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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.