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Cost of Living Crisis – Support for Volunteers

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15th December 2022

The cost-of-living crisis is the latest in a string of events affecting our community. The permacrisis we have been living with in recent years from Brexit to the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and now the cost-of-living-crisis is affecting everyone, either directly or by having a knock-on effect on people around them. We are living in a state of instability at a time when there is an increased demand for volunteers and on volunteers. Volunteers are being called upon to be on the front line, supporting their community at a time which is challenging both economically and emotionally.

This short toolkit contains some useful guidance and links on how to support your volunteers during these difficult times.

 

Financial Support
Volunteers themselves may be struggling financially, there are organisations and websites with information which can help. Here are a few:

  • Government Help for Households offers information on what cost of living support you could be eligible for
  • Ofgem’s site includes information on grants and schemes which can help reduce your home energy bills, as well as help with high energy bills
  • Visit the Citizen's Advice website to find out how you can get help with the cost of living
  • Step Change, who are a national debt charity, offer guidance on coping with the rising cost of living
  • AgeUK offers information to help you feel in control of your finances

 

Expenses 
Ideally, a volunteer should never be out of pocket at any point by volunteering, but highlighting this is now more important than ever:

  • Ensure you have a clear, easy-to-follow expenses process and you discuss this with your volunteers
  • Make it clear from your opportunity advertisement onwards what expenses are covered
  • Consider the role of the volunteer and what expenses might be incurred as a result; the expenses for a home-based role will be different from a role which requires travel
  • Remind volunteers on a regular basis to claim any eligible expenses
  • When planning a project or budgeting for your regular running costs, factor in volunteer expenses and include this as part of your fundraising

 

Mental Health and Resilience
Leaving work at the office is a challenge in a lot of sectors, but no more so than in the voluntary sector. It’s a sector where people care and want to help and it’s hard not to be affected by the stories of hardship and the need for support.

  • Volunteer Now highlights the Wellness Action Plan as a way to support the mental health of your volunteers
  • Check in with your volunteers on a regular basis
  • Know what help and support is available to signpost volunteers to

 

Health and Wellbeing
Money worries can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health. It is also important that volunteers do not feel alone and connecting to the local community can be helpful.

  • Mind's website provides resources on organising finances, dealing with services, and looking after your mental health 
  • Visit the Help and Kindness website for information on warm spaces, lunch clubs etc
  • The Mental Health UK website provides tools and information to support people of all ages with their mental health
  • Steps2Wellbeing offers everyone help with their mental health in a supportive and compassionate way
  • Encourage volunteers to contact their GP or a health professional if appropriate
  • The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to talk through any issues

 

Youth and Young People
The impact of the cost of living crisis on younger people cannot be overlooked.

  • The Young Minds website provides a useful guide on talking to young people about money worries and the cost of living crisis, how to offer them reassurance and support
  • NSPCC offers advice on supporting children who are struggling with their mental health

 

Other Support
Other organisations are offering support and guidance at this difficult time which are helpful to be aware of:

 

How will this potentially impact supporting and recruiting Volunteers

  • The cost-of-living crisis might motivate people to volunteer:
    - It could be an opportunity to get out of a cold home
    - It offers an escape from the doom and gloom in the news or being alone with negative thoughts and worries
    - Doing good and helping others helps mental health and wellbeing
  • Appreciate that volunteers may need to pause volunteering for the time being. Assure them that this is ok, and they will be welcome back at any time
  • Say thank you, ensure that volunteers feel valued and have plenty of hot drinks on tap
  • Offer a variety of roles to allow for people’s different time constraints, consider ad-hoc tasks or roles people can do from home
  • Pay expenses if you can

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Volunteer Centre Dorset are thankful for the support from:

Dorset County Council
National Lottery Fund