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The Rt Hon Stuart Andrew MP reflects on Volunteers' Week 2023

As Volunteers' Week 2023 draws to a close, the Minister for Civil Society looks back on the week and shares his thoughts.

As Volunteers’ Week draws to a close, I want to take this opportunity to celebrate the truly brilliant spirit of volunteering we have seen, not just this year, but the spirit which is ingrained in our national consciousness.

We saw this at the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla – a truly remarkable national occasion that showcased Britain to the world.

In tribute to the King’s lifetime of public service, Monday 8 May was carved out specifically as a time for many of us to try something new and volunteer.

According to organisers, six million people turned out to take part in the biggest volunteering event of 2023, The Big Help Out, truly making the Coronation a national moment for everyone.

Beyond The Big Help Out, volunteers across the country do excellent things day in, day out, something I have had the pleasure of witnessing first hand both in my previous life in the charity sector and now as Minister for Civil Society.

This week, I was delighted to recently be able to honour youth activist Joana Baptista with a Points of Light award, the daily award from the Prime Minister that recognises outstanding achievement by individual volunteers.

Joana Baptista is a youth activist and #iwill Ambassador who set up her social enterprise ‘She Dot’ to encourage girls to pursue traditionally male careers. She also created ‘UniPear’, an initiative helping underrepresented students successfully apply to leading universities through 1:1 mentorship programmes.

Millions of people just like Joana offer their time and services every year, with latest figures showing an estimated 25 million people volunteer at least once each year.

Whilst I am sadly all too aware of the fact that volunteering levels have been gradually declining, I want to use this Volunteers’ Week to remind people that even the smallest contribution can have a huge impact on others.

From improved mental and physical health to a reduction in social isolation, the benefits of volunteering are well documented, and having seen the benefits volunteering can deliver, I want to make sure the community spirit we have seen on so many national occasions is sustained.

Earlier this year we announced the first beneficiaries of the Know Your Neighbourhood Fund, a £30 million package aiming to tackle loneliness and build connections. 27 disadvantaged areas, from Wakefield to Wolverhampton, are being supported to create new volunteering opportunities for local residents. The fund comes on top of the recently announced package of over £100 million to support those charities and community organisations, often staffed by volunteers, that are helping people who are particularly impacted by the cost of living.

So this Volunteers’ Week, I hope you all celebrated the spirit of volunteering in some way, and were able to say 'thanks' to those helping out in your communities. And if you feel inspired to get involved yourself, why not get in touch with a local charity or community group.

Whether you’re helping out at a local youth club or providing a listening ear to isolated neighbours, we can all take the time out to help one another and continue to create a kinder, more caring society.

Stuart Andrew MP
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