Volunteer Scotland has said that as the cost of living crisis grows the work of volunteers will be affected
The poorest areas in Scotland could be worst hit if the ongoing cost of living crisis engulfing households leads to a reduction in volunteers across the sector, a new report has warned.
Research published by Volunteer Scotland has warned that targeted support must be offered to communities in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) lowest quartiles, where the demand for volunteering support will be highest.
These areas - among the poorest in Scotland - are likely to see a “major increase” in the need for support, with Volunteer Scotland stating that offering “health and wellbeing support will be critical”.
There were also concerns raised that the increased cost of heating, and higher operating costs for buildings generally, are likely to affect the places where people volunteer.
Volunteer-involving organisations may be forced to reduce their opening hours or in extreme cases close altogether, the report warned, with a direct impact on their ability to engage volunteers.
Similarly, organisations that deliver services for people and communities, where people come to volunteer, may have to restrict their services due the rise in costs. This includes a wide array of venues including, for example, community halls, sporting, leisure and cultural venues.
However, it was recognised that volunteering may be more attractive during the winter as people take the opportunity to get out of the house and into a warm volunteering environment, as rising costs hit household bills.
The report states: “The irony of these ‘perfect storm’ conditions is that those organisations which are critical to supporting society’s response to the cost of living crisis are the ones most adversely affected by the crisis.
“There needs to be targeted and effective support for third sector organisations addressing the financial and societal challenges associated with the cost of living crisis.
“Without this support they will be delivering fewer services to fewer people, which will inevitably lead to a more severe and more drawn out crisis than would otherwise be the case.”
Those carrying out the research identified four key potential impacts on volunteering and volunteers in Scotland.
These include increased demand for volunteering services, an uncertain number of people coming forward to volunteer formally, a deterioration in the health and wellbeing of existing volunteers, and the “cumulative impact” on volunteers.
This looks at the possible impact of Covid-19 on volunteers, combined with the constant stream of 'bad news' stories linked to Ukraine, politics, weather events - which could all worsen at an already stressful time.
Volunteer Scotland includes a list of ten areas where support is needed, making calls for increased investment in volunteer management, assurances that volunteers will not replace paid roles, and changes in government policy at Westminster and Holyrood.
The authors added: “As evidenced so clearly in society’s response to Covid-19, volunteering has a critical role to play in any crisis; and the greater and longer the crisis the more important this role is.
“During the pandemic, volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations delivered an incredible record of work, which this report considers essential to the context of the current cost of living crisis and to future crises.”