Volunteering bigger than agriculture

Voluntary services in Norfolk employ more people then agriculture, figures released yesterday revealed.The pioneering study showed that 3.9pc of workers in the county are paid to work at one of nearly 4000 voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) – compared to 3.

Voluntary services in Norfolk employ more people then agriculture, figures released yesterday revealed.

The pioneering study showed that 3.9pc of workers in the county are paid to work at one of nearly 4000 voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) - compared to 3.8pc in farming.

That compares to two years ago when just 2.1pc of the workforce were employed by the voluntary sector.

Ben Jupp, director for the Office of the Third Sector, the department that deals with voluntary services, said: “In Norfolk, the passion of active citizens is reflected in an enormously strong third sector.”

Speaking at the Norfolk and Norwich Voluntary Services (NVS) AGM, Mr Jupp praised the commitment to community support in the area, as research also revealed that:

Over 90,000 un-paid volunteers in Norfolk put in nearly 500,000 hours a month.

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Volunteers contribute 5.5m hours annually to VCOs, equivalent to nearly £28m.

More than 13,800 people are paid employees of VCOs.

There are 3,994 VCOs in Norfolk.

They have a combined income of over £94m a year.

641,250 people benefited from the services.

The figures do not include home carers who are part of the statutory public sector.

It is a survey of trained professionals, supported by a committed army of volunteers, who deliver services such as care for the elderly and disabled, “meals-on-wheels,” day-care centres, youth projects, rehabilitation support, museums and conservation projects, sports teams and campaigning groups.

Chief executive of the NVS Brian Horner said the advantage of small specialised, voluntary groups was that they could focus on their section of the community, whereas large public sector organisations had to supply facilities for all, which often resulted in gaps in the service.

And he said: “A report like this shows that the voluntary sector will not be a push over.

“It has grown to such an extent that it is now a partner to the public services.”

He said the main challenges they faced were getting people to volunteer, especially young people, and raising funds.

Rex Humphrey, chief executive of Age concern Norfolk said the potential benefits of using the voluntary sector were huge.

But he added that people must not confuse “volunteers” with the “voluntary sector”, which had many paid professionally trained staff, as well as those who gave up their time for free, saying: “It is the best of both worlds.”

If you want to volunteer, contact the NVS on 01603 614474 or look on the website at www.nvs.org.uk