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The Royal Voluntary Service’s (RVS’s) mission is to inspire and enable people to give the gift of voluntary service and across the UK an army of 20,000 volunteers is doing just that. The RVS supports isolated and vulnerable people at home, aids the recovery of patients on hospital wards and supports healthy and happy lives by providing everything from lunch and social clubs to home library services.
It was founded in 1938 as the Women’s Voluntary Services for Air Raid Precautions and by 1943 had over a million volunteers involved in every aspect of wartime life. The word ‘women’s’ was removed from its name in 2013 in recognition of the growing number of men who wanted to give their time. Despite its wartime beginnings, few years have compared with 2020, when the organisation once again stepped in at a time of national crisis to support the NHS and the vulnerable in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Legal & General works closely with the RVS. We provided two years of funding to establish a Home from Hospital service in Portsmouth, through which 531 older people were provided with an intensive six-week support package. And in 2018/19 our Retirement division chose the RVS as its national charity, with employees fundraising and volunteering to do trolley rounds at the Royal Sussex Hospital.
Together the RVS and our Home Finance division have developed a vulnerable customers referral scheme and 45 such customers have been referred to the charity. And over the past two years the RVS has trained some of our staff to recognise customers who may be struggling with loneliness and who might benefit from a ‘safe and well’ check carried out by the charity’s volunteers.
We also supported RVS’s £5 million appeal to help it continue its work when Covid-19 closed many of its revenue-earning hospital shops and trolleys. Throughout the year volunteers have continued to help people age well in the community and supported the NHS so that doctors and nurses had more time to provide care. Since March 2020, RVS has been responsible for a large-scale deployment of volunteer effort in response to the crisis. Its reach and impact has been amplified by a new army of volunteers – the NHS volunteer responders – a force of 360,000 active volunteers in England, who have delivered more than a million tasks to date, helping the most vulnerable people in our communities.
The RVS’s work to support the most vulnerable is more than just valuable, it is inspirational and is making a real difference to people’s lives.
The RVS focuses on building confidence, improving health and wellbeing and keeping loneliness at bay. It recently launched its Virtual Village, an online initiative allowing it to reach people in their own homes during lockdown. And when social distancing restrictions allow, it runs 300 lunch and social clubs, 100 home support services, 45 Healthy & Happy Lives Groups, 200 hospital shops and cafes and 10 RVS community centres.
It is a lifeline for many isolated people, providing all-important human contact as well as practical help. It makes a huge difference because the impact of loneliness on health is thought to be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and a recent study found that between 5% and 16% of people usually spend their time alone, many of them elderly.
Nigel Green, Business Development Manager at the RVS, explains: “Through our services we can do very small, basic things that can make a big different to people. If people live alone and their light is not working or the batteries are not working in their remote control, our volunteers will go round and do some of those tasks for them. They are very small tasks but they make a big difference to people. We also help with things like fuel poverty and taking people’s dogs out and running exercise classes. We can offer very very tailored support in the community.”
Sara Heald, our Group Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, says: “We are investing in a better world through our inclusive capitalism strategy and we want to support those who share our vision of a society that works for everyone. The RVS’s work to support the most vulnerable is more than just valuable, it is inspirational and is making a real difference to people’s lives.”
Despite the huge number of volunteers already hard at work there is always a need for more people who want to help their community… and many people find it hugely rewarding. Find out more about volunteering as an NHS Volunteer Responder, vaccination volunteer or RVS winter pressures volunteer.