A BLACKBURN 55-year-old whose reaction to the coronavirus was to find out what he could to help is proof of a new academic finding that local people are more likely to volunteer.

The University of Kent study shows that residents of boroughs which took part in the government's s Integrated Communities Strategy are almost twice as likely to come forward to assist others or the community than those which did not.

It reveals during the Covid-19 pandemic people in Blackburn with Darwen have been 90 per cent more likely to volunteer than those from most other areas.

Student safeguarding and welfare officer Neil Colquhoun started volunteering in March after seeing an appeal for telephone befrienders to support people isolated during the first lockdown.

He said: “Watching the news as the pandemic hit in the UK, I felt helpless. I knew I needed to step up and do something to support people thorough this horrible time.

“Since March I’ve made weekly phone calls to a man called Dennis who was shielding at home and found it very isolating. I have felt better through the pandemic knowing that I’m doing something to help.”

Earlier this year, Mr Colquhoun started as a volunteer marshal at local vaccination centres.

He said: "I wanted to be a part of the vaccination roll-out as, for me, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic.

“I also want to be able to look back on this period and know that I tried to make a difference.

“Volunteering is a win-win – someone benefits from a volunteer’s time, and the volunteer gets so much out of it too.”

The research released has been welcomed by borough council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan who said: "We have an excellent track record in leading programmes that bring people of different ages, backgrounds and cultures together It’s fantastic to know that this work is sowing the seeds for a more optimistic future for our borough.”

Blackburn with Darwen was one of five boroughs to take part in the government project.

* The study ' Beyond Us and Them' was conducted by the University of Kent and Belong - The Cohesion and Integration Network.