Charity Retail Association calls for more volunteer opportunities and qualifications to boost civil society  

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has recently opened a consultation on how government can work with and for civil society to tackle challenges and unlock opportunities to build a stronger society now and in the future.

Charity retail is the largest supplier of volunteer opportunities in the country, and, as the voice of the sector, we believe we have unique insights to make on how a strong civic society and volunteering culture can be fostered.

We have therefore sent a submission to the department, which people can read here:

Our submission highlights how enormous the pool of charity shop volunteers in the country is and demonstrates the many benefits that volunteers get from their work, in particular employability skills for young job-seekers, and mental and physical health benefits for older volunteers.

It’s no surprise that 93 per cent of volunteers say they are satisfied with their current volunteering role, and 90 per cent say they would recommend their organisation as a ‘great place to work’.

But we also ask the government to do more to help our members attract and retain volunteers as a way to boost civic engage in the country as a whole.

Ask one: volunteer opportunities

While charity shop volunteers are still most likely to hear about their role through inquiry or an in-store advertisement, the proportion of volunteers who found their role in this way is declining (down from 52 per cent to 46 per cent since 2013).

Better signposting towards these volunteer opportunities, for example in workplaces who give staff annual volunteering days, job centres and council offices, could lead to more volunteers coming through our members’ doors.

Ask two: volunteer recognition

Our members are working hard to find ways to diversify their volunteer base. One such scheme allows people to sign up for ‘short-term’ volunteering roles (limited to 12 weeks). This attracts a new kind of volunteer who previously felt unable to commit to volunteering over a longer period.

Having these skills formally accredited and recognised by the government would give greater prestige to their experiences and likely encourage even more young people to volunteer full time in charity shops until they find a permanent paid job.

Robin Osterley, Chief Executive of the Charity Retail Association, said: “Our Manifesto for Charity Shops, published in June 2017, asked the next government to dedicate itself to creating a volunteer revolution.  The Civil Society Strategy represents an opportunity to achieve this vision.

“Were public and private sector workplaces to offer volunteer days and signpost their staff towards the opportunities in charity retail we believe that even more people would find out about the benefits and opportunities of this kind of volunteering.

“Likewise, providing volunteers with an opportunity to formally recognise their new skills through a qualification can give a major boost to their employment prospects, self-esteem and ability to become fully rounded citizens.”