Dave Thomas, Volunteering Development Officer at NCVS, writes...
Here at NCVS, we are passionate about volunteering and we constantly promote the benefits of volunteering. When we see that support workers are also suggesting volunteering to the people that they are supporting, we get really excited.
So if you have a support worker or if you are a support worker, you may be interested to know more about how the Volunteer Centre at NCVS can help you. I would be very interested to have feedback from Leaders of Volunteers as well.
We recognise that anyone who has a support worker is often facing one or more barriers. There is excellent evidence from research as well as from our experience that volunteering can help to provide ways to overcome those barriers.
We identify five of those benefits on our website.
- For people with mental health issues, volunteering can help to build confidence and self-esteem
- For people who are being supported to overcome isolation, volunteering can be a way to be involved in the local community
- For people with physical health problems, volunteering can improve both health and well being
- For people looking for a job, or a change of career, volunteering can give a chance to develop new skills
- But for everyone, volunteering should be something that is enjoyable and fun
We are also very clear that volunteering is voluntary and we hope that support workers and advisers will reinforce this with the people they are supporting.
NCVS policy towards volunteering is to put the volunteer at the centre. However, we also recognise that it is a two-way relationship between the volunteer and the organisation or cause to which they are offering their time.
Very few, if any, organisations exist solely to provide experience and support to volunteers. They exist to meet the aims and objectives for which they were set up. Volunteers are involved in organisations in order to help to deliver those aims and objectives.
So both the volunteer and the organisation need to have something to bring into the relationship. The Volunteer Centre in Sheffield has a good explanation on their website of what organisations want from volunteers.
Identifying volunteering opportunities
The NCVS website has hundreds of volunteering opportunities that are added and updated almost daily. So how does a support worker know which opportunity is the right one for the person that they are supporting?
For over 40 years, NCVS has provided face-to-face advice sessions where people, with and without support workers, can be guided through our opportunity database. Unfortunately, these had to stop in March when coronavirus arrived.
However, just as lockdown started, we launched our new NCVS website which gives public access to anyone wishing to search our volunteering database. Since then, almost all volunteering enquiries have been online. Individuals are able to register with the site to express interest in volunteer roles through a self-serve process.
We are very well aware that this doesn't suit all circumstances and not everyone has access to a computer or to the internet. This applies to many of the people with a support worker. So we can offer an alternative service.
What to do when online registration isn't appropriate
In developing the new NCVS website, we expected individual volunteers to register online using their own unique email address. We have, however, had a small number of registrations by support workers on the customer’s behalf where the support worker has used their own email address. This means that the email address cannot be used again to create an account for another customer.
If you are a support worker looking to help your customers find opportunities, please note that your best and smoothest way to do this is to contact us by email or phone (details below).
If you are able to, by all means, explore the volunteer database first with your customers, and we encourage you to do so. This will give you a good indication of the opportunities available and which ones interest the person you're supporting. When you phone or email, we can then help refine your search further and provide full contact details for making the next step.
We are all operating in new and flexible ways and partnership work seems to be the way forward. In recent weeks, I have sent opportunities by email to support workers and have even posted a couple of opportunities directly to people being supported.
I am always happy to talk to support workers and advisers about volunteering opportunities for the people you are supporting. Please get in touch by email firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07564 040767.