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Community 246Insights into community life 

From research by Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

In July 2017, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport published the results of the 2016-17 Community Life Survey. This is a survey of adults (16+) in England that explores levels of community cohesion and engagement.

Here is a snapshot of results:


  • 39% of adults had participated in volunteering at least once a month. 63% of adults had engaged at least once a year.
  • Respondents are more likely to take part in informal volunteering e.g. helping a non-relative (52%) than formal volunteering e.g. helping an organisation (37%) pa.
  • Around a fifth (22%) of adults had taken part in formal volunteering at least once a month and 37% in last 12 months.
  • Levels of volunteering have decreased between 2013-14 and 2016-17, falling from 70% to 63% in annual participation. 
  • Women were more likely to have volunteered than men.
  • Those who were economically inactive were more likely to have engaged in formal volunteering compared to those in employment.

  • 75% of adults said they had given to charity in the four weeks prior to completing the survey. The average amount given was £22.
  • Older age groups and women were more likely to give to charity. 

Civic engagement:
  • 41% said they had undertaken some form of participation e.g. signed petition, attended rally in the last year.
  • 18% said they had engaged in civic consultation in the last year.  
  • 8% had engaged in civic activism.

Community decisions:
  • 27% of adults agreed they could personally influence decisions affecting their local area.
  • However, 58% stated that it was important to be able to influence decisions
  • 51% said they would like to be more involved in decisions made by their local council.

  • 85% of respondents felt that they belonged very or fairly strongly to Britain.
  • 62% felt that they belonged very or fairly strongly to their neighbourhood. 
  • 81% agree that their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. 

  • 78% of adults stated they were satisfied with their local area.
  • Levels of those who are ‘very dissatisfied’ remain at only 2%, consistent with other survey years.

Looking deeper at volunteering:

The top reasons for volunteering were:

  1. To improve things/help people
  2. The cause was really important to me
  3. I had spare time to do it.  

Top barriers to vounteering (varies per age group) were:

  1. I have work commitments (52%)
  2. I do other things with my spare time (35%)
  3. I have to look after children/ the home (26%)
  4. I've never thought about it (17%)
  5. I don't know any groups that need help (12%)

After reading through the survey results, I had several thoughts:

1. Things are not as bad as you may believe from reading the media - there is a lot of satisfaction within the local community, people get along well.

2. People are generous with their time and money when they are able - it backs up the findings of the British Social Attitudes survey - a kind-hearted but not soft-hearted community.

3. There is an opportunity for churches to let people in the community know about volunteering possibilities with the various social actions run by churches. This brings the church into contact with new people.

4. There is a real appetite for deeper engagement in community decisions.

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From research Department of Digital, Culture, Medi, 19/09/2017

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