Fiona Liddell, Helpforce Cymru Manager at WCVA argues that this is a good time to reappraise the potential of volunteering to achieve positive outcomes for your organisation.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on our public services and at the same time has given rise to a remarkable degree of innovation. Statutory and voluntary sectors have had to find new ways to work together, as well as with large numbers of community volunteers.
In many cases volunteers proved to be the flexible, responsive, and compassionate force without which basic community needs could not have been met. Many of them are keen to continue volunteering after the crisis of Covid-19 is over.
These examples illustrate some of the new partnerships and ways of working that have developed in recent months; all of them dependant on volunteers.
- Denbighshire County Voluntary Council (DVSC) worked with the local authority and with local third sector and community organisations to set up and run a volunteer referral scheme
- Flintshire County Council worked closely with Flintshire Local Voluntary Council (FLVC) to recruit and train volunteers who then supported staff to ensure the continued delivery of essential social services through the pandemic
- Carmarthenshire Association of Voluntary Services (CAVS) set up and ran a telephone befriending service at the request of the local authority
- Swansea Council for Voluntary Services (SCVS) worked with local pharmacies and GP clusters to develop a volunteer prescription delivery service
Now, as we cautiously await the possibility of further restrictions, we are at the same time trying to think ahead, reshaping our lives and our organisations for a ‘new normal’.
How do we build on the new interest in volunteering to build greater resilience and more joined up services? How do we maximise the benefits or ‘outcomes’ of volunteering?
Volunteering has multiple benefits to beneficiaries, to volunteers and to organisations, and can align with the aims and ethos of your organisation in different ways.
WCVA and Welsh Government have worked together to produce videos to illustrate some ways in which volunteers are achieving outcomes in health and care. Filmed just before lockdown, they are now ready at last to share publicly:
- See the PIVOT case study and video about how volunteers are supporting patients after hospital discharge in Pembrokeshire.
- see the Hear to Help case study and video about how volunteers in Powys, trained by NHS audiologists, provide support and advice to people in their community about their hearing aids.
Volunteering is known also to achieve positive outcomes for those who volunteer, especially in relation to mental wellbeing and the development of new skills.
It achieves outcomes for organisations too. Helpforce has been gathering evidence from pilot projects about the role that volunteers can play in improving staff morale and productivity as well as patient experience in hospitals.
Volunteers can also help to broaden diversity within organisations and achieve greater equity of services, for example by helping to address language or cultural barriers
We have mapped out some of the different ways in which volunteering supports the aspirations described in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act – the seven wellbeing goals and five ways of working. If we want maximum benefits from volunteering, it means paying due attention to how volunteering is planned and supported, as well as to programmes of volunteer activity.
TAKING THINGS FORWARD
We would urge any public service organisation to think about how the involvement of volunteers can help to achieve better outcomes – for beneficiaries, staff and for volunteers themselves.
Our charter on volunteering and workplace relationships co-produced with Wales TUC, sets out clear principles for successful volunteering involvement in mixed workplaces of staff and volunteers. Volunteering needs to be properly scoped and planned, introduced in consultation with the workforce and supported with the necessary training and supervision. It should be made clear what are the roles of staff and volunteers and the differences between them.
The charter and its use has been commended in a series of video interviews with colleagues in Cardiff and Vale NHS (and also here), Monmouthshire County Council, National Museum of Wales and the National Trust.
Best practice principles for volunteering are defined in the UK quality standard for volunteering: Investing in Volunteers. A new, free self-assessment tool, newly launched, makes a good introduction for organisations which are thinking about achieving the full quality mark.
For practical support in developing volunteer programmes and policies, your local County Voluntary Council will be pleased to help.
Helpforce 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,
The Helpforce page on our website includes links to recent articles, blogs and case studies.