• What are the differences in the backgrounds and experiences of disabled and non-disabled volunteers?
  • New research, along with pioneering project will help volunteer programmes be more inclusive.

Spirit of 2012 has today announced the award of two grants to understand more about volunteering for disabled people. The first strand of the Inclusive Volunteering programme is practised-based research, believed to be the first of its kind, into the background and experiences of disabled volunteers.

The second is a project to understand and address barriers to volunteering for disabled people and to run a pilot project placing disabled and non-disabled volunteers to work together in a network of regional museums. A grant of nearly £30,000 has been made to a team coordinated by Kim Donahue Consulting working in collaboration with HEAR, a pan-equality network of voluntary/community sector organisations.

Using data from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, the research will be used to profile disabled and non-disabled volunteers and understand how patterns of volunteering have changed during the pandemic. The team will also undertake six in-depth case studies with organisations that currently work with volunteers.

Team member, Dr Daiga Kamerāde, Reader in Work and Wellbeing, University of Salford said:

“Ours will be the first project to produce detailed statistics on different types of disability and how they combine with a person’s gender, age, ethnicity and other characteristics to create their unique experiences of volunteering.”

Spirit of 2012 has also awarded £30,000 to Volunteer Centre Dorset to work with museums and other heritage organisations in the county to identify and overcome barriers to volunteering for disabled people. Over the course of 20 months, the team, led by disability access consultant Chloe Hixson will recruit disabled and non-disabled volunteers to take up roles in partner museums. Their experiences will be tracked over a six-month period and will inform the production of guidance that will help other museums work with disabled volunteers. Nearly half of the UK’s accredited museums and heritage organisations depend on volunteers to run their day-to-day operations, and in the South-West a third of museums are entirely run by volunteers. Yet fewer than 5% of volunteers in museums state that they have a disability, much less than how many disabled people there are in the UK.

Welcoming the award of the grant, Chloe Hixson said:

“I think the project is going to be fantastic for Dorset, as we have so many incredible museums that are eager for more volunteers. Unfortunately, the heritage sector is still falling short at being truly inclusive, and as an appreciator of museums I am excited to see the change this project brings about, not just for Dorset but for museums and heritage organisations across the country.”

Ruth Hollis, CEO of Spirit of 2012 said:

“When done well, volunteering is hands-down a wonderful thing; the pandemic has pulled that into focus in a way that we haven’t seen before. There are benefits for the organisation, the end user and a positive impact on the wellbeing of the volunteer. And when disabled and non-disabled people volunteer together, there are huge advantages, not least in tackling prejudice around disability. We’re delighted to take the lead in funding this important work which has a very singular rationale – to make volunteering, whatever its context, more inclusive.”