Cost of living takes a bite out of volunteers

Hobart Mercury - Written by Tia Ewen
Photo by Chris Kidd

Tasmania’s volunteer sector is feeling the pinch, with economic barriers having a domino effect resulting in volunteer shortages, higher expenses and increased demand.

Meals on Wheels Tasmania (MOWT) is losing more volunteers than it has recruited, with a total of 848 volunteers exiting since July 2019. “We have put on 614 new volunteers, but people’s capacity has changed,” general manager Kristy Blazey said. “There’s that barrier with the cost of living and both members of the household having to work.

“Once upon a time, people retired, perhaps at the age of 63, and they came and volunteered, and we’re not seeing that as much anymore.” Now, the Tasmanian organisation has about 750 volunteers on its books. “That’s been a massive decrease. About 10 years ago we had about 1500,” Ms Blazey said. “We’re losing more volunteers than we are getting them back on. We’re in desperate need of more volunteers.” On top of that, MOWT has about 21,000 hours per year, so that’s pretty astronomical,” she said. “If you looked at around $32 an hour, it equates to somewhere around $700,000 that those volunteers assist us with every year. “That’s a big gap to fill. We’re already not funded enough for the amount of meals we deliver. But we’d need to look at funding opportunities and alternative delivery options.”

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