Volunteering In The Public Services: Health & Social Care

This report recommends some immediate easy wins, such as ensuring that NHS Direct provides links to volunteering opportunities to boost recruitment. But if the Government is really serious about wanting to improve health and social care services through the involvement of volunteers, a much longer term cultural change will be needed. The message needs to be communicated both to statutory providers and to commissioners that volunteers do not present an unnecessary risk and that they can really add value. But that is only true if they are invested in seriously and managed properly. This report lists many ways in which the culture could be changed. I have included recommendations around the implementation of employee volunteering schemes, training and information being available to commissioners and the encouragement of in-house ‘volunteer hubs’. But if all these recommendations are to be taken seriously and driven through, a programme board needs to be established, probably in the Department of Health, to oversee the implementation of the recommendations and to examine further ways of expanding volunteering in health and social care. The increased role of volunteers in the public services has been controversial among some groups. There is a suspicion among trade unions for example, that the only motivation for the increased role of volunteers is cost-cutting and job substitution. This should never be the case. The Government must be clear about that. Instead it is about helping to create services that are people centred. Besides, good management that brings about the best outcomes for volunteers, staff and service-users does not come cheaply – this is not a cost cutting measure.