Volunteering worth £34billion a year

Volunteering is worth £34billion a year in support of public services in the UK, new research by the innovation charity Nesta estimates.

The report, People Helping People, calls for the public sector to create more opportunities for people to support each other through social action, which is defined as regular informal and formal volunteering, and community action.

The £34billion worth of time given a year by volunteers included £22billion worth of formal volunteering, £10billion of informal volunteering and £2billion of community action. Community action is giving unpaid help to support a community event, campaign or project run by neighbours.

The £34billion figure is an estimate of the economic output value of social action. It excludes charitable giving, which is worth around £10billion a year.

Nesta is running the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, in partnership with the Cabinet Office, which is worth £14million and has invested in more than 40 social action innovations so far.

The report states that public services should embrace social action in order to increase the resources available to achieve social goals, bring in new expertise and knowledge, reach people that public services are not, and create better services and reciprocal value for the people who give their time.

It makes a number of recommendations on “making social action the new normal”, which include that cultural change is needed to make social action a central consideration when authorities design public services, which needs to be championed from the top by national and local politician, and senior leaders in the public sector.

In addition, staff need to be empowered to find areas where social action would improve services and the outcomes for individuals, it says, and evidence is needed to demonstrate the contribution of social action.

To download the report visit www.nesta.org.uk/publications/people-helping-people-future-public-services.