Community spirit ebbing away as six million fewer volunteer or help

The sense of community at the start of the coronavirus pandemic “is rapidly ebbing,” said a former head of the National Service.

Six million fewer people in England volunteered or supported their neighbors during the second national lockdown, of which only a quarter have done so since early October, estimates show.

A new report, published by research organization Pro Bono Economics (PBE) on the occasion of the start of a major two-year committee on the future of civil society, concluded that while there is strong public support for the work of charities, there is room for improvement in the way the British social sector works ”.

A survey of 1,696 adults in the UK by YouGov found that 84% of people in the UK believe that charities play an important role in society, with half of people saying such organizations and community groups have a “very” important role. played a role during the pandemic.

The research suggested that 18 million people in England had helped friends or neighbors with tasks such as shopping and dog walking during the first closure, but this fell before the second closure.

The committee, led by PBE and chaired by Lord Gus O’Donnell, aims to “address the systemic challenges that prevent civil society from realizing its potential”.

Lord O’Donnell, former cabinet secretary and chief of the civil service, said: “At the beginning of this crisis, the many acts of kindness we saw lifted the nation. But that spirit quickly fades.

“If we want to build better and reach a higher level, we urgently need to use the full potential of this vital (civil) sector.”

The survey also found that 57% of UK adults believe charities are understaffed, more than a third (35%) believe charities are wasteful and 31% believe there are too many in the UK.

Other findings were that 40% of respondents think Britain would be a better place if charities and community groups were more involved in decision-making at the national level, and 42% agree that with greater support from government charities more could achieve.

Matt Whittaker, PBE chief executive officer, said, “The public clearly thinks the country’s charities and community groups are a good force.

“But there is also a sense that they might be doing even more.”

He said business and government, in addition to charities and community groups, need to move civil society’s potential in the right direction, which he described as a “daunting task.”

He added, “The good news is that when done right and fully engaging civil society in plans to rebuild and level better, it has the potential to unleash a powerful force for renewal.”

The report – titled Civil Action – said there are three core issues that keep charities, community groups and wider civil society organizations from fulfilling their potential.

It said that civil society is undervalued and overlooked, that it is too often isolated or ignored, and that there is a discrepancy between the supply of money, time and effort provided by the social sector and the demand for it. support.

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