A North Somerset charity saw a 29 per cent increase in new volunteers who signed up to help local causes last year.

Voluntary Action North Somerset (VANS) provides support to more than 800 charities and 2,000 community activities in the area.

The charity supports the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector by helping with best practice, training and guidance; and providing volunteers and services.

Last year, around 47,000 people volunteered in some way across North Somerset.

Weston Mercury: Breastfeeding peer support volunteers based at the For All Healthy Living Centre.Breastfeeding peer support volunteers based at the For All Healthy Living Centre. (Image: VANS)

One of the reasons for the big increase in volunteering was the pandemic, which bosses say has had a huge impact on the sector.

VANS chief executive Paul Lucock said: “This is the biggest transformation that’s happened in the voluntary sector. It’s happened at a community, granular level and it’s about people supporting their neighbours.

“It’s just been so natural but happened at pace without bureaucracy or the need for huge funding pots.

“We’ve been involved with the local authority creating North Somerset Together. We provide that infrastructure support to those groups.

"Our role is to make sure those groups are able to develop and continue to support volunteers in the community.

"Having a network of providers has given people one place to go."

VANS was awarded £74,000 from the Big Lottery Covid fund which helped it to cover a lot of its charity costs.

The money has also funded the expansion of The Reclaim Project, which delivers counselling to victims of domestic abuse.

It has also provided money to Bridging The Gap Together, so it could offer more support to families of children with autism during the pandemic.

VANS’ mission this year is to improve the infrastructure support it offers to the sector; and to enable organisations to have a stronger voice to ensure the needs of North Somerset are met.

The charity, which is based in Oldmixon Crescent, is also looking for a town centre base to enable it to raise awareness of the vital services it offers and to attract more volunteers.

Mr Lucock added: “Our vision is that every person in North Somerset has an opportunity to access some form of volunteering, to benefit their health and wellbeing and benefit the community.

"Our aspiration is to develop community resilience.”