A University of Hull research programme finds Local Authorities and the Voluntary and Community Sector are best placed to support the response to the Covid-19 crisis locally
Mobilising Volunteers Effectively found local initiatives are best placed to identify and mobilise volunteers
Thousands of members of the public have volunteered, helping their neighbours to stay fed, safe and connected during the pandemic
These volunteers will continue to play a central role during the festive period and into next year, as the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic continues to take hold
During the first national lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year, and subsequent social restrictions, thousands of volunteers provided a vital lifeline for many vulnerable people throughout an unprecedented time of anxiety and social restrictions.
Despite the launch of a new vaccination programme providing hope that the country is nearing the ‘beginning of the end’ of the health crisis, researchers from the Mobilising Volunteers Effectively (MoVE) project, warn that the socio-economic fallout from Covid-19 means that for many, the crisis is far from over, and that volunteers will continue to be one of many valuable assets needed during the challenging months ahead.
The Mobilising Volunteers Effectively (MoVE) project is a collaboration of researchers from the universities of Hull, Sheffield, and Leeds and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.
Professor Joanne Cook, who has been working in the field of volunteering and public, third and private sector relationships since 2003 and is a Professor in Organisational Behaviour/Human Resources Management at Hull University Business School, said: “VCS capacity is being eroded by the resource squeeze, volunteers returning to work, and staff and volunteer fatigue. Ensuring the sector has the resources it requires to play its critical role in meeting community needs over the coming months, should be a key priority for local and national governments.”
Dr Erica Ballantyne, co-investigator on the MoVE project from the University of Sheffield, said: “Providing access to food was identified as one of the first challenges in the early stages of the pandemic, which created demand for volunteers to aid the supply and distribution of essential food parcels, medication, other essential supplies and even befriending services for those socially isolated as a result of the pandemic.
“Whilst this demand has reduced, the longer-term issue of food poverty remains, which places increased pressure on the voluntary sector, particularly local food banks, who are called upon to provide continued support.”
Dr Jon Burchell, Principal Investigator for the project from the University of Sheffield, said: “Whilst the rollout of vaccinations will hopefully lead to a gradual reduction in social restrictions, and thus a return to ‘normal’ for many, longer-term challenges, namely mental health and food poverty, have been exacerbated and show no signs of abating.