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By: Emma Robinson


Floods, famine and plague.  OK, that’s a bit extreme but without people freely giving their time to help others many aspects of everyday life and some key support services would be severely impacted.


During National Volunteers Week we asked local charitable organisations what the effect would be if they did not have their volunteers for one week and all described the hundreds of local people whose healthcare, recreation and quality of life would suffer.  The following responses are typical:


Parity for Disability provides services for people with multiple disabilities, their families and carers.  

Number of volunteers: 93

Effect of No Volunteers: "The services would not exist.  Without volunteers we would not be able to operate our charity shops which raise a significant part of the £60,000 we need each year to cover costs.  Volunteers also ensure that the charity’s fundraising events can take place.  Without an IT volunteer maintaining the day service and office computers these wouldn’t be effective."


The Guildford Talking Newspaper

Number of volunteers: 35

Effect of No Volunteers: "There would be no Talking Newspaper for our blind and visually impaired readers to listen to.  This would affect about 95 people."


SATRO is an educational charity working with young people in SE England providing real life experience of all aspects of the working world through a diverse and challenging range of programmes.

Number of volunteers: 850

Effect of No Volunteers: "We quite simply would not be able to run these events.  Volunteers help run the games and activities and share their business knowledge which is invaluable to the students.  This would impact approximately 556 students per week."


Royal Voluntary Service Meals on Wheels in Waverley

Number of volunteers: 250

Effect of No Volunteers: "If an older person has no other means of getting food then they will quickly become malnourished which could lead to illness.  The volunteer delivering the meal could be the only visitor a housebound elderly person gets during the day.  There are about 150 recipients in Waverley of this service."



What if there were No Volunteers At All


If organisations simply had no volunteer help then the apocalyptic scenario creeps nearer.  Let’s take a closer look...


Landfill sites and fly-tipping in every neighbourhood

Community litter clear-ups, and volunteer-involving recycling and upcycling projects help keep neighbourhoods clean and tidy, and reduce the amount of stuff sent to landfill.  

Fast Fact: There are more than 213,000 volunteers working in UK charity shops.

Local Volunteer-involving Organisations: Keep Britain Tidy, Guildford Bike Project, Guildford FurnitureLink, charity shops.


A fully privatised NHS

It is not fanciful to predict that the National Health Service could not continue to be free at the point of delivery without the support of unpaid voluntary workers.  In addition to the thousands of hospital volunteers, many front-line and support services are provided by volunteers:

  • Emergency blood delivery

  • First responders medics

  • Neighbourhood transport to medical appointments

  • Mental health support groups

  • Disability therapy groups

  • Day centres

  • Hospices


Fast Fact: Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care has nearly 1,000 volunteers.

Local Organisations: SERV Blood Runners, Care for Guildford, West Horsley Wheel of Care, MS Therapy Support Group, Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care, Canterbury Care Centre, Alzheimer’s Society, Bells Piece, halow project, Guildford Club for the Disabled, The Meath Epilepsy Charity, Parity for Disability, PTSD Resolution, Seeability, TALK, Sight for Surrey, Dyscover.


The Surrey Hills covered in Japanese knotweed

Volunteers carry out much of the daily conservation work, footpath maintenance and habitat management needed to keep Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty beautiful and Sites of Special Scientific Interest interesting.

Fast Fact: Every year more than 60,000 people volunteer for the National Trust.

Local Organisations: Surrey Wildlife Trust, Pewley Downs Volunteers, National Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England.


Lives lost on waterways and at sea

Lifeboats are crewed, launched and maintained by volunteers.

Fast Fact: 95% of RNLI people are volunteers.


More family breakdowns

Volunteer mentors and advisers provide vital one-to-one support to struggling families with young children.

Fast Fact: On average it costs local Home-Start charities just £1,000 - £1,200 to support a family for an entire year

Local Organisations: Home-Start, FamilyLine.


Lower literacy levels

Volunteer reading assistants in schools provide many children with help they would otherwise not receive.

Fast Fact: One in five parents easily find the opportunity to read to their children, with the rest struggling to read to their children due to fatigue and busy lifestyles. (Book Time and Booked Up: parents and carer’s research 2009, London: Book Trust, executive summary)


More crime / Higher prison population

Volunteer helpline operators, mentors, advisers and counsellors help offenders, those in debt and those with addiction problems.  Police Support Volunteer roles include Counter Service, Admin Support, Puppy Development, Crime Trend Researcher.

Fast Fact: Surrey Police Support Volunteers worked a total of 32,000 hours in 2013.

Local Organisations: Citizens Advice, Catalyst (formerly SAdAS), Surrey Drug and Alcohol Care, Circles South East, Surrey Police.


And yes... Floods!

Thousands of volunteers help keep our waterways flowing freely.

Fast Fact: There are over 450 volunteer lock keepers working on canals in England and Wales.

Local Organisations: Canal & River Trust, Swingbridge Community Project, Waterway Recovery Group.



Doing good does everyone good


In addition, the very act of volunteering itself brings health and wellbeing benefits to the millions of people who give their time to help others.  

Fast Fact: According to NCVO 13.8 million people in the UK volunteered at least once a month in 2013/14.

Local organisations: Browse hundreds of the volunteer roles available in South West Surrey here

Community Point

What if there were No Volunteers for A Week

No Volunteers Week