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Wales facing national volunteer crisis

05 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Mally Roberts, Blind Veterans UK Volunteer.

The Covid pandemic and cost of living crisis have led to a sharp drop in the numbers of people volunteering, according to the head of Wales’ national voluntary sector organisation.

This International Volunteer Day, the Chief Executive of WCVA announced that the voluntary sector in Wales is struggling, with 90% of representatives of voluntary organisations from across the country stating they have volunteer recruitment issues.

Charities struggling

Ruth Marks, Chief Executive of the WCVA said: “The combination of a global pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis has led to a drastic drop in the number of people volunteering across Wales”.

“Some people haven’t returned to volunteer since the pandemic, others have lost their confidence. The economic crisis also means that people are increasingly having to prioritise other activities,” she continued.

“It means that charities and volunteer groups across Wales are struggling, but people are missing out on the benefits of volunteering too. We know that volunteering is proven to reduce loneliness, to improve mental health and helps people gain new skills.”

A recent survey by WCVA showed that 90% of representatives of voluntary organisations had recruitment issues. More than 80% also reported retention issues. The main barrier for new volunteers was reported as lack of time, followed by lack of awareness of what opportunities are available.

Confidence boost

Mally Roberts from Llanrwst has been volunteering for five years with Blind Veterans UK in Llandudno, a charity that helps vision-impaired ex-Servicemen and women to rebuild their lives after sight loss.

Mally said: “I do two things here, I help the members settle in and get about, taking them on trips and so on. And I also take photographs of the members when we’re out on trips as I’m currently doing a photography degree.”

Mally is originally from Capel Garmon, and having retired after 23 years working for the police and nine years with the RAF he was keen to give something back to the community.

He said: “I get so much out of helping here. They’re such great people, they never complain! None of us know what’s around the corner. I’m only 57 but, who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll need someone’s help, but right now I can help someone else, and that’s incredibly important to me.”

21-year-old Samiya Houston from Torfaen also volunteers in her local community with Sight Cymru. She said: “I was born with sight loss so I first started getting involved with Sight Cymru as a service user, because I wanted some help to get around independently, to catch the bus and the train by myself. Once I was discharged by them, I then went on to volunteer with them.”

As part of her volunteering work, Samiya goes into local organisation and business to deliver sight loss awareness training, to raise awareness of common sight loss conditions and present solutions to barriers that individuals with sight loss might face at their business. She also goes into primary schools to deliver prevention talks to young children.

“Volunteering makes me feel really, really good,” says Samiya, who won the 2023 Torfaen Young Volunteer Award. “It gives me such a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that I can go out and help the community and give something back and educate about sight loss. I would definitely recommend volunteering to other young people, it can develop your confidence and so many other skills too, like customer service and communications. Also, it’s a really good thing to put on your C.V!”

“Anyone interested in volunteering should head over to the newly-designed Volunteering Wales website,” says Ruth Marks, Chief Executive at WCVA.

She said: “There are 19 county voluntary councils across Wales, and we have all worked together to make the Volunteering Wales platform as user-friendly and easy-to-use as possible. If you’re interested in volunteering you can register for free on the website, and search for opportunities that suit your interests.”

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