Key services during pandemic in Wales 'could not have been delivered' without volunteers

Key services and activities 'could not have been delivered during the coronavirus pandemic' without the support from volunteers in Wales, according to a group of Senedd members.

The Senedd Committee found that volunteers 'played an essential role in responding to the virus' and praised the voluntary sector, stating that it saw 'local solutions for local issues pay huge dividends in many parts of the country.'

The national membership body for voluntary organisations in Wales, Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), says 18,000 people had signed up to volunteer following the first national lockdown in March 2020.

It said this number rose to 22,000 people signing up to volunteer by December 2020.

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Mantell Gwynedd, which supports voluntary and community groups in Gwynedd, received around 600 offers of help in the first few weeks of the pandemic.

It says eventually around 50 per cent of those new volunteers were placed.

Many organisations told the Committee that they were 'swamped' with volunteering enquiries and unable to place everyone as a result.

The Committee says it believes the voluntary sector could play an essential role in any large-scale emergency response and recommends the Welsh Government look at how best to incorporate such opportunities into its strategy.

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The Senedd Committee also found that the pandemic has 'exacerbated' the challenged the voluntary sector in Wales has faced, with many losing income streams whilst facing an increased demand in services.

The Wales Council for Voluntary Action estimates charities and voluntary organisations headquartered in Wales will lose as much as £620 million over the course of the year.

The Committee also stated there should be extra support and funding commitments from the Welsh Government stretching beyond the pandemic, and that it wants to see a focus on Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) voluntary organisations which it says have been 'disproportionately affected.'

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John Griffiths MS, Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee said: "During the course of this inquiry, the Committee has been inspired by the efforts of people and organisations across the country willing to give their own time, skills and support to help those in need.

"They have played an essential part of the response to the Coronavirus pandemic and we are convinced many key services could not have been delivered as effectively without them.

"We believe voluntary services have an essential role to play in any emergency response strategy and are calling on the Welsh Government to formalise that role.

"But we must also recognise the problems many organisations are facing, both during the pandemic and before. Resilient, reliable funding is critical to their survival as is ongoing support from the Welsh Government and we are urging ministers to act on our recommendations."

The Committee has made 20 recommendations in its report which will now be considered by the Welsh Government.