Fiona Liddell is the new Helpforce Manager for Wales at WCVA. In this blog, she announces the launch of Helpforce in Wales, and its plan to transform volunteering in and around the NHS.
It is always a good time to celebrate volunteers, but Volunteers’ Week (1 – 7 June each year) is especially a good time; words and gestures of thanks, recognition and appreciation around the whole UK make more of a stir during the Week than we can make on our own.
I want to take the opportunity, this year, to celebrate the contribution of volunteers to health and social care and to mark the launch of Helpforce in Wales.
We have an ageing population and increasing life expectancy which, combined with reduced financial resources, puts the squeeze on public services. Many individuals are primary carers for family members; others contribute more informally to the well being of others through neighbourly acts and by ‘keeping an eye’ on those who are vulnerable.
Increasingly there is scope for people to volunteer within the NHS or community organisations and to contribute in specific ways which make a difference to patients and service users. Hospital transport schemes, befriending and bereavement support, helping out on wards, are just a few of the many kinds of activities done by volunteers. These can be rewarding opportunities for those with life experience and compassion to offer, as well as useful exploration for those considering a career in health and social care.
Helpforce is working to transform volunteering in and around hospital settings. In England it has been funding innovation and developing an evidence base for effective volunteer interventions, for over 2 years now. In Wales, Helpforce (Helplu in Welsh), is just beginning to develop a presence and a programme of work which fits with our own priorities and our context.
A Healthier Wales and our legislative framework (Social Services and Well being (Wales) Act and the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, embed the principles of innovation, partnership and collaboration and the development of services which are based on the principles of co-production and on what matters to patients and service users. We need to find ways of working across traditional boundaries in order to realise our commitment to integrated services. Volunteers are generally well placed to pioneer new approaches and to work in flexible ways.
We need to build on what is already happening, to identify what works well and to gather evidence that can inform strategic decision makers. We want to see volunteers increasingly being recognised for making a real difference to patients and service users and to the effectiveness of service delivery.
We want to develop the tools and the culture to support the growth of volunteering, including appropriate safeguarding and a good understanding with unions and other stakeholders about the appropriate role of volunteers. We want to learn from one another to continuously improve what we are doing and to shout loudly about our success stories.
The role of the Third Sector in health and social care is the topic of a free conference to be held on 23 May at Cardiff City Stadium. At one of the workshops we will explore how pilot or ‘one off’ volunteering projects can be identified, ‘scaled up’ and effectively mainstreamed. This discussion will inform the development of Helpforce work in Wales.
Meanwhile let’s not forget Volunteers’ Week. If you have published stories of volunteers who are active in health and social care, please send me links to these and I will be happy to publicise them during the Week. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @FionaMLiddell.
Fiona Liddell is Helpforce Manager for Wales, based within WCVA. She can be contacted on email@example.com 029 2043 1730