Changing lives for the better

Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) is charity that works to change lives for the better across Leicester and Leicestershire.

This year we held our first ever VALLs (Voluntary Awards for Leicester and Leicestershire) with tremendous support and sponsorship from Dr Nik Kotecha, Director of Morningside Pharmaceuticals. The awards formed part of our campaign to open up local voluntary effort to local businesses – raising awareness of the incredible strength and depth of community effort across the city and the county.

We also opened up new horizons for our VALUES clients though the Sandwich Station at the front of VAL building. This offers experience in retail, customer service, and food preparation for people with a Learning Disability, extending our approach that is to integrate everyone into the community as far as possible.

Our Building Better Opportunities projects continued to perform strongly reaching participant targets and being very successful in getting people into work.

Kevan LilesKevan Liles

Chief Executive Officer

This is the hardest Annual Review introduction I have written in all my years at VAL. For 49 weeks of the last financial year our delivery was operating as usual – and as you will see from this review we had some amazing achievements. Then in March 2020 everything changed for us, our families, our stakeholders and our service users.

We began to prepare for the inevitable on 12 March, preparing staff and resources to deliver services remotely. By the time of the UK lockdown announcement of 23 March, all of our services were run by staff based at home and within 24 hours our building was closed.

We quickly established ourselves as a key partner for the County and City Councils to support local volunteers and voluntary groups and began remote support for service users on our YES and GREAT projects as well as for our VALUES clients. I am immensely proud of our staff’s ability to adapt to the new reality and ensure we continued to support some of the most vulnerable in our communities.

As I write this at my kitchen table I have no better idea than anyone what the ‘new normal’ will look or feel like. The current crisis though will surely teach us all of the value of community, looking after and supporting the most vulnerable, and the enriching and life-affirming delight that is volunteering.

Stay safe all.

Supporting the local voluntary sector

VAL's Voluntary Sector Support team provides training, resources and support for voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations across Leicester and Leicestershire.

Volunteers during COVID-19

A volunteer loading her car while volunteering during COVID-19

As part of the combined response to the Coronavirus pandemic, VAL worked with Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council to create a bank of volunteers to help local communities.

Over 2,400 people signed up to be a part of the volunteer bank, and to date VAL has placed over 1,000 people with local VCSE organisations.

Read volunteer stories

Quotes from COVID-19 Volunteers

I have found this whole experience very eye opening and interesting. It’s been great to be able to give something back to the community using the skills I have developed throughout my creative career.”
Mark, volunteering for #ME
I am really enjoying the whole experience and have witnessed our community come together during the crisis... I have met new people, made new friends and seen people I perhaps already knew in passing in a new light.
John, COVID-19 volunteer
I wanted to be a volunteer to try to help people in the community that were isolated in their own homes or felt lonely... It is very rewarding to help and give back to a person in their time of need.
Elaine, COVID-19 volunteer

The support we've provided to the voluntary sector

The Leicester and Leicestershire Voluntary and Community Sector is large and diverse.


Hours of support for groups


Groups supported


Funding for 28 groups


Volunteering enquiries converted (14.% national average)


People from 450 groups attended a VAL event


Individuals trained

VAL Awards

In November 2019 we held our inaugural voluntary awards night for the voluntary sector in Leicester and Leicestershire. The awards were created to celebrate some of the amazing organisations and individuals who do so much work to support local communities. Huge thanks to our headline sponsor Morningside Pharmaceuticals, our award sponsors, and to Rupal Rajani for hosting.

City Charity of the Year

The Bridge Homelessness to Hope (winner)

City Small Charity of the Year

Sound Café Leicester (winner)

County Charity of the Year

Bodie Hodges Foundation (winner)

County Small Charity of the Year

The Well (winner)

Trustee of the Year

Linda Jones

Volunteer-Led Organisation of the Year

Sponsored by Zinthiya Trust) Woodhouse & Woodhouse Eaves Good Neighbour Scheme (winner)

Volunteer of the Year

(Sponsored by Dluxe Magazine) Emma Hallam (winner) Adrian Key (special recommendation)

Social Enterprise of the Year

(Sponsored by East Midlands Chamber)
Dear Albert (winner)

Voluntary Sector Ally of the Year

(Sponsored by Business 2 Business) Caterpillar UK Limited (winner)

Overall Charity of the Year

Woodhouse and Woodhouse Eaves Good Neighbourhood Scheme (winner)

Lifetime Achievement Award (Sponsored by Voluntary Action LeicesterShire)

Rick Moore (winner)


The Work.Live.Leicestershire (WiLL) programme helps people who are economically inactive or unemployed who are living in rural Leicestershire to move into job search, training, or employment. The project is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

The WiLL project has achieved...


Sign ups






Participants into volunteering


Participants into training


Participant into job search

Ling's story

Working in textiles for many years, Ling was offered voluntary redundancy, she felt it could be a positive new start for her. Ling turned to volunteering to find new opportunities.

Since then her first-hand experience and enthusiasm has resulted in paid employment joining the Work. Live. Leicestershire team at VAL as a Project Advisor.

Read Ling's story

Getting families into work and training

The Getting Ready for Employment and Training (GREAT) Project is designed to give members of families, who are not currently employed, the support they need to find work or training opportunities. The project is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

Over the 2019/2020 financial year, we’ve helped



participants in total


participants find employment


participants find education or training opportunities


of participants who left the project saw an increase in their confidence


of participants left with employability skills



of participants who left the project saw an improvement in their relationships

Behind Every GREAT Man

Young man standing in a field looking at camera

The ‘Behind Every GREAT Man’ was an extension of a previous initiative to help the project sign up more male participants.

