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Volunteers make an enormous contribution to the lives of individuals and communities across Scotland, and effectively contribute more than £2 billion to the Scottish economy every year.


In 2016, 27% of adults reported having provided unpaid help to organisations and groups in the previous 12 months. While adult volunteering has remained relatively stable from year to year, youth volunteering is growing, rising from 33% in 2009 to 52% in 2016. 

As well as supporting your local community, volunteering - and particularly formal volunteering - is increasingly regarded as a extremely useful activity to help people back into work.

  • Formal volunteering is when you agree to volunteer for an organisation that requires a particular task or job to be done. Typically you might have to fill in an application form and/or have an interview to secure the position.
  • Informal volunteering are activities like helping an elderly neighbour with their garden.

The employability benefits of volunteering include:

  • Re-establishing a work routine - formal volunteering opportunities have the same routines as regular paid work. Punctuality, start time, finish time, accepting supervision, team working, initiative, and socialising are work place routines that can be easily lost when out of work and can be built up through volunteering.
  • Learn new skills - formal volunteering can help you to learn new skills, particularly useful if thinking of a career change.
  • Try out a new career or job type - volunteering provides the opportunity to try out a new type of work and assess whether it meets your expectations, interests and skills.
  • Update existing skills - volunteering can be very useful to check if your skills are still up to date for the type of work you want to do.

Supported Volunteering

The Scottish Government is committed to reinvigorating volunteering and doing more to support groups currently held back from volunteering, such as disabled people, older people and people out of work. Supported Volunteering refers to schemes where volunteers receive additional support in order to carry out their volunteer roles. For instance, they may:

  • Lack confidence after a long period of unemployment.
  • Have physical disabilities or health conditions.
  • Have learning disabilities.
  • Have mental health issues.
  • Be homeless.
  • Be striving to break patterns of negative behaviour, such as gambling or drug misuse.
  • Be a non-English speaker.

The support offered can take many forms and will depend on the individual volunteer's needs. For instance:

  • The Volunteer Manager may meet with the individual to discuss their needs and identify ways in which the organisation can support them to volunteer, or the volunteer may already have a carer or support worker who can assist them in performing their volunteer role.
  • Some organisations may provide a buddy or a mentor, who could be either a more experienced volunteer or a member of staff. In some cases, volunteers may require extra supervision or scheduled support meetings.
  • The need for additional support isn't always ongoing, as some volunteers may only need extra support on their first day with the organisation, to help them settle in. For others, they may only need help with learning the route from their home to the place where they will be volunteering.

Further information

Find about the ways in which The Scottish Government promote and support volunteering.

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