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Volunteering: Vital to our future

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Volunteering front page and case study images

Hospice and palliative sector organisations are being encouraged to enable more volunteers to work in care-related roles, to help enhance and expand the vital support they offer children and adults with life-limiting conditions.

Leading UK palliative care charities, Together for Short Lives and Help the Hospices, are calling on the sector to make changes to the way it deploys volunteers. Both organisations recognise that although thousands of volunteers currently provide a valuable contribution to the work of hospices, there is more to be done to recognise the innovative ways in which they can add value across the hospice and palliative care sector.

Extending the role of volunteers will also help strengthen the sector’s capacity and resilience, helping it to meet the challenges of increasing demand for its services.

With appropriate training and supervision, the role of volunteers can be extended to include, for example, community-based ‘hospice neighbours’ and volunteer support for health care assistants.

The call comes as part of the national awareness raising campaign, Volunteers’ Week, running 1-7 June, to help raise the profile of the phenomenal contribution that volunteers make on a daily basis as well as to take a new look at their potential for the palliative care sector.

The charities today (2 June) launch a new resource called, ‘Volunteering: Vital to our future’, designed to support organisations in the sector to develop their work with volunteers. The guide is endorsed by volunteering champions, NCVO. It explores the role volunteers can play in enhancing and improving the care and support offered to children and adults with palliative care needs, as well as their families. It also provides a wealth of case studies, as well as practical tools and templates to help review existing services or to develop new ones.

Richard Carling, volunteer lead for Together for Short Lives said:

“Volunteers are absolutely integral to the running and success of a wide range of organisations and the palliative care sector is no exception. Together for Short Lives is committed to helping the children’s palliative care sector to deliver sustainable and cost effective services. Volunteers can be a vital part of this workforce, but are a largely untapped resource in delivering care to children and families. We need to ensure that the sector can continue to deliver the best support for children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions in the future, in spite of the uncertain economic climate.

“I am delighted that this new resource encourages services to take a fresh look at working with volunteers to maximise their potential in a way that benefits the volunteers themselves, services and the families they support.”

The resource proposes that organisations should review the role and scope of their volunteering, recognising that volunteers can contribute to the practical, social and spiritual needs of those cared for and that their flexibility is an advantage in providing individualised care and support, in co-operation with paid staff.

Heather Richardson, National Clinical Lead who leads on volunteering at the national hospice charity Help the Hospices, added:

“Volunteers were central to UK hospices when they were first established more than 40 years ago and are set to play an even more important role in their future.

“With the right processes related to recruitment, training and support of volunteers, there is tremendous potential for expanding the contribution of volunteers in direct care and help to people who are dying or facing loss. Many hospices are already using volunteers in this way, for example through community-based initiatives and innovative partnerships with their local hospital.

“This volunteering resource will provide highly useful guidance, as well  as some practical tools for hospices and help them to refresh the role of volunteers in the future for the wider benefit of terminally ill people and their families.”

“This volunteering resource will provide highly useful guidance, as well as some practical tools for hospices and help them to refresh the role of volunteers in the future for the wider benefit of terminally ill people and their families.”

Heather Richardson, National Clinical Lead, Help The Hospices

One hospice that already offers patient-facing roles for its volunteers as ‘hospice neighbours’, St Nicholas Hospice Care, Bury St Edmunds, tells how “the service has improved the health and wellbeing of terminally ill patients and their families through providing practical support, friendship and reducing carer exhaustionIt has allowed clinical nursing teams to concentrate on more complex medical need and opened volunteering up to a more diverse range of people”.

Another hospice, Douglas Macmillan Hospice, Stoke on Trent, describes the work of volunteers in its community lodges which offer respite and end of life care in a nurse-led unit. The volunteers support healthcare assistants to provide personal care, meals, companionship and support to patients and relatives.

The full resource can be downloaded for free here.

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