The Importance of Volunteering

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The Importance of Volunteering

The Importance of Volunteering

People volunteer for all sorts of reasons: to learn new skills, improve their CV, meet new people, to gain confidence and to give back to their community, among many others. Currently, St. Margaret’s Hospice has over 1,200 fantastic volunteers that help them to care for people at the end of their life.

Sue Wilmott, St. Margaret’s Volunteer Coordinator, said, “Volunteers undertake a variety of roles within the hospice and are vital to the service we provide. They come from all walks of life. 

“Volunteering for St. Margaret’s can be extremely rewarding and offers the opportunity to utilise existing skills and qualifications, learn new skills, face new challenges, enhance CVs and meet new people.

“Volunteers have the time and enthusiasm to take on a task and together, as part of the St. Margaret’s team, they make a difference both within the hospice and in the wider community.”

The ‘Fit for Future’ interim report however has identified the need for the hospice to sustain and grow its voluntary workforce, in order to face future challenges.

An ageing population and funding cuts are putting significant pressure on our healthcare system. Somerset has one of the largest ageing populations in the UK, with at least 25% of the population predicted to be over 65 by 2033, while the number of patients in need of palliative care is expected to increase above the already challenging position of 5000 a year.

To cope with the cost of care overtaking our capacity to generate additional charitable income, the role of volunteers is going to be vital. Therefore, we need to consider why people volunteer, and how this information can be used to recruit and maintain more volunteers.

The UK Civil Society Almanac 2016 shows the primary reason for volunteering during 2014/15 was the personal importance of the cause, while the most commonly cited reason for respondents to stop volunteering was a lack of time due to changing home/work circumstances – in fact, paid work commitments were cited as the main barrier to volunteering. In an increasingly busy society, rates of volunteering are remaining steady, but not increasing. How, then, can this barrier be overcome?

A recent article published by The Guardian during Volunteers’ Week highlights several factors that contribute to people’s motivation to volunteer, including enabling people to fit it in as part of a routine, particularly when it doesn’t have to take up much time. Additionally, making it worthwhile for the volunteer by, for example, providing training opportunities, showing volunteers their impact, and making volunteering easy and flexible, can attract volunteers.

These are all factors that the review must consider when assessing new care models that make use of volunteers. While the interim report shows that volunteers will be vital in the provision of palliative care in the future, it’s not enough to just assume that volunteers will be available. Whatever the motivation for volunteering, we need to ensure that people are motivated and empowered to volunteer, so that essential care can continue to be delivered to all that need it in the future.

If you are interested in volunteering for St. Margaret's, take a look at our current volunteering vacancies.

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