The project has not only seen the number of male participants rise from a quarter of the total to a third, but we now offer male-only support groups which which have successfully helped many male participants actively engage more with the activities on offer.

Find out more Watch video

Sukhwinder’s Story

Before joining the GREAT Project, Sukhwinder faced multiple barriers to work, including anxiety, mental health issues, a disability and lack of skills, all of which were preventing him from finding his first job. So when his local job centre referred him to the GREAT Project, he was happy to sign up.

Read Sukhwinder’s story

What participants say about the GREAT Project

I felt motivated to look for work myself, after my CV was completed I felt like the old me again.
It’s given me more confidence to believe in what I need to do. My children also think I’m more confident, my oldest daughter has picked up on it.
The project has helped me build and gain confidence, has helped me with my anxiety and has helped me develop useful skills in searching and applying for work.

Loughborough male group

In conjunction with the #BehindEveryGREATMan campaign, six interactive sessions were designed to help participants build up employability skills. Feedback about attending a programme with other male participants was positive, and the attendees found it easier to work and talk to others in the same situation.

Supporting young people into work and education

The Youth Employability Support (YES) Project supports local young people to overcome challenges and barriers that have prevented them from finding a job or seeking further education. The project is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

In 2019 we helped 165 young people


find enough confidence to start job searching independently


find education or training opportunities


find employment


of young people left with improved confidence


of young people left with employability skills


of young people saw an improvement in their relationships at home

The 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards

In August, the YES Project entered The 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards, awards that celebrate the amazing achievements of extraordinary people alongside lottery funded projects.

The YES Project was nominated for the Community and Charity award, and is proud to have placed as a finalist for this category.

Read more

Case study: Lynette

Lynette, a 24 year old young adult, was unemployed at the time of joining the YES Project, and had goals she wanted to achieve. Lynette felt that to achieve those goals, she needed some support to help her find employment.

Read Lynette's story

What young people say about the YES Project

Being on the YES Project has allowed me to overcome things that I never would have done before. It has given me the courage and confidence to face difficult situations. It’s a really supportive project that allows for lots of opportunities.
The YES Project helped me open the doors and reach my potential. The skills, tools and confidence were there but it would have taken a lot longer without the YES Project.
I’ve always had a strong disbelief in myself and it’s been amazing to hear time and time again that I’m continuing to improve. I found that being in a supportive environment has helped me to retain information and face my fears.

#ReRouting Futures

Something else the YES Project is exceptionally proud of this year, was the event held in February 2020. A New Direction; #ReRouting Futures saw the project invite stakeholders from across the county, and from different organisations, including businesses, charities, local authority and Trusts, to a venue in the heart of Leicester.

Read more

Learning disability support

The VALUES project helps people with learning disabilities to have fun, make friends and learn new skills through a huge range of group activities.

Keeping VALUES going during COVID-19

Like many other services, VALUES was affected by the pandemic and lockdown. Our team were quick to adapt and were able to start delivering group sessions over Zoom to ensure that clients were still able to interact, see their friends and have fun from home.


Drama Groups

Playing games

Social Group

Thursday Singers

Mencap Round the World Challenge

VALUES was chosen to host the launch of Mencap’s Round the World Challenge, which aims to help people with learning disabilities get involved in physical activities in a safe and supported way. Coaches from Leicester Tigers helped run sessions for rugby, table tennis, archery and basketball, and Tigers player Harry Wells came along to support the day.

Sandwich Station

The Sandwich Station is a training shop, run out of VAL’s building on Newarke Street, where people with learning disabilities can learn workplace skills. All of the sandwiches are made on site and VALUES clients serve customers in the sandwich kiosk every day between 11am and 1pm, selling sandwich meal deals to passers-by.

The shop was opened by Jon Ashworth MP and since opening has sold over 321 sandwiches since October 2019.

This is a fantastic inclusive initiative by the VALUES project, and I truly hope it is a success.  I encourage people to pop into VAL and support the Sandwich Station.

VAL's environmental impact

VAL's Environmental Champions worked throughout the year to reduce our impact on the environment.


1 million

litres of recycled rainwater used to flush toilets



fewer plastic bottles used by switching to glass

Bin bag


fewer single-use plastic bin bags

The Future

Looking forward to the coming year our first priority will be to retain what we currently deliver successfully and to high quality as shown in this review. In addition and where possible we will seek out opportunities to enhance this provision.

Therefore we will:

  1. Seek a continuation of our contracts with the City and County Councils to provide support for local community and voluntary groups and support for volunteering
  2. Maintain our VALUES service for people with learning disabilities, seeking to continue to grow the service steadily by 3% per year
  3. Continue to deliver our Building Better Opportunities projects (GREAT, YES and WiLL projects).
  4. Sustain our building income from office rental

Where possible we will seek to press VAL forward into additional areas such as better working with Health colleagues, working with public sector partners on improving public sector volunteering, and improving our working links with district councils.

Message from our Chair

Linda Jones

Chair of VAL's Trustee Board

The end of this 2019-20 year has been overwhelmed by the Coronavirus pandemic and VAL staff have responded magnificently both by moving our operations to remote/home working and mobilising volunteers and local groups to support our communities. There is still uncertainty about the future in terms of living with the virus and the potential economic impact it has caused.

VAL has had a very successful year and was well positioned to cope with the crisis of the pandemic. We have enhanced our reputation with our support to partners in recent months and the Trustee Board anticipate this year will be equaly notable for VAL.

With thanks to our funders…