Volunteers play a vital role in our society, in a myriad of ways and in all types of settings. The hospice and palliative care sector, like many others, benefits from the time freely given by thousands of volunteers each week, and could not achieve all that it does without them. These volunteers complement the work of paid professionals, and are able to increase significantly the scope and reach of the work that these essential services are able to offer.
It is estimated that there are approximately 125,000 volunteers involved in children's palliative care, with an economic value in excess of £112 million. A number of services have indicated that without the contribution of their volunteers their organisations would have to close.
Caring for a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition involves 24-hour care giving and often leaves little room for spending time with siblings or together as a family. Family members can experience stress and isolation and everyday household tasks can become an added pressure. This is where the volunteers can play a valuable role. Their additional support creates the space to focus on what’s important – spending quality time together.
Our 2014 report: Volunteering – Vital to our Future found that families experienced significant benefits from the additional support that volunteers provided, and that volunteers helped to provide access to additional services and can greatly augment the role of paid staff and improve the patients experience of care. The report provides a map for the volunteering journey, and can be used as a guide, one step at a time. For well-established services we hope that the contents will fuel new ideas and thinking and provide tools for the review and development of services. You can find the report, and all our other professional resources on volunteers here.
To further promote the potential of volunteering in the sector, Together for Short Lives is proud to be working in partnerships with services across the country, developing the use of volunteers supporting families with a child with a life shortening condition. A volunteer with one of our partner organisations (Noah’s Ark Children's Hospice) has told us this:
I have been lucky enough to be matched with a Noah’s Ark family as a Home Support Volunteer – helping a sibling with homework. I go for one hour every Saturday afternoon and listen to the sibling read, help with spelling, and we have fun doing all sorts of topic work the school has set - we particularly enjoyed counting all the different bugs in the garden.
I have just started my match so I've only had a few visits so far, but things are going really well. The sibling I work with seems to very much enjoy our time together and always works really hard. We usually have time to play a few games after the homework has been finished, which is fun for both of us.
The parents seem happy to have my help – they have found helping with homework a real struggle in the past and are pleased they don't need to worry about it now. I am really enjoying my time as a Noah’s Ark Home Support Volunteer – it is always good fun. I'm pleased to be able to help the family in this very small way, I find it hugely rewarding and brilliant way to spend a Saturday afternoon!"
To encourage more volunteering in the children's palliative care sector, we are actively working with partners in London, Warwickshire and Bristol to place volunteers in services in these areas. If you could spare some time to help the family of a child with a life-limiting condition and live in one of these areas, then please get in touch by contacting Katrina.
If you're not local to Bristol, London or Warwickshire, but want to find out more about volunteering with a local service then please feel free to get in touch as well – if you give us some details of where you are we can help you find services in your area who might benefit from your help.