An increasingly common theme amongst care services rated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as ‘Outstanding’, is the increased level of community involvement in which they engage. In addition to successful events, such as National Care Home Open Day, many care homes are also making an increased use of volunteers to improve the quality of life for service users and to encourage greater contact with their local community. Read on to learn more about how volunteers can help improve the quality of your care and, in turn, your CQC rating, through increased community engagement.
Research carried out by the University of Essex, during 2014, demonstrated clear benefits from the involvement of volunteers in the role of ‘community visitors’. The ‘We’ll meet again, don’t know where don’t know when’ report described volunteers carrying out roles, including helping new service users during their transition into the home and maintaining links with the outside world.
5 Steps to Harness the Contribution of Volunteers and Improve Your Care
- Recruit proactively. Potential volunteers will only approach your service if they are aware that you need, and welcome, their help. Rather than wait to be approached, ensure that you advertise in areas such as local community centres, colleges and via social media.
- Screen thoroughly. Your employment checks for volunteers should be just as stringent as for your paid staff. Ensure that, as a minimum, a thorough interview, two references, a Disclosure and Barring Service check and health screening are carried out. A volunteer, even when working in a limited capacity, can present a risk to service users and you should ensure that you have carried out all appropriate checks to ensure their suitability.
- Think about skills. Go beyond traditional volunteer roles and find out what skills and interests your volunteers have that they care share with your service users. Rather than giving out cups of tea, a volunteer might have a passion for gardening that they can share, a link with a local sports team that could reignite an interest in a lapsed supporter, or a love of music that could lead to visits to local musical events.
- Provide training. Providing training is a win-win situation. Not only do you improve the performance of volunteers through training but they also have the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge that may be useful elsewhere, particularly if they will be seeking employment in the future. Investing in training also shows that you value volunteers as a part of your team and are willing to support their development.
- Show your appreciation. Don’t forget that, although volunteers work for free, measures such as providing free meals and travel expenses should be offered to ensure that any costs incurred by them are kept to a minimum. Involving volunteers in staff events, such as Christmas parties and other celebrations, also show that you appreciate their contribution.
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