Volunteer taking phonecalls

Volunteer passports – do we need them?

Published: 24/03/21 | Categories: Author: Fiona Liddell

The experience of COVID-19 has created an increased appetite for organisations to work more collaboratively. Fiona Liddell, Helpforce Cymru Manager, looks at what we mean by volunteer ‘passports’ and how we may benefit from developing more shared volunteer processes.

VOLUNTEER PASSPORT – WHAT DO WE MEAN?

A passport provides credentials that are verified by one organisation and accepted on trust by another, enabling easier movement from one to the other without the need for duplicating administrative processes.

It can be about verification of volunteer ID, or about DBS status. Or it can be a record of training successfully undertaken, to grant exemption to a volunteer from having to repeat basis topics when they move to a new voluntary position. It can be all of these and more!

It may be simple document kept by the volunteer, or an online confidential profile on a web platform, which can be shared or downloaded as appropriate. More technical options include use of a QR code to access information which is kept securely in cloud-based storage and which is independent of any particular web platform.

In all cases it involves personal information which must be handled in line with data protection principles.

WHY A PASSPORT?

Making it easier for volunteers to move between different settings or organisations has some obvious advantages:

Firstly – supply and demand.  If a high need for volunteers is experienced by one organisation (perhaps as the result of an emergency) and there is ample volunteer capacity elsewhere, the flexibility to be able to involve volunteers where needed with minimal repetition of administrative recruitment and training processes is clearly helpful.

Secondly – volunteer experience. For some, volunteering provides valuable opportunities for gaining practical experience (and for many young people such opportunities have been thwarted by the pandemic).  Spending time with different organisations, in different settings and sectors, affords a much broader insight range of experience.

ITS ALL ABOUT TRUST

There is a need be clear, first of all, what kind of information you would be happy to take on trust and from which organisation(s).

Is it about enabling volunteers to move from one role to another within the same organization, or between similar organisations – such as different Health Boards – or something broader than that?

The broader the purpose, the more important that we have some agreed common standard, which gives meaning to the ‘passport’. For example, what exactly constitutes verifying someone’s ID? Does completion of training in ‘communication’ mean the same thing to your organization as to mine – do we have a common point of reference – whether an informally agreed standard or an independently verified qualification.

A memorandum of understanding (or equivalent agreement) between specific organisations is one way of ensuring that responsibilities in relation to volunteers are shared, adequately covered, and not duplicated.  Negotiating individual agreements, however, can itself be time consuming.

Infrastructure organisations such as CVCs, or other third parties, can play an important role in providing common checking and training services which are trusted by different parties. Not exactly a ‘passport’ but nevertheless it’s a model of shared processes which was widely adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic and which achieves something similar.

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

In response to the recommendations of Danny Kruger MP in his report ‘Levelling up our communities: proposals for a new social covenant’.  various technical options are being explored in England, which could have UK wide implications. We will be keeping in touch with this work.

In Wales, we are exploring the potential of the Volunteering-Wales.net website to enable sharing of information such as ID verification, DBS status and training achievements.  We will also be looking at bringing together in one accessible place, existing standards and relevant resources to support volunteers in health and care.

A FRAMEWORK FOR VOLUNTEERING IN HEALTH AND CARE

WCVA Helpforce Cymru, Bevan Commission, Social Care Wales and Richard Newton Consulting Ltd are co-producing with stakeholders a resource or ‘framework’ to support better integration of volunteering into mainstream health and care provision, post pandemic. The project is funded by the Welsh Government Coronavirus Recovery Grant for Volunteering 2021/21.

‘Shared processes’ was explored with one of the focus groups; that conversation will inform the final project report.

If you would like to be kept in the loop, then please sign up here and choose the option ‘health and care volunteering’.

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. 

The Helpforce Cymru page on our website includes links to recent articles, blogs and case studies.