Later this week begins Volunteers Week, an annual celebration of the millions of people across the UK who dedicate their time to volunteering causes.

The Citizens Advice Network in Scotland knows better than anyone the ability of people to give their time and skills to help others. Volunteers are the heart and the heartbeat of our service.

Last year, more than 1,900 volunteers gave more than 622,000 hours of their time. The value of this is a staggering £9.4million, but for people across the country who have been helped by a volunteer, this work has been nothing short of invaluable.

It is worth considering the magnitude of this commitment given that the two years of the pandemic have made volunteering difficult. Working remotely has brought many benefits, but also challenges such as training volunteers, who need time in a CAB environment to learn additional skills.

What they achieve once trained is life-changing, with more than 171,000 people helped last year, £147million released in the process. Those who saw some kind of financial gain from our advice, through things like social security payments and job advice, were on average over £4,400 better off.

One such volunteer is Nan Fotheringham from Coatbridge CAB, who was nominated for a SCVO Scottish Charity award later this month. And no wonder. Nan, 81, has been giving two days a week to help people in her local community for twenty years now. It is an incredible achievement from which countless people will have benefited directly and indirectly.

Advisors are not the only volunteers our network relies on. As Chairman of Citizens Advice Scotland, I myself am a volunteer and one of hundreds of trustees across the country who help with the governance of our network, with each CAB having its own board.

And then there are the people who volunteer for administrative or clerical duties, or for local campaigns or social policy work. Everyone contributes to a fairer country.

There is also an untold story about our volunteers – about the opportunities opened up by volunteering with the CAB network. About a third of our volunteers are in further education or employment, and this figure will be artificially low given the number of volunteers at retirement age who simply receive something back to their communities. But for many, volunteering with our network means meeting new people and learning skills that could benefit them in other areas of life.

Our volunteers are what makes our service so special. They are local people helping each other through organizations rooted in their communities. The kind of local intelligence and understanding you get through our approach can really go the extra mile for people who need help. It’s not something that can be replicated in a remote or centralized call center.

So if you are considering exploring the opportunity to volunteer with the CAB Network, I highly recommend you do so. You’ll meet new people, develop your skills and play your part in helping your local community at a time when we all need to take care of each other.

If you are a volunteer within the CAB network, thank you. This service would not exist with you.

—–

Rory Mair CBE is Chairman of Citizens Advice Scotland

Later this week (June 1-7) begins Volunteers Week, an annual celebration of the millions of people across the UK who dedicate their time to volunteering causes.

The Citizens Advice Network in Scotland knows better than anyone the ability of people to give their time and skills to help others. Volunteers are the heart and the heartbeat of our service.

Last year, more than 1,900 volunteers gave more than 622,000 hours of their time. The value of this is a staggering £9.4million, but for people across the country who have been helped by a volunteer, this work has been nothing short of invaluable.

It is worth considering the magnitude of this commitment given that the two years of the pandemic have made volunteering difficult. Working remotely has brought many benefits, but also challenges such as training volunteers, who need time in a CAB environment to learn additional skills.

What they achieve once trained is life-changing, with more than 171,000 people helped last year, £147million released in the process. Those who saw some kind of financial gain from our advice, through things like social security payments and job advice, were on average over £4,400 better off.

One such volunteer is Nan Fotheringham from Coatbridge CAB, who was nominated for a SCVO Scottish Charity award later this month. And no wonder. Nan, 81, has been giving two days a week to help people in her local community for twenty years now. It is an incredible achievement from which countless people will have benefited directly and indirectly.

Advisors are not the only volunteers our network relies on. As Chairman of Citizens Advice Scotland, I myself am a volunteer and one of hundreds of trustees across the country who help with the governance of our network, with each CAB having its own board.

And then there are the people who volunteer for administrative or clerical duties, or for local campaigns or social policy work. Everyone contributes to a fairer country.

There is also an untold story about our volunteers – about the opportunities opened up by volunteering with the CAB network. About a third of our volunteers are in further education or employment, and this figure will be artificially low given the number of volunteers at retirement age who simply receive something back to their communities. But for many, volunteering with our network means meeting new people and learning skills that could benefit them in other areas of life.

Our volunteers are what makes our service so special. They are local people helping each other through organizations rooted in their communities. The kind of local intelligence and understanding you get through our approach can really go the extra mile for people who need help. It’s not something that can be replicated in a remote or centralized call center.

So if you are considering exploring the opportunity to volunteer with the CAB Network, I highly recommend you do so. You’ll meet new people, develop your skills and play your part in helping your local community at a time when we all need to take care of each other.

If you are a volunteer within the CAB network, thank you. This service would not exist with you.

—– Rory Mair CBE is Chairman of Citizens Advice Scotland