WCVA and Wales TUC have released for consultation a draft charter for clarifying and strengthening relations between paid workers and volunteers. Fiona Liddell explains why.
How often do you leave a meeting feeling energized, optimistic and surprised at the pace of positive developments?
I did, after a recent meeting in which Wales TUC and WCVA brought together a few representatives of trade unions and volunteer involving organisations to discuss the text of a revised version of the WCVA Wales TUC Charter.
Why a revised charter?
Since the original charter, published in 2011, our legislative and policy context has changed significantly in Wales.
There is new emphasis on citizen centred services, collaboration between partner organisations and striving towards more joined up, integrated public services.
There is every encouragement to re-imagine local service provision in ways that enable care to be accessed closer to individuals’ home and on the basis of ‘what matters most’ to the individual.
This is an opportune time to be considering afresh where and how volunteers come into the mix.
Where could they enable more joined up, speedy or more person centred care, for example, and where could they enable professional staff to spend more time doing what only they can do?
With the opportunities come risks and pitfalls too. This is where a charter can be helpful, by setting out positive principles of good practice with due regard for patient safety, volunteer and staff wellbeing and the importance of harmonious relationships.
What is different?
Apart from changes in context and choice of language, the main difference is that the charter principles are presented under three overarching principles.
Arguably if you get these right, the rest falls into place! Here, then, are the big three, with an indication of the content relating to each. For the full version see here.
Core principle One: Volunteering is strategically planned, not a response to a crisis
Strategically planned means being strategically resourced, with investment in leadership as well as operational resources for volunteering.
It means volunteer roles are discussed and agreed by relevant stakeholders, assessed for risk and with appropriate and proportionate measures in place.
Core principle Two: Volunteers provide additional capacity to benefit service users and paid workers
The principle that volunteering is additional to and not a displacement of paid work is fundamental to harmonious relationships in the context of our statutory public services.
(In the case of volunteer led organisations, however, such as St John Cymru, Samaritans or RNLI, volunteers do provide core services. Either way, an organisation’s volunteering policy should make clear the relationship between volunteering and the organisation’s core mission).
Under this principle we affirm respect for professional standards and codes of conduct and the need for volunteers to be clearly identifiable, by uniform or badge.
Core principle Three: Volunteering follows recognised best practice
The need for involvement of volunteers, staff and trade unions in developing and reviewing policies and procedures is flagged up here, as is good practice in relation to training, support and supervision, managing boundaries and expectations, handling difficulties and complaints, safety and equality.
Recognised best practice in relation to volunteering is spelt out further in the Investing in Volunteers Quality standard (which is currently being reviewed and revised).
Members of the Volunteering Wales Network were involved in early discussions about revising the 2011 charter and a small group worked on a draft which was sent to Wales TUC.
Thoughtful feedback was received from Unison, GMB and the Royal College of Nursing, which was incorporated into a subsequent draft for face to face discussion.
Nisreen Mansour, Policy Officer at Wales TUC said ‘It feels timely and important to refresh the charter while we’re also working to strengthen the social partnership model with Welsh Government and employers.
‘Importantly, the principles ensure that paid staff are not being displaced by volunteers and that volunteering is planned with the input of employers and unions.
‘We know how important volunteering is – our movement was founded by volunteers – and the charter is a proactive way of developing positive relationships between staff and volunteers in the workplace.’
Ruth Marks, Chief Executive Officer WCVA has welcomed the development saying ‘Volunteering – giving your time to things that you care about – happens every day in every community across Wales.
‘Being able to promote volunteering in partnership with Wales TUC is a really important development.
‘Working together strategically, in a planned way, we can highlight best practice and the added value that volunteers bring.’
Get in touch
It is our intention to produce an accompanying FAQ document so if there are questions that you would like to see answered let us know.
We will meet again with our union colleagues in November to review the feedback we have had from our respective membership networks and to agree a final version.
We anticipate a launch of the new charter in December.
Fiona Liddell is Helpforce Manager at WCVA. 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.