On Monday, we celebrated Volunteer Recognition Day, a day to honour all those volunteers working selflessly and tirelessly to support and improve the lives of those in need.
From local youth clubs to shelters for the homeless, volunteers are the driving force of charities and organisations that offer care and comfort for some of the most vulnerable in our society. Moreover, the positive impact that volunteering has on society cannot be underestimated. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) estimates that replacing the number of people in the UK who volunteer once a month would require 1.3 million full-time workers at a cost of £23.1 billion. Volunteer Recognition Day is an opportunity to thank all of those who generously give their time each month to change lives and improve communities.
The bus service here in the UK is critically important in supporting volunteering activity up and down the country. For those without access to a car, the bus is an affordable and easy way to get out and about, providing access for many who volunteer on a regular basis. In fact, the bus is particularly important for volunteers aged 65 or over, many of whom will use the bus pass to travel to local volunteering activities.
Representing nearly one-third of all volunteers, older people make a significant contribution to the UK economy through volunteering. According to research by the Royal Voluntary Service, the amount of time older people give to the economy is worth an incredible £10 billion a year. The bus pass is therefore a vital lifeline to maintaining the voluntary sector, enabling many to volunteer in social services, health and welfare when it would otherwise not be possible.
A KPMG LLP study for Greener Journeys found that Britain would lose at least £297 million of economic benefits a year from volunteering if the bus pass were taken away. However, above this, the bus pass allows older people to continue to engage with their community, contributing to society whilst also tackling loneliness and isolation.
Volunteer Recognition Day is an opportunity to appreciate the essential work that volunteers do across the country, work that can sometimes be taken for granted. Safeguarding bus services and the bus pass in particular is crucial to ensure this important work continues, which is fundamental for supporting some of the most vulnerable in society and bringing communities together.