International Volunteer Day takes place on Sunday 5 December. The importance of volunteers’ contributions has never been felt more, both nationally and internationally, than over the last two years.
The Coronavirus pandemic put an immense strain on the health and social care, the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector and indeed society in general – including the region covered by the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership. The simple fact is that the NHS would not have been able to achieve what it has without the commitment and support of volunteers.
However, with Covid-19 vaccine boosters now being distributed, and extra restrictions due to the Omicron variant introduced, it is important to look at how our reliance on volunteers affects them and the VCSE sector in general and what that means for enlisting their support next year.
Over the past year, research into voluntary responses to Covid-19 was commissioned by the HCV Partnership as part of national research by the NHS. This study explored the views of volunteers and those who organised voluntary support for patients or referred patients to voluntary support.
Where did these Covid-response volunteers come from? Were we able to access an entirely new pool of volunteers? It seems many volunteers were already volunteers, as shown in our research report.
New volunteers came forward in response to a cause that affected everyone, a national call to action in response to the pandemic, and a furlough scheme that saw 11.7 million employee jobs furloughed giving an unprecedented number of people the time and financial security to volunteer.
VCSE organisations are starting to re-open their services and therefore their voluntary roles but recruiting volunteers has gotten harder and there are still lots of additional roles due to the impact of the pandemic that need support.
As a Volunteer Centre Manager, I have seen the increase of healthcare organisations (NHS and profit-making organisations) relying on charitable organisations and volunteers and it’s important we all commit to ensuring volunteer roles are appropriate.
So, this International Volunteer Day, rather than just making a social media post saying thank you to your volunteers, instead, ask the hard questions: are we following volunteering best-practice and how do we check our volunteers are having a quality experience?
2022 will continue to bring challenges and it is important that we recognise our reliance on volunteers and the positive impact they make.
Like antibiotics, we cannot use voluntary support irresponsibly and unsustainably. We must use voluntary support correctly and only in the correct situations or they may not work for anyone when they are needed in future, and it takes everyone who organises volunteers to commit to that.
This International Volunteer Day make that commitment!
To read more about volunteers and referrer’s experiences with different Covid-19 response programs and the insights provided around recruiting and managing volunteers, please read the Full Report or Summary Report on this research here.