A coalition of major UK charities is calling on the Chancellor to protect employees and volunteers from the impact of the rising cost of motoring in his upcoming Spring Budget.

Motoring costs in the UK have increased by nearly 40% since 2012, when the rate which is used to reimburse people who use their own car while working or volunteering was last reviewed.

Campaigners say that Jeremy Hunt MP needs to raise the Approved Mileage Allowance Payment (AMAP) from its current level of 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles to defend volunteering from the cost-of-living crisis and protect the NHS from longer waiting times.

More than 1.7 million people are involved in transport-related volunteering across the UK, including Community Transport schemes which help older and disabled people to get to hospital and GP appointments. However, many volunteers will no longer be able to afford to help out as fuel, maintenance and insurance prices increase if they are not fairly compensated. 65% of Community Transport operators are reporting falling volunteer numbers.

 The campaign is led by the Community Transport Association (CTA) and backed by nine other organisations representing over 20 million volunteers, such as the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS). 

The CTA-led coalition has submitted a formal proposal for change to HM Treasury ahead of the Spring Budget on 15 March. It calls for a ‘fair, transparent and regular review’ of the AMAP, which is the maximum level at which an employee or volunteer driver can be reimbursed for driving a personal vehicle without any impact on their tax obligations or benefit entitlements.

It states that ‘volunteers and employees are being left out of pocket’ because of the current AMAP rate, which ‘threatens to make volunteering unaffordable’. It argues that an increase will ‘protect vital charitable services at no cost to the Exchequer’ and avoid the ‘unnecessary red tape’ of self-assessment tax returns for millions of employees and volunteers.

David Kelly, CTA’s Director for Scotland, said: “Inflation is hitting all parts of the voluntary sector hard, including Community Transport. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for local charities and community groups to keep their volunteer drivers and attract new ones.

“Yet, as motoring costs rise, the out-dated AMAP rate remains stuck in 2012. Employees and volunteers who use their own cars have been waiting more than a decade for a fair and transparent review which recognises the real costs of motoring and doesn’t leave them out of pocket.

He added: “We’re calling on the Chancellor to deliver an inflationary uplift to the AMAP rate which will protect the NHS, strengthen communities and help millions of volunteers to continue to do what they love.”

Noeleen Lynch, CTA’s Director for Northern Ireland, said: “We hear from our Community Transport drivers every single day who can’t afford to volunteer as the current AMAP rate doesn’t cover their expenses.

“Failing to review AMAP will increase pressure on our public services, especially the NHS, due to more missed appointments and delayed discharges. We also fear that fewer community-led projects and affordable volunteering opportunities will lead to increased exclusion, isolation and loneliness, especially for older and disabled people.”

She added: “Volunteering should be affordable for everyone, no matter where you live or where you come from. It’s time for Jeremy Hunt to take action.”