Volunteer Scotland logo

Volunteering, befriending and COVID-19

Volunteer Scotland has triangulated evidence from three authoritative data sources to understand how pivotal people’s support through befriending has become during COVID-19.

Scottish evidence is analysed from the following sources:

  • Scottish Household Survey, 2018 – understanding the baseline pre-COVID-19 for befriending for both formal and informal volunteering
  • Ipsos-Mori 2020, June 2020 – quantifying the increase in volunteer ‘befrienders’ from Volunteer Scotland’s commissioned research at the end of lockdown
  • TSI Scotland Network survey, June 2020 – identifying the key challenges facing society during COVID-19 relevant to befriending.

This research shows how important volunteer befrienders are in combatting loneliness and helping to address linked problems such as mental ill-health:

  • Third sector organisations rated mental health (86% of organisations) and loneliness (83% of organisations) as the most pressing challenges facing their communities both during and after lockdown.
  • 2.2. million adults (age 16+) in Scotland volunteered during March – June 2020 to help in ‘befriending or keeping in touch with someone who is at risk of being lonely’.
  • This was the most important category of volunteering during lockdown, involving 68% of all volunteers in Scotland.
  • Volunteer befriending is more inclusive which confers benefits not just for the befriendees but also for the befrienders and the communities within which they live:
    • There is a higher proportion of volunteer befrienders in the 20% most deprived communities of Scotland than in the 80% less deprived
    • There is a higher proportion of volunteer befrienders with long-term health conditions compared to volunteers generally; and we know that volunteers can derive important health and wellbeing benefits from volunteering.

Related downloads and research