What does the typical UK volunteer look like? The Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), a collaboration between the Universities of Birmingham and Southampton, thinks it has a good idea. Based on a two-year research project called Mapping the Big Society, the Centre has found that 31 per cent of the UK’s population provide 87 per cent of volunteer hours. The constituents of that percentage are likely to be middle-aged, well-educated and based in prosperous areas. Moreover, this ‘civic core’ also provides 79 per cent of the country’s charitable giving.
When it comes to the distribution of voluntary organizations, the picture is equally lopsided. John Mohan, deputy director of TCRC, remarks that there are fewer organizations per head in more deprived areas, and those organizations ‘are also more likely to be reliant on public funding. Thus the areas with fewest registered third sector organizations are also likely to be in areas most at risk from funding reductions.’ Mohan goes on to suggest that it might be better to take a city-wide rather than a neighbourhood approach to localism so that poor areas might benefit from the civic core’s generosity.
In a rather bland initial reaction to the research findings, the government seems to have brushed aside the unsettling implications of this state of affairs for its Big Society proposition. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman merely said it welcomed the TSRC’s ongoing research, remarking that ‘it is encouraging to see that a majority of people already give time and money to help their communities.’
TSRC Press Release, 2 August 2011
Third Sector Online, 29 July 2011