Number of RSPCA volunteers has doubled since the start of the first national lockdown

This National Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) the RSPCA reveals it has seen a surge in new volunteers since the start of the pandemic.

During what has been a difficult 15 months for all charities, the RSPCA has been incredibly grateful to have doubled its number of volunteers since the start of the first national lockdown. During the last 12 months in particular, there has been an 85% increase in volunteers with the charity currently having more than 16,000 animal lovers donating their time for free to help animals in need.

RSPCA volunteers have continued to be involved in essential animal welfare work during the pandemic and proven to be a lifeline for the charity. However, the increase in new volunteers can also be attributed to the launch of the RSPCA’s Microvolunteering programme. There are 4,800 people taking part in total and this has seen a younger volunteer base than ever before with 66% of volunteers under 35, and 34% under 25-years-old.

John Wilkins, head of volunteering at the RSPCA, said: “We’ve seen a real surge in volunteers since the start of the pandemic which is just incredible to see and a large part of that can be attributed to our digital volunteering. As more people have been spending time at home and were either furloughed or out of work, we have found that lots of people were trying their hand at microvolunteering for the RSPCA.

“This appeals to people who don’t have much time, or find it difficult to physically volunteer at a centre or similar. It’s a modern approach which creates an opportunity for people to donate their time to complete quick digital tasks such as sharing animal welfare messages on social media, undertaking research and helping to promote fundraising events.”

Collectively, they microvolunteers have completed over 12,000 digital tasks to date and have increased the awareness of the charity’s work in improving the welfare of animals in England and Wales.

John added: “During the pandemic, microvolunteering has enabled people who have had to pause their traditional volunteering roles due to government guidance or shielding to carry on supporting the RSPCA. This has not only benefited the charity, but has also helped us to stay in contact with our volunteers and support their wellbeing needs. We are so grateful to every single person that has given up their time to help us – they are making such a difference to animal welfare.”

This National Volunteers’ Week, the RSPCA wants to thank every single volunteer across its centres and branches for their contribution to animal welfare.

Chris Packham, TV presenter and RSPCA ambassador thanked all the charity’s volunteers in a special video. He said: “Volunteers are a great source of inspiration. We simply couldn’t achieve what we do, or would like to, without your assistance. In simple terms – you’re all absolutely great. Thank you!”

Before the lockdown, over 1,300 volunteers gave their time to help the RSPCA in Animal Care roles, from dog walking and cat socialising to equine grooms and wildlife care. The youngest animal care volunteer is 17, whilst the oldest is 101! Many of them continued to volunteer during the pandemic, ensuring animals get the care they need whilst they are in the charity’s care.

More than 100 Wildlife Casualty Volunteers collect sick and injured wildlife in their community and transport them to nearby wildlife centres and vets. In the last 12 months, 550 wild animals and birds have been collected by volunteers.

Over 300 volunteers foster domestic animals and equines, providing them with safe, caring environments whilst waiting to be adopted to a forever home or whilst the RSPCA investigates a case of cruelty. Their roles have been crucial during the pandemic, whilst restrictions made rehoming much more challenging.

Lesley Redfern from Sussex has volunteered for the RSPCA for the last four years but when the pandemic hit, she unfortunately had to put her volunteering on hold as she was extremely busy working in a care home. Early in 2021, she was able to come back and volunteer from home carrying out administrative tasks for the Wildlife Casualty Volunteers. For example, checking they have a driving licence and roadworthy vehicles to collect the animals in need of help.

She said: “I love working with such a lovely bunch of people and knowing that what I am doing has value in helping the RSPCA to carry out its very important work. Like all charities, the RSPCA relies heavily on its volunteers but I like to think we all feel like part of the team whether we are directly involved with the animals they are caring for and protecting, or doing our thing behind the scenes helping to make sure everything keeps running smoothly.

“I say if you support their work and want to help animals, you should not hesitate to get involved. There are so many ways to help – everybody has something to offer and it is so rewarding. I can’t recommend it enough!”

Visit the charity’s website for more information on RSPCA Volunteers’ Week