Last week I attended the Queen’s Volunteering Award Event with Age UK volunteer, John McArthur, to celebrate the huge contribution that our 70,000 volunteers add to our work across the Age UK network. We know that like many voluntary and charity organisations, a significant proportion of the support we provide would simply not be available without these individuals. In the current climate, their support is even more vital.
We’re experiencing unprecedented cuts. NCVO estimates the voluntary sector is set to lose £3bn over the next five years with cuts to volunteering the most commonly reported theme by organisation. The belief that volunteering is free and will ‘fill the gap’ makes the situation even harder.
For those of us in the ageing sector, the challenge comes at a time when we need action more than ever before, with the number of people aged 65 and over expected to rise by 65% in the next 25 years, and the number of over 85s predicted to double. Ensuring we are able to enjoy the opportunities this presents will mean tackling significant challenges: providing decent and sustainable income in retirement, addressing inequalities in ageing, delivering dignity for older people, reforming social care and tackling isolation and loneliness. This means we need to ask ourselves not just how to strengthen volunteering in this difficult environment, but also how it can be used to help us meet the challenges of an ageing population. Continue reading