The Centre for Ageing Better, in partnership with the Office for Civil Society, has released a review of community contributions in later life. The report ‘Age-friendly and inclusive volunteering’, calls on charities, voluntary organisations and the public sector to do more to support and sustain the effort of older volunteers.
We are really pleased to feature in the report as one of the practical examples of inclusive volunteering practices that the review recommends.
Volunteering is good for you. As well as helping others, it has been shown to improve our social connection, enhance our sense of purpose and self-esteem – and as a result, to increase our life satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing. For people facing social exclusion, the benefits of volunteering have an even greater impact on the individual, and yet evidence shows that these individuals are the least likely to volunteer.
The report illustrates that very few people in later life make no contribution of any kind. However, some people encounter barriers to getting involved in all the ways they might want to, especially as their circumstances change.
The challenge is to widen access to all forms of participation for everybody– so that everyone has opportunities to take part across the spectrum of contribution.
At Step Together, we recognise these barriers and are supporting people of all ages facing social exclusion to get involved in volunteering. As well as overcoming the practical barriers, we provide support to overcome the emotional barriers and encourage people to see themselves as able to contribute positively to society.
The report highlights that participants placed a heavy emphasis on how their experience felt and that this often overrode the practical issues. A lack of confidence, stigma, lack of welcome, not feeling valued and fear of over-commitment, were all significant emotional barriers felt by people who contributed. We see this across all of the groups of people we support, not just for people in later life.
By using a person-centred, flexible approach, we help clients to build confidence and self-belief and identify aspirations and future goals. We then find and broker bespoke volunteer placements that respond to that individual’s needs and interests and support personal growth.
As well as supporting our clients to volunteer, we also work with charities to help them understand how best to support their volunteers. For this reason, we welcome this report and the recommendations for more inclusive volunteering.