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Framework to ‘hardwire’ volunteering into health and social care

Published: 20/08/21 | Categories: Author: Fiona Liddell

Fiona Liddell, Helpforce Cymru Manager, reports on the launch of a Framework for Volunteering in Health and Social Care.

MINISTER COMMENDS THE FRAMEWORK 

Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services, expressed thanks to all those volunteers who stepped up during the pandemic. In a heartfelt message, which you can listen to here, the minister declared the need to build on the momentum that was gained, developing innovation and improvements across Wales and repositioning the status of volunteering. 

Many poignant examples of volunteering have been seen during the pandemic, which show in practical ways the theory and principles that the government espouses in its programme for health and social care: A Healthier Wales. 

‘Our goal’, the minister said, ‘is to assert volunteering as an integral and valuable aspect of the health and social care workforce of the future, coherently integrating volunteering into the fabric of our health and social care services’. 

She commended the Framework, noting ‘it will have far reaching implications, for WCVA and for all those organisations who embed all the learning’.

A TIMELY RESOURCE 

In introducing the session, which took place during gofod3, the Chair, Ruth Marks, said a national Framework was timely in relation to Welsh Government’s commitment to the integration of health and social care. ‘It is also timely’, she said, ‘since volunteering has never been more in the spotlight than as we come out of the Covid response.’ 

‘We need to ensure that volunteering is hard-wired into our ways of working going forward, across care in the community, in care settings and hospitals and affecting people of all ages.’

HOLD THE GAINS 

The Framework was developed by Helpforce Cymru, Bevan Commission, Social Care Wales and Richard Newton Consulting, funded by a Welsh Government Coronavirus Recovery Grant for volunteering. It is the result of an iterative process involving focus groups with 169 people from 89 organisations, survey responses from 107 individuals and one to one conversations with key influencers, all of which have shaped the content and the format of the resource. 

Fran Targett, Chair of Helpforce Cymru, explained why it is needed. ‘Volunteering has always been important in our health and social care sectors. During Covid there were fast changes to ways of delivery, new services developed and additional support given to people who need it – and a real feeling of communities pulling together. We saw private and public sectors engaging differently around volunteering, with more co-production and less bureaucracy.

‘We saw the need to hold on to those gains and changes, into the post pandemic recovery’.

HOW THE FRAMEWORK CAN HELP 

The Framework is an online, interactive and accessible pdf resource which addresses six core questions around volunteering. It looks at each question from four different perspectives: commissioners and planners, delivery organisations, community groups and infrastructure/membership organisations.

There are links in the document to reports, best practice resources and articles which give more detailed information on specific issues and to video case studies which illustrate how volunteering takes place in different contexts. 

‘It doesn’t provide answers, as these need to be context specific’ explained Fran Targett ‘but it does encourage fresh thinking about how volunteering supports and enhances health and social care services. 

‘We hope it will help to integrate volunteering into service planning processes. There needs to be more consistent consideration, for example, of the unique value of involving volunteers and of the costs of delivering and supporting voluntary efforts.’

A COMPLEX ECOLOGY 

Richard Newton, project delivery partner, described the ‘complex ecology’ of volunteering and noted some of the challenges voiced by those taking part in the project.

‘The reach of volunteering is wider than most people realise’ he said. ‘On the one hand we have hyper local, place-based community responses by people who may not recognise themselves as volunteers. At the other are commissioned services and volunteering programmes which complement or enhance public services. Volunteering may be organised at a UK wide level, or very locally. We wanted to represent all of this in the Framework.

CHALLENGE AND IMPROVEMENT 

‘Matching the supply and demand of volunteers during the pandemic was a challenge, especially following the call-out from Westminster government.’ Richard Newton reported.

‘There were frustrations too’ he said, ‘from organisations, both large and small, who were unable to engage with statutory bodies, to be able to play their part in the Covid response.’ 

‘Our conversations raised questions about impact and resourcing – how to measure the value of volunteering and how to represent it in discussions about planning. Do commissioners see volunteering as an essential and distinctive part of the mix?’ 

The Framework includes a self assessment matrix, in which organisations can award their own score on a scale of 1 – 5 and can complete an action plan for their own organisation’s improvement. The highest score would reflect a situation where volunteering is recognised, long term and appropriately resourced. 

‘Some structural changes in policy and legislation would be necessary in order for the highest scores to be achieved’ said Richard Newton. ‘and these are the basis of the recommendations in our project report. They will require some collective momentum and lobbying’.

WORKING TOGETHER 

In responding to the Framework, Sue Evans, Chief Executive Social Care Wales, praised what she described as a ‘co-productive endeavour’. ‘Covid has identified how we need each other to survive well.’ she said. ‘This Framework will help us enormously. 

‘We need to see where we can make some short cuts, where we can adopt best practice; to stop reinventing the wheel and to use our collective efforts to help us get their quicker. The mutual benefits of volunteering – to the volunteer and to  those receiving the support of volunteers –  will help us on the way to Covid recovery much quicker.  Indeed it is a critical element of Covid recovery and community resilience across Wales.’

USE IT AND KEEP IN TOUCH 

A tool is only useful if it is used! So we encourage you to use it, share it and to let us know what happens as a result. I will be pleased to support its use in any way and to hear any feedback or suggestions about how a future version could be improved.

You can email me on fliddell@wcva.cymru. 

The Framework can be found on the Helpforce Cymru webpage.

Helpforce Cymru is working with Third Sector Support Wales (WCVA and 19 CVCs), Welsh Government and other partners to develop the potential of volunteering to support health and social care services in Wales. 

Visit the Helpforce Cymru webpage, or sign up here to receive email updates (choose the option ‘health and care volunteering’).