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VOLUNTEERS: THE EXPERIENCE CORPS LAUNCHED

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Those who grew up crunching Spangles, and watching Muffin the Mule ...
Those who grew up crunching Spangles, and watching Muffin the Mule

and Andy Pandy, are being targeted in a new government backed

campaign to recruit older volunteers, launched by home secretary

David Blunkett today.

New research shows volunteering reaches a peak by age 49 and then

declines. The Experience Corps is being launched to boost the number

of older volunteers, its a government backed not-for-profit company

set up to encourage people aged 50+ to offer their skills and life

experience to benefit others. But as the home secretary launched this

£20m government boost to volunteering, he also warned local

authorities not to cut funding to the hundreds of small voluntary and

community organisations up and down the country.

Mr Blunkett said:

'The Experience Corps aims to run the largest campaign this country

has ever seen to recruit people over the age of 50, who want to give

their time and experience but may not know where to start.

'The Experience Corps has been granted the largest amount of money

the home office has ever given to a new volunteering venture. It has

a target of attracting 250,000 volunteers by March 2004.'

This major support for volunteering comes at a time when some local

authorities are cutting back. I call on local authorities to support

volunteering by continuing their funding of voluntary and community

organisations. The government is reviewing the way it funds voluntary

and community infrastructures - local authorities could also look at

how to do more.

'But this is not just about numbers. We know that volunteering is an

important factor in building the sort of active communities we need,

in which all sections of society and the community work together for

the benefit of all. Older people have the experience, the expertise,

the skills and, often, the time to make a real and lasting

contribution to this culture change. I call upon them to respond to

the challenge and to get involved.'

Advance figures from the Home Office Citizenship Survey, show that

all sorts of community activities peak by age 49:

- 44 per cent of people aged 40-49 have some kind of civic

involvement - signing petitions, contacting the council, attending

public meetings. This declines to 43 per cent of 50-64 year olds

and 34 per cent of those 65 plus.

- 73 per cent of people 49 and under are involved in informal

volunteering - giving unpaid help to a non relative. This declines

to 65 per cent for the 50-64 year olds and 55 per cent of those

65 plus.

- 44 per cent of people 40-49 and under are involved in formal

volunteering - giving unpaid help to a group or organisation. This

declines to 40 per cent for the 50-64 year olds and 32 per cent

of those 65 plus.

But, although fewer older people are involved, if they do volunteer:

- they do it more regularly - with the oldest group, 65 +

volunteering the most regularly (at least once a month) of all the

age groups (75 per cent compared to 68 per cent overall)

- those aged 50plus involved in formal volunteering were more

likely, than any other age group, to get involved in:

- visiting and befriending people

- volunteering through local community or neighbourhood groups or

citizens' groups, or areas concerning the elderly or religious

groups.

Experience Corps chief executive Maggie Semple said:

'The Experience Corps is about showing people over 50 that they are

needed by their local communities precisely because of the life

skills and experiences they have gained.

'It is not just about professional skills but also experience gained

through everything that we encounter in life such as bringing up a

family, coping with illness or sticking with a personal interest or

hobby. We believe that every single person in this age group has an

experience they can pass on.'

Notes

1. The home office research is from initial findings of the

Citizenship Survey (HOCS) based on a representative sample of

15,500 people. The survey took place between March and October 2001

in England and Wales.

Participation in voluntary and community activity by age (%)

Civic participation Informal volunteering Formal volunteering

16-24 31 73 38

25-39 40 73 40

40-49 44 73 44

50-64 43 65 40

65+ 34 55 32

Source: HOCS

2. The Experience Corps is an independent non profit making company

funded by a£19.9m grant from the home office over three

years.

3. The Experience Corps is set up to encourage people aged 50 plus

to offer their skills and experience to benefit others in their

local communities. With a range of dynamic opportunities the

Experience Corps hopes to enlist people who have never been

interested in volunteering before.

4. The original idea for an Experience Corps came out of the

Performance and Innovation Unit's report 'Winning the generation

game'. The Government then established an advisory group of experts

to advise on exactly what the initiative should look like.

5. The Experience Corps will rely on the strength of their 100

Animators, working through nine regional centres in England whose

primary task will be to match potential Experience Corps member

with opportunities from local charities and organisations.

6. The Experience Corps' chief executive is Maggie Semple and it is

chaired by former Age Concern England chief executive Sally Greengross.

7. Anyone interested in joining the Experience Corps can ring the

information line on 0800 10 60 80 or log on to the websitefor further information.

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