Healthy Help: Enabling people through volunteering

Miranda Thomason

Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Lead

Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations (GAVO)


Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Partner: Community Connections


Background

People are living longer often with complex conditions, social isolation and loneliness. Preventative services are needed to help keep people well and independent. These often involve volunteers who also benefit through improving the wellbeing of others.


Collaboration between Voluntary and Statutory services is essential to ensure that staff and volunteers are competent and confident as they support people with more complex conditions. This approach aligns with the Welsh Government aim for a ‘A Healthier Wales’ which brings health and social care services together to meet the needs and preferences of people, making them fit for the future.

Project Aims


This project presents a model of good practice for involving volunteers in preventative services and a recommendation that the model is invested in to be adopted to benefit more people regionally and nationally. It clarifies the collaboration necessary between statutory Health and Social services and voluntary sector staff and volunteers, to ensure competence and confidence in supporting people with complex conditions.

The Social Services and Wellbeing Act promotes the importance of prevention and early intervention to help people live independently and shares similarities with the principles of Prudent Healthcare. A well-established Voluntary Sector service provides evidence of the benefits of this model. ‘Community Connections’ reduces social isolation and loneliness; skilled coordinators are employed to safely recruit, train and support volunteers, ‘matching’ them to provide company and assistance to others. The service is currently developing to be inclusive for people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

Challenges

By utilising ‘volunteer power’ within services we are increasing sustainability, however, building and taking care of a volunteer workforce is low-cost but not ‘no-cost’.


Skilled volunteer service coordinators are vital to implement safe recruitment, training and on-going support and ensure safe and enjoyable experiences for everyone involved. Volunteers will only engage and stay involved if they are treated well and feel good about what they are doing.


Volunteers can be unreliable so coordinators do have to step in at times to provide support to people if a volunteer cancels at short notice.

Key Outcomes

This model enables: -

  • People to receive appropriate support at the right time.

  • Volunteers to stay well through contribution.

  • Kindness and compassionate communities

  • Social Return on Investment (SROI) ratio 3.8: 1*

*£3.80 returned for every £1 invested.


“It's good to have someone of interest to chat to and discuss and hear another person’s opinion. She does challenge me. It regenerates my brain.”

(Beneficiary)


“Volunteering has brought me emotional warmth.”

(Volunteer)


“Volunteers are the ‘eyes and ears’ of health and social services and can flag up concerns with placement supervisors early to avoid crisis.”

(Coordinator)


“The Community Connections Befriending scheme and the Car Scheme help people stay connected to other people and to the services and activities that are so important to us all. I see first-hand how isolated some people are not just from a location point of view but because of poor mobility, frailty or loneliness. I can see how important the befriending scheme is and how much it is valued by those who use it. The scheme is not simply something that adds value – to many it is vital and without it their quality of life would be much poorer.”

(Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Partnerships Officer)

Next Steps

Monmouthshire Integrated Services are committed to the collaborative approach explained in this project. Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations (GAVO) will continue to work with Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) to support volunteering within preventative services.


As we have learned through COVID, people and communities can be helpful and resilient with a little support from more structured organisations as needed. We will ‘join things up’ between voluntary and statutory services to avoid duplication and will promote this model to be adopted with support from the Public Service Board (PSB), Regional Partnership Board (RPB) and Welsh Government.

My Exemplar Experience

The Bevan Commission is inspiring in its support for innovation. I really appreciate the opportunity and support I have received.

Further Reading


A lack of social connections has been linked to cardiovascular health risks and increased death rates, blood pressure, depression and risk of dementia. Find out more from the Campaign to End Loneliness.

Contact

miranda.thomason@gavo.org.uk

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