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Making a difference in the pandemic

A person entering a bus carrying food

The COVID-19 pandemic produced truly impressive responses from volunteer groups all over the UK. We realised that many of the groups receiving a QAVS this year would have been at the frontline of these efforts and wanted to say a special thank you. We therefore created a special designation to give extra recognition to any QAVS awardees that also provided impactful support during the pandemic. See all 164 recipients of this award. 

These groups really stepped up to the plate. Some ramped up their usual activity to extraordinary levels in order to meet increased demand. Others made major adaptations or turned their hand to completely new activities to make sure people got the help they needed. We’re grateful to them, and to all the amazing volunteers around the UK who supported their communities in a very challenging situation.  

Oliver Dowden MP, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, expresses his thanks

Read the video transcript

Every year, we come together through the Queen’s Award to celebrate the most outstanding and
inspirational groups of volunteers across the country. Year after year, we hear stories about their
selflessness, their compassion – of their thousands of acts of kindness that help people get through
the day. But after a year like no other, we have some special stories to tell. Faced with a global
pandemic, our volunteer army has stepped up to meet soaring demand, helping the British people
face down an unprecedented crisis. These groups have served as the Home Guard in our battle
against coronavirus – the first line of defence in communities across the country. They have delivered
PPE and collected prescriptions. They have called those self-isolating to combat loneliness and
delivered food parcels. In short, they have matched this pandemic with an epidemic of kindness. So,
in recognition of these extraordinary circumstances, this year the Queen’s Award includes a special
designation for 164 groups who went above and beyond during COVID. Many of those groups have
expanded – like the Sikh community group in Southall who provided some 73,000 meals to those in
need during lockdown. They have adapted – like Mindsong, who set up live singing sessions in care
homes on Zoom. And they have helped those in need in every corner of the UK, from CATCH Leeds
and Crusaders Football Club in Belfast, to Compassionate Inverclyde and Matthew’s House in
Glamorgan. We’re hugely grateful to them, and to all the volunteers up and down the UK who have
worked so hard to see us through the pandemic. When we look back on this crisis in the years to
come, it’ll be their stories that shine through. In extraordinary circumstances, they went to
extraordinary lengths to help others. So congratulations – and thank you on behalf of the entire
nation.

Some more of their stories are described below.

Small Acts of Kindness in Hertfordshire massively expanded their usual support to older members of the community. They partnered with organisations, including the NHS and Council, to provide unprecedented numbers of ‘Warm in Winter’ gift bags, weekly meals for over 70 older people, wellbeing gift bags for discharged mental health hospital patients, along with thousands of activity and gift bags to help older people feel less isolated.

Three people holding small acts of kindness bags

In Argyll, the volunteers of Shopper-Aide’s ‘Phone Buddies’ calls, shopping deliveries and book/jigsaw swaps were a lifeline during the pandemic – and they managed to support a big increase in beneficiaries too.

Man holding a tray of vegetables near a car

The Women’s Inclusive Team in Tower Hamlets, London, pulled out all the stops. At the start of the pandemic, they set up a foodbank that supported nearly 700 people with food parcels, and they launched a community kitchen that delivered daily hot meals to 150 households.

Woman holding a tray of vegetables

In County Antrim, the volunteers of A Safe Space to Be Me not only managed growing demand for their mental health support, but also provided practical help with food, shopping, prescriptions, laptops and financial aid.

Essex Police Special Constables increased their frontline volunteer policing hours to provide extra support during the first months of lockdown and also played a significant role in the collection, assembly and distribution of PPE across the region.

Policeman next to a bike

And finally, many hundreds of blood bike volunteers, including Blood Bikes Wales, increased their deliveries of blood products and test samples significantly, providing essential support to the NHS.

Policeman on a motorbike

The selfless activities of QAVS awardees and thousands of other volunteers around the UK have reminded us that difficult times can bring out the best in humanity. We’ll be telling many more stories like this over the next few weeks on our blogs and social media sites, so do look out for our posts.