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Volunteering programme creates employability boost for hard-to-help

A volunteering programme run by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has displayed ‘an impressive capacity’ to help unemployed people into paid work, according to an independent evaluation (pdf, 955KB).

The National Lottery Community Fund-backed Volunteering for Stronger Communities (VSC) programme provides targeted support for unemployed people who face significant barriers to employment. Under the programme, local volunteer centres give unemployed people support to help them into volunteering while working with them to enhance their employability skills.

More than 1 in 5 (22 per cent) found paid work following their participation. Data from the programme showed it also brought about improvements to clients’ confidence, self-esteem and practical skills.

The evaluation of 15 projects run by the VSC programme was conducted by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University.

The programme has also helped volunteer centres build their capacity to provide support for clients with more intensive needs, the evaluation found. A number of volunteer centres involved in the scheme have gone on to develop successful commissioned services as a result of their new expertise. The organisations which took on volunteers were also overwhelmingly positive about the scheme.

NCVO will make further recommendations shortly aimed at taking the learning from the scheme to improve employment policy.

Justin Davis Smith, executive director of volunteering and development at NCVO, said:

‘Unemployment is a huge economic and social waste and often also a personal tragedy. It’s incumbent on all of us to do what we can to work towards solutions. This scheme is proof positive that volunteering works to boost skills and confidence and has an important role to play in combatting unemployment. It clearly outperforms the Work Programme even though its clients are on average far harder to help.

‘The programme also reminds us that for volunteering to be successful it must be well-managed and appropriately resourced. Volunteer centres are ideally placed to match people seeking to gain skills and confidence with charities who are able to support them and benefit from their time.’

Richard Crisp, a lead Sheffield Hallam University CRESR researcher on the evaluation, added:

‘The research clearly shows that volunteering has an important role to play in enhancing the employability of individuals out of work and helping them into employment. It has also had significant and lasting impacts on health and wellbeing. The critical success factor in programme achievements is the skills and experience of staff – clients consistently attributed progress they made to the personalised and responsive support they received.’


The Volunteering for Stronger Communities project, which launched in October 2011 and runs until the end of 2013, is funded by a £1.9m grant from TNLCF

Volunteering for Stronger Communities local partners:

  • Sheffield Volunteer Centre
  • Volunteer Centre Liverpool
  • Blackburn with Darwen Volunteer Centre
  • Volunteer Bristol
  • Volunteer Centre Sutton
  • Tamworth Volunteer Centre
  • Volunteer Centre Oxfordshire
  • Volunteer Centre Dacorum (Hertfordshire)
  • Volunteer Centre Nottingham
  • Voluntary Action Islington
  • Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service
  • Volunteer Cornwall
  • Volunteer Centre Camden
  • Exeter Volunteer Centre and Volunteer Centre North Devon
  • 2D (County Durham)

NCVO represents the voluntary sector, with over 10,000 members from the largest household name charities to the smallest community groups.

CRESR is a national research centre that studies the impact of social and economic disadvantage on places and people, and  assess critically the policies and interventions targeted at these issues. Clients include government departments and agencies, local authorities, charities and foundations, internationalorganisations, and the private sector.

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