), and Volunteer Now – have pulled out of this year’s event, owing to the difficulties that the sector continues to face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Karl Wilding, chief executive of the NCVO said, “Like most charities, our resources are now focused entirely on providing support through the immediate crisis.”
“Even if it felt the right time to mark Volunteers’ Week, the practical difficulties would make it extremely challenging.”
NCVO has calculated that a three-month lockdown will come at a cost of £4.3bn to the sector.
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a loss of income that the sector usually generates from fundraising, shops, and investment. Meanwhile, general costs for the sector have increased due to changes in working practices, as organisations have had to fund the IT requirements that come with home working, and have often had to cover the cost of PPE for staff.
The financial support packages provided to businesses by the government do not adequately cover the voluntary sector. Given that some posts receive multi-agency funding, including some money from the statutory sector, charities are not able to furlough such posts under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Similarly, many organisations do not qualify for Continuity Business Loans, as these loans carry risk which third sector organisations cannot underwrite due to the financial insecurity of the sector. Furthermore, most charities do not qualify for grants as they do not have premises, and therefore do not pay Business Rates. Many local authorities haven’t prioritised funding grants for local charities.
Grahame Morris MP said, “Volunteers’ Week is a wonderful annual celebration of the contribution of millions of volunteers across the UK. However, it is important that this year’s Volunteers’ Week highlights not only the invaluable role that volunteers have played in the coronavirus response, but also the huge impact of the pandemic on the sector. The government urgently needs to make specific provisions for the voluntary sector so that it does not suffer.”