Public responses to volunteer community care: Propositions for old age and end of life

Alan Tapp*, Clive Nancarrow, Yvette Morey, Stella Warren, Nicola Bowtell, Julia Verne

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Background Funding shortages and an ageing population have increased pressures on state or insurance funded end of life care for older people. Across the world, policy debate has arisen about the potential role volunteers can play, working alongside health and social care professionals in the community to support and care for the ageing and dying. Aims The authors examined self-reported levels of care for the elderly by the public in England, and public opinions of community volunteering concepts to care for the elderly at the end of life. In particular, claimed willingness to help and to be helped by local people was surveyed. Methods A sample of 3,590 adults in England aged 45 or more from an online access panel responded to a questionnaire in late 2017. The survey data was weighted to be representative of the population within this age band. Key literature and formative qualitative research informed the design of the survey questionnaire, which was further refined after piloting. Results Preferences for different models of community volunteering were elicited. There was a preference for ‘formal’ models with increased wariness of ‘informal’ features. Whilst 32% of adults said they ‘might join’ depending on whom the group helped, unsurprisingly more personal and demanding types of help significantly reduced the claimed willingness to help. Finally, willingness to help (or be helped) by local community carers or volunteers was regarded as less attractive than care being provided by personal family, close friends or indeed health and care professionals. Conclusion Findings suggest that if community volunteering to care for elderly people at the end of life in England is to expand it may require considerable attention to the model including training for volunteers and protections for patients and volunteers as well as public education and promotion. Currently, in England, there is a clear preference for non-medical care to be delivered by close family or social care professionals, with volunteer community care regarded only as a back-up option.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0218597
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    This work was supported from Public Health England ( organisations/public-health-England) to AT. The funder JV (Public Health England) was involved in discussing initial project aims and research objectives. She was not involved in study design, data collection or analysis. She was party to the decision to publish. She was not involved in manuscript creation but has read the manuscript and is happy to be a co-author. The funder is privately acknowledged to the editors.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2019 Tapp et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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