Working with you as a volunteer

By Alison Coyle

As a charity we appreciate the contribution our volunteers make. In fact, it is not possible to do the work we do without our network of volunteers. We understand that it takes a special kind of person, like you, to open up and share your personal experiences of hearing loss. We also recognise that we should aim for best practice in supporting you as a Peer Support Volunteer.

We are designing a training programme which we will deliver to you all in the coming months, beginning in late September. In preparing for this, we have asked this question: how can we make volunteering safe and comfortable for you?

Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries at the beginning of the Volunteer – Beneficiary relationship means everyone is clear as to what’s expected of both parties. So, what kind of boundaries are we talking about? One example might be understanding that it’s OK to say “no” to a gift; or to sharing your home address and other personal details.

This will be looked at in detail during the training, but fundamentally it’s about keeping the relationship professional. Being such empathetic and kind-hearted people, you may find it difficult to say “no” in some situations. However, if you and the beneficiaries understand our policies, then it’s less likely that an awkward situation will arise. The training will help you to be clear from the outset.

Safeguarding

How can we support you to take the appropriate actions when things don’t feel quite right? How can we help you to ensure the safety of those you are supporting? If you are worried at all, don’t stress. Speak to us as soon as you can. During training we will look at what these situations may be and give you guidance on the procedures in place to support you and your contact. We will give clear advice on who to speak to in the first instance and the people to escalate any concerns to.

Confidentiality

Most of you will be familiar with our “What’s said in the room stays in the room” mantra, which we set at the beginning of LinkUps. It does no harm to keep reminding ourselves of this.

We also have to be mindful of data protection legislation. The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Everyone responsible for using personal data has to follow strict rules called ‘data protection principles’. They must make sure the information is: used fairly, lawfully and transparently. As volunteers, this means, for example, that you must think carefully when out in the community or at an event about how you collect and store details of contacts you make. The simplest way around this is to use a QR code or our hello2 app. These will be new concepts to some of you (me too!) There will be full training so you can be fully confident with their use.

There are times when, because of safeguarding, you cannot keep confidentiality. This is another very important aspect of the training you will receive.

Lone working

Although in most situations you would not be volunteering alone, there are certain times, such as giving a talk, where you may be travelling and arriving alone. As part of our responsibility for your safety, our training will give you advice on how to plan for this. This will remind you to share your travel plans and details of where you will be and who you will be meeting with someone you trust prior to setting out.

Volunteer agreement and role description

It’s important to have clarity and the Volunteer Agreement sets out what’s expected of you and what you can expect from us.

Roles change and evolve for various reasons. There may be a change in legislation; it may be that we are modernising our approach. But it is still important for us to provide our volunteers with details of the tasks including relevant experience and training which are involved in their particular role.

Also, some roles which involve supporting vulnerable adults / adults at risk require a police disclosure check such as DBS in England and Wales, PVG in Scotland or Access NI in Northern Ireland. It will be clearly stated on the role description that there is a legal requirement for us to undertake such checks.

Enjoy your volunteering

Your role should be pleasant and enjoyable. We understand that the hearing loss journey is complex and that supporting someone may take you back to a point of your own journey which was difficult for you. Please don’t struggle or stress. Be honest. We have experienced volunteer mentors who really do understand, so talk to us. We will be able to find the support you need.

Volunteer agreement forms

We are streamlining and updating our volunteer records. As part of this process we would like to ensure that you have signed the up-to-date version of our Volunteer Agreement form. This means that some of you will shortly receive a request from us to do just that. It’s very simple and will only take a few moments and you can return it online.

Volunteer name badge, lanyard and polo shirt

As part of the Hearing Dogs family, all volunteers are entitled to a burgundy ‘volunteer’ lanyard, a name badge and polo shirt. In addition, Hearing Link Services volunteers receive a metal pin badge featuring our logo and Peer Support Volunteer wording.

Please wear these when volunteering or visiting The Grange or Beatrice Wright Centre. The name badges contain a chip and you simply need to touch the badge against the door/gate reader to gain access to The Grange. You can also sign in with your badge by touching the card reader in our reception, and at BWC you should sign in and out in the visitors’ book at reception.

Please wear your name badge and pin badge when attending any of the Charity’s events. It’s a great way to meet other volunteers and remember names too!

If you have not yet received your name badge and pin badge, please let me know and we will get this to you.

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