The St Vincent de Paul Society’s 10,000 strong army of volunteers have been recognised by Prime Minister David Cameron with a Big Society Award after giving over a million hours of voluntary work a year to support vulnerable people across England and Wales.
The St Vincent de Paul Society, an international Christian voluntary organisation active in England and Wales since 1844 and dedicated to tackling disadvantage and loneliness, trains its volunteers to provide practical assistance to those in need, irrespective of faith, age or gender.
In 2012/13 St Vincent de Paul volunteers made over half a million visits to individuals and families including the housebound, elderly, and homeless; travellers, refugees, asylum seekers and people with mental health problems – visiting and befriending them in their homes, in hospitals, and care and residential homes. The volunteers are community-based, each belong to one of over 1,000 locally organised groups spread across the country. The Society specialises in ensuring practical and emotional support is available by providing a range of services including hostels for homeless people, community transport for the elderly, debt advice centres and community shops.
Volunteers also play a vital role in the St Vincent de Paul Society programmes for young people. 65 youth groups are run for over a thousand 11-18 year olds, and young adults Societies operate in over 20 universities and colleges. The programmes encourage volunteering and community awareness in young people.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The St Vincent de Paul Society turns concern into action. The society’s incredible number of volunteers build on a 200 year history of lending a practical hand to support those in need.
“I’m delighted to recognise all 10,000 St Vincent de Paul volunteers, and the staff who support them to do their vital work, with this Big Society Award.”
Adrian Abel, National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society, said "It is so appropriate that this award has come in the bicentenary year of our founder's birth. The award recognises the work of our 10,000 volunteers who give around one million hours of voluntary service, by befriending people with needs in our community. The St Vincent de Paul Society provides practical opportunities for people to turn their concern into action, truly a Society with a big heart."