Through our brokerage service at the Volunteer Centre we received a number of enquiries from young people aged 14 – 18 who were looking to volunteer in a care home environment. Due to the number of enquiries we received we felt a need to respond to this and looked to recruit young volunteers as part of the project.
We approached the care home managers with the possibility of integrating young volunteers into the home. It was imperative to ensure that activities conducted by young people were decided by residents, so we held a meeting with residents, care home managers and young people. After the consultation it was decided that young volunteers would organise a series of creative and interactive taster sessions that involved diverse activities including arts and crafts and playing various games.
Issue(s) we faced
Initially, there were a number of barriers that we needed to overcome to ensure the young people were able to volunteer. The first barrier was the uncertainty of staff about whether young people had the skills and qualities to volunteer with older people. Care home managers felt concerned that young people may not have enough support to confidently volunteer with older residents. They also were unsure as to whether young people would be reliable and commited.
The second was training so we supported the young people through the volunteer induction training and conducted follow up sessions where they were able to develop ideas for activities with residents. We conducted a one hour training session covering the most important aspects to consider when volunteering in a home. We also offered longer training sessions to young people who wanted to volunteer long term. As part of the volunteering a member of staff from the Volunteer Centre had to attend and support young volunteers.
What we did
As part of the application process, young people were encouraged to fill in application forms and identify their skills and abilities. We then put volunteers into peer support groups with a diverse range of backgrounds to ensure they were able to support each other.
Before any activity took place we introduced our young volunteers to the care homes to speak to residents about what activities they would like to do. The volunteers were shown around the home and introduced to staff members. This was an opportunity for volunteers to engage with staff to alleviate any concerns on either side.
The young volunteers were supported to conduct activities in groups by both volunteer centre staff and care home staff, so they didn’t have to go through the usual formal volunteer recruitment processes.
What went well
The key elements that have gone particularly well include the development of clearly defined roles for the volunteers. As we conducted the consultation process a great rapport between residents, care home staff and young people developed as the activities were identified and everyone was clear on the volunteer roles.
We were able to provide a personalised activity that was identified by the resident as something of interest to them and individually supported by young volunteers to maximise their involvement.
Through working with Oldham College and Oldham Sixth Form as well as schools across the borough, we were able to recruit young volunteers and informally interview them in groups to ensure they were right for the role. This enabled us to offer an application process suitable for this group of volunteers.
Our recruitment processes have been most successful as through cutting the red tape we have enabled the young people to develop their confidence and see if this was an area of longer term volunteering for them.
What didn't go well
We could have initially offered long term volunteer opportunities to those young people who were sure they want to volunteer on a long term basis without requiring them to complete the group activity sessions with residents.
We could have also worked with some of our older, long term volunteers to equip them with the skills to support the groups of young volunteers so the volunteer centre staff did not have to devote so much time and dedication to supporting group volunteer activity sessions.
Key lessons learnt
The outcomes have been fantastic for residents as they have benefitted and enjoyed the opportunity to interact with young people who they may not have ordinarily had the chance to engage with. There has been a report of care home staff noting changes to residents, and care home energy levels.
Another positive impact has been the opportunity for relatives to get involved in activities with residents and young people. This has enabled relatives to feel more confident, assured and involved in the care of residents.
The volunteer activity has had an added value and impact on young people, helping them to develop their confidence and gain additional skills. As a result of the taster sessions, six young people have decided to come back to continue volunteering.
A case study is being included in Community Service Volunteers (CSV) Youth Volunteering Toolkit. This was featured in NCVO’s update on Step up to Serve.