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Scottish Household Survey 2020 & Scottish Third Sector perspectives on volunteering during Covid 19 Survey Report

Published: February 1, 2022


Scottish Household Survey 2020 – telephone survey: key findings – ( The SHS results for 2020 were published on 28 January 2022.  The results of the SHS 2020 telephone survey are not directly comparable to SHS results for previous years due to changes in the research method, sample size and timing.

The key highlights:

·         64% of adults had taken part in formal or informal volunteering in the last 12 months. 66% of women and 61% of men had taken part in formal or informal volunteering in the last 12 months.

·         56% of adults took part in informal volunteering in the last 12 months (59% of women and 53% of men). 26% of adults took part in formal volunteering (25% of women and 26% of men).

·         Adults living in the 20% least deprived areas were more likely to have undertaken formal volunteering in the previous 12 months (29%) than adults living in the 20% most deprived areas (14%). The same was true for informal volunteering, with 60% of adults in the 20% least deprived areas taking part in informal volunteering in the last 12 months, compared with 47% of adults in the 20% most deprived areas.

·         Adults living in remote rural areas were more likely to have undertaken formal volunteering (38%), compared with adults living in large urban areas (25%).

·         While no direct comparisons with SHS 2018 results are possible, there was a big change around informal volunteering. The proportion of adults who took part in formal volunteering remained the same (26% of adults saying they took part in formal volunteering in SHS 2018, SHS 2019 and SHS 2020), but the number of adults saying they took part in informal volunteering (56%) has increased by a lot (36% of adults said they took part in informal volunteering in SHS 2018). However, it is difficult to say if this increase is due to COVID-19 pandemic or due to the changes in the profile of SHS 2020 respondents, with home-owners and people with degree-level qualifications over-represented.

Scottish Third Sector Perspectives On Volunteering During Covid-19: Survey Report – ( was published on 31 January 2022. This report presents the results of a survey undertaken by Scottish Government in collaboration with Volunteer Scotland to gather third sector perspectives on volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many thanks to all those who took part in this survey.


Survey Report summary

The Scottish Government welcomes this Survey Report on volunteering during the pandemic which presents findings from the research conducted between 30 April and 6 June 2021.

This report is testimony to the extraordinary and heroic work of organisations and individuals during an unprecedented time.  The Scottish Government values the massive contribution that volunteers make to the lives of individuals and communities across Scotland and particularly during the pandemic.

The Scottish Government and Volunteer Scotland are reviewing all the findings from the survey. As a direct next step, findings will be used to help inform and shape the development of the Scottish Government’s volunteering policy, and the new Volunteering Action Plan for Scotland in particular. The findings will also help inform the wider policy response to the pandemic and lessons learned from it.

By way of summary, the Survey shows that:

  • Volunteers were an essential part of the COVID-19 response, and that their engagement has helped to support many vulnerable people through an isolated and difficult time.
  • Volunteer-involving organisations showed incredible adaptability and resilience, pivoting their work to be able to meet newly emerging needs, and finding ways to adapt their programmes for online and remote delivery wherever possible.
  • The spread of informal volunteering and mutual aid groups showed that people are more than ready to step in to help others in their communities – and that they don’t need to be part of formal volunteering programmes and structures to do so.
  • It seems likely that hybrid and flexible models that combine the best aspects of remote and in-person volunteering may emerge from the pandemic, but that this will require continued investment in digital inclusion as well a recognition that on-line models do not work well for all volunteers, programmes, and service users.
  • Volunteering had gained in visibility and recognition as an essential part of local and national emergency responses.
  • Volunteer Involving Organisations and infrastructure organisations stressed that providing support and coordination for volunteers, ensuring their wellbeing, and operating hybrid on-line/in person models for volunteering and service delivery are resource-intensive activities.
  • There was clear feedback that more dedicated funding is needed to support volunteering within volunteer-involving organisations and volunteering coordination and support capacity at the level of TSIs or local authorities.
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