According to the team behind Volunteers’ Week, 16.3 people volunteered in 2020/21 through a club, organisation or group (SOURCE: https://volunteersweek.org/about-volunteers-week/why-is-volunteering-important/). Almost one in five (17%) reported doing so at least once a month.
All of these unpaid hours are worth a huge amount of money to the UK Government and good causes all over the country. They have helped volunteers expand their interests, experience satisfaction in helping others, make new friends and learn valuable skills. Plus, they have helped a great many people, animals and organisations receive support, help and advice that they would otherwise not have been able to access.
Care homes are highly suitable to receive volunteers keen to work with residents and expand their skills in readiness for starting or building up a career in care. There are many jobs that can be done by volunteers, both under the supervision of regular staff and by themselves. Often, residents enjoy seeing new faces, and volunteers generally have more time to spend with them and support extra-curricular activities like music, crafts, day trips and outings.
What else can volunteers help out with?
Alongside leading or joining in music sessions and helping residents take part in arts and crafts, volunteers can support people on day trips, e.g. by helping them in and out of the transport, assisting with mobility and making sure they can access the activities on offer. Other tasks can involve doing a spot of gardening, helping with housekeeping tasks, supporting residents at mealtimes and providing admin support in the manager’s office. They key thing is matching the jobs on offer to the volunteer’s own interests and aspirations. This will help them stay engaged and feel that they are receiving plenty of experience and fulfilment as part of a reciprocal arrangement.
Who can volunteer?
This will, of course, be a decisions for each individual care home and management team to agree on according to their own set-up and needs. However, as a rule, there are no age barriers to helping out in a care home. Younger people (under 16) will normally need to be accompanied by an adult at all times, but they can still add value. They can chat to residents, take part in performances, wash dishes etc. Many young people take part in groups and initiatives that encourage volunteering, such as Scouts, Guides or the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. Adults can also volunteer across a wide range of jobs, as already discussed, including older people if they are fit and able to do so.
How much time will it involve?
As with all care home tasks and activities, arranging volunteers will come with an element of admin and planning required. There will need to be checks on the people being invited to volunteer, for example a DBS check assesses a person’s criminal record to help you decide if they would be suitable to work as a volunteer with vulnerable residents. You may also wish to secure references. Then, there are safety considerations such as risk assessments. However, when a volunteering arrangement works out, the time spent putting it in place is well worth the help and support a good volunteer will provide – and the pleasure their presence can bring to the whole care home community.
What will the residents get out of it?
Normally, residents report the social side of life as being the most important benefit of welcoming volunteers into the care home. Often, they will have more time to chat than regular staff. Volunteers can also bring fresh perspectives into their lives, for example by talking about their regular work, hobbies and interests. Some volunteers like to give talks and presentations about things that interest them, which can spark off interesting conversations and new ideas for future entertainment and activities. Younger volunteers can talk about life as children or teenagers, which are often very different to the younger lives of residents. Conversations like these can be a fascinating method of comparing ways of life across the decades.
How do you find willing (and able) volunteers?
There are many ways to seek out suitable volunteers. Your local community is a great place to start – put up adverts, post opportunities on social media and include details on your website. Ask staff and existing volunteers if they know anyone who is looking for voluntary work. For care-based roles, you might be able to enquire at local schools and colleges, universities and hospitals. Often, students need to arrange practical caring experience as part of their courses, so will be pleased to hear from you. Make sure that you have worked out logistics, such as where, when and how frequently the person will be expected to volunteer, what expenses you can cover for them and what training and supervision you are able to provide in return. Make sure that you have thought about how to cover any accessibility requirements your volunteers may have, as well as how you are going to show commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity.