Mobilising voluntary action: a comparative analysis of voluntary action across the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic

Authors: Laura Crawford*, Northumbria University, Irene Hardill*, Northumbria University
Topics: Social Geography
Keywords: COVID-19, voluntary action, volunteering, the voluntary sector,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 25
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the words of Baroness Pitkeathley, ‘charities are the eyes, ears and conscience of society: they mobilise, they provide, they inspire, they advocate and they unite’. While voluntary action remains very much ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’, the pandemic was preceded by a renegotiation of social policy, ‘a restructuring of Beveridgean proportions’ (p.62). This has played out differently in the four ‘nations’ of the UK, following the asymmetrical devolution settlement and is reflected in considerable variation in relations between the state and voluntary action.The pandemic has seen social welfare need increase, while economic pressure is challenging the capacity of voluntary organisations to meet unmet needs. The English National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) reported that charities lost an estimated £4bn in the first 12 weeks of the pandemic, and Civil Society News reported in May 2020 that the UK’s 20 largest charities furloughed more than 24604 staff. Meanwhile, there has been a surge in voluntary action with the broadening volunteer base emerging ‘out of the shadows’ to support those in need. In this virtual paper session, we wish to contribute to debates on the role of voluntary action in supporting communities during the pandemic by presenting emerging findings from research funded by the UK ESRC offering a critical analysis of the uneven capacity of voluntary action to meet unmet social welfare needs in the UK.

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