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February 2023

‘You’re wondering now what to do’ …volunteering and safeguarding

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes 20 seconds

I was (and still am) a big fan of 2-Tone. The Specials were my band. So, I was excited to get the chance to visit the 2-Tone museum in January, before the Norwich City FC away game at Coventry City (it was a great win for the mighty NCFC). Although it’s a small museum it’s packed with stuff and run entirely by very knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers. Without those volunteers this important part of our musical history would, I am sure, have been lost. 2-Tone is a genre of British popular music of the late 1970s and early 1980s that fused traditional Jamaican ska music with elements of punk rock and new wave music. Its name derives from 2 Tone Records, a record label founded in 1979 by Jerry Dammers of The Specials.

On the journey home I was thinking about those volunteers I had met earlier in the day. Whether it is helping to preserve part of our musical heritage or working in all sorts of different ways, including as part of services or support to adults at risk of abuse and harm, volunteers play a critical role in our communities.

Some people volunteer throughout their life, others after they retire. They volunteer for a whole host of reasons. Wanting to give something back or positive support to their communities is a strong motivator for many. For example, see Great Yarmouth Samaritans share their volunteering pride (EDP 28th December 2022). As part of its Christmas appeal the Guardian newspaper supported Citizens Advice Service and spoke to three volunteers about why they do it and how they make a difference. Again, it echoes the notion of giving back, contributing to the kind of community and world you want to live in.

The Volunteering and Charitable Giving - Community Life Survey 2020/21 found that 30% of respondents reported took part in formal volunteering at least once in the last year (approximately 14 million people in England).

In Norfolk our volunteering benefits from a well organised infrastructure, maximising the positive impact across our communities. For example, through initiatives such as Connecting Communities (which brings together key organisations like Voluntary Norfolk, Community Action Norfolk, Norfolk Community Foundation and Norfolk Community Advice Network)

At present we have just over 1,000 NHS volunteers active in Norfolk and Waveney, involved in a huge variety of roles supporting patients and staff. They provide companionship on the wards, collect and transport prescriptions within the acute hospitals and meet patients at home following discharge.

NHS volunteers also play a vital role improving patient experience, offering unhurried time to listen and talk. As Andrew Bailey, a Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) volunteer, says:

“I believe that volunteers are the eyes and ears of the QEH…I like to help anyone visiting the QEH in any way I can to make their experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible. Sometimes this is by simply being a friendly face, giving directions or assisting someone less able-bodied by providing a wheelchair and ensuring they get safely to their appointment”

This privileged position comes with responsibility. The communication between volunteers and those they are supporting may lead to safeguarding disclosures being made. Discussions about safeguarding adults is a part of any role, paid or voluntary.

It is everyday business.

What is important is to make it proportionate to the role. For a voluntary role it is about being aware of what is said and what you might see. It is awareness that is all important. Volunteers may see or hear something about a person being abused, neglected or exploited which others may not. As a volunteer it is important you know what to do if you have a safeguarding question or concern, to know how to respond in such a situation.

For example NHS volunteers undertake safeguarding training each year (as do volunteers in different voluntary roles). For NHS volunteers, Norfolk and Waveney recently launched a standardised volunteer induction programme, developed with the support of current volunteers, which includes safeguarding. This training is designed specifically for volunteers, using case studies similar to those they may encounter in reality.

I always like to use this blog as a call to action. Here are two things you can do to help strengthen how volunteers support safeguarding adults work:

  1. If you have a volunteer role with adults with care and support needs, please take 5 minutes to look at the information on the NSAB website. Take a few moments just to check in with your service’s coordinator, so you know what to do if you see or hear something concerning about abuse or neglect

  2. If you know someone who volunteers with adults with care and support needs, share this blog with them. Next time you see them, ask them about safeguarding adults in their role. Share the link to the NSAB website.

Finally, an ask from Jules Alderson, Workforce Transformation Volunteering Programme Manager, Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board (ICB). Jules is keen to increase the ICB’s offer of rewarding, engaging and useful volunteering experiences for young people aged 16-24 in our area. To help them do this they want to hear from young people with and without previous experience of volunteering.

Please share this link with people you know - the survey is for young people aged between 16-24 and can be accessed here. It will be open until the 28th February.

Thank you

Walter Lloyd-Smith

NSAB Board Manager

Email: [email protected]

PS For any readers of the blog who are Specials fans … I must ask, which is the best Specials track? I am torn between Gangsters and Rat Race! Let me know what yours is.

My thanks to Jules Alderson, Workforce Transformation Volunteering Programme Manager, Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board (ICB), for the extra material for this blog.