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Meaningful volunteer involvement in adult social care (ASC): Perspectives from diverse ASC providers, key informants, and evaluation of the NHS and Care Volunteer Responders scheme


Different ways of volunteering in adult social care services exist and opportunities to volunteer are available through both local and national arrangements. In June 2023, the Government launched ‘NHS and Care Volunteer Responders’ (NHSCVR), building on the NHS volunteer scheme set up during the Covid-19 pandemic. The scheme allows potential volunteers to be ‘matched’ with organisations who wish to recruit them. Between June 2023 and March 2024, the scheme allowed referrals from adult social care providers and local authority teams. Many people volunteer in adult social care, by doing things like collecting shopping or medicines, helping with activities, or visiting people who feel lonely. However, other people might like to volunteer but may not know what opportunities are available. Volunteering can benefit volunteers by building skills, confidence, and wellbeing, as well as benefit people who work in and draw on adult social care.


This project aims to evaluate volunteering in adult social care (ASC) within the NHSCVR scheme, and identify what meaningful volunteer involvement is in ASC from the perspectives of key informants.

We aim to answer the following questions:

  1. What can we learn from UK and international work about volunteering in adult social care during and post COVID-19?
  2. What lessons can be learnt about volunteering in ASC from the NHSCVR scheme between June 2023 – March 2024?
  3. What is meaningful volunteer involvement in different types of ASC services?


Mixed methods evaluation in two phases.

Phase 1 and 2:

Scoping review of peer-reviewed and grey literature on volunteering in ASC during the COVID-19 pandemic and onwards, exploring barriers, facilitators, and outcomes of volunteering in ASC. We will review data from the UK in Phase 1 to inform and contextualise the study, and then review the international data in Phase 2.

Phase 1:

Cross-sectional analyses of NHSCVR data from 01.06.23 until 31.01.24, on the characteristics of ASC providers and potential volunteers, ‘matching’ of ASC providers and volunteers, and volunteer roles and activities.

Interviews with stakeholders from ASC and volunteer-involving organisations (n= up to 28), with experience at provider and strategic/national levels, to explore the acceptability and feasibility of the volunteer platform, including impact of the design and implementation of the scheme.

This data will be augmented with interviews with diverse ASC providers and local authority teams who registered with NHSCVR to seek volunteer support during June 2023 - March 2024, and other key informants, to inform a ‘lessons learnt’ piece on ASC in the NHSCVR scheme.

Phase 2:

We will recruit social care providers (including care homes and day centres) with existing volunteering arrangements. Within these, interviews with care managers (up to 10) volunteers (n= up to 20), staff (n= up to 15), service users, and family, friends and advocates (n= up to 15), to identify the facilitators, challenges, and impacts of volunteering arrangements from diverse perspectives

We will host 1-2 roundtable discussions with ASC providers supporting people living in their own homes where volunteering is less established. We will speak to managers and care workers separately (maximum 20 participants in total).

The study is guided by an Advisory Group and Public & Patient Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) Panel. Members in both groups bring personal and professional experience of volunteering and involvement in volunteer-involving organisations, caring, and health and social care. Both groups will meet three times over the 18 months.

Anticipated impact and dissemination

Reports to DHSC (Early insights report, Lessons learnt report, interim and final report to NIHR), journal articles and conference presentations, summary findings in varied formats for ASC providers, voluntary-involving organisations, and other stakeholders.


This is an 18-month study from September 2023 to February 2025.


NIHR Policy Research Programme

Project team

Kalpa Kharicha (PI), Jen Owen, Monica Leverton, Caroline Norrie, Tony Burch (PPI Lead)

Project status: Ongoing