Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2122146-Volunteering-in-the-UK
by Angel
Rated: E · Editorial · Cultural · #2122146
An insight into the benefits of volunteering in the UK
I am a volunteer and proud to say it. I don't do it to proclaim 'Oh look at me, aren't I good', this isn't why I volunteer at all. Many people in my position will tell you the same. There are many reasons for volunteering, let me take you on a journey through some of them; first, my story. The place I am volunteering with helps the unemployed find work. It's ironic though because I am one of the unemployed. I am disabled and unable to work either full or part time, so I work the few hours I'm able to, to help out those who are looking for work but need help; help with skills that I have and can pass on, which I do for a few hours a week. For me, I can give something back for what I've been given. I find it boosts my confidence and I learn so many things I didn't know before. I get the opportunity to meet so many different people, some of them at such low points in their lives. I get the chance to talk to them, help them and even learn from them. What better reason could there be to do this?

The woman I work with started out as a volunteer, doing what I'm doing now, I think with more responsibility though; she is now employed to run the centre. She too is in a position where she is only able to work part-time. Starting as a volunteer gave her the chance to discover how many hours she was able to work, this meant that when the vacancy came up she was able to say 'yes' I can apply for that, I can manage those hours.

A third example is my daughter who left University after completing a Degree in Psychology. She was looking to work with families with children with what are classed as hidden disabilities, such as ADHD and Autism. She worked for about a year caring for adults with Autism but looked into volunteering in a local school for children with Special Needs to get some experience in working with children. She started there as a volunteer Teaching Assistant (Learning Support Assistant (LSA)). It is now seven years later and she is a qualified teacher in the same school. None of this was planned, however, she loves it and it all started because, out of curiosity, she asked them if there was a volunteer programme there.

There is a negative view from some people about volunteering. The most common thing that's heard is 'Why should I work when I don't get paid'. It is understandable, especially if they don't know what sort of opportunities there are to volunteer, or the benefits there are to them. This attitude was aggravated between 2011 and 2015 when the government introduced 'Back to Work' Schemes where people were forced to work in big stores for what appeared to be no money. The idea was that the stores would provide training; just like in the voluntary sector, the workers would gain experience and confidence, a training scheme for their benefits money, if you look at it that way. However, in reality, several stores used the scheme to take on unpaid workers, giving little, or more often, no training.

One woman, a Geology Graduate, Cait Reilly took her claim to court after she was told she could no longer volunteer at the Museum she was currently at, and training for her future in, and told that she had to work at a local store unpaid instead. It did seem a strange thing to do when she was already working in the voluntary sector, to make her move from a place where she was gaining experience in a field she wanted to work in, to volunteer in a place where she wasn't going to gain any experience. She had worked in retail before, so wasn't gaining anything from this move. These began to get confused with voluntary work and many people were angry after this if anyone mentioned any form of voluntary work

These schemes eventually collapsed after the legality of them was brought to light by Cait and others like her, then the large Stores began pulling out of the schemes, worried by the damage there might be to their reputation. The voluntary sector's reputation was damaged in this process too. It now seems to be recovering.

I believe that volunteering is about finding a place rather than work. You find out who you are, what you are capable of and where you belong. It can be good for your health and the economy

According to Volunteering-Facts-and-Figures, 'Volunteering helps you lead a healthier life. Twenty-two percent of 18 to 24-year-olds say volunteering helps them cut down on alcohol and 30% say volunteering helps them smoke less'.

Also, 'Over 42,000 students volunteer through organised volunteering programmes at their university or college. Each student volunteer gives on average 82 hours per year to their community, contributing nearly 1,000 per year to the economy'.


I wanted to put across the benefits of volunteering and to let people know that there are opportunities in so many fields. You can volunteer in an area you are interested in, not just anything that comes along. This makes it something to look forward to rather than an unpaid job.

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