Wardipedia – 63. Volunteering

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Giving, getting, gaining


Film clubs, funky felting, pampering groups and helping patients with their personal laundry. Volunteers are doing their kind, quirky, community thing in many or probably most wards in the country, whether it’s a church group coming for a weekly prayer meeting or a former patient occasionally acting as an informal advocate.

Volunteers enhance the skills mix and add value, they turn up the vibrancy volume and expand the scope of the ward. While for some patients job titles can seem like a barrier, volunteers bring a sense of neutrality and personalisation, putting them at ease. As well as the specifics of their role, arguably the most important aspects of involving volunteers is that patients have warm contact with people connected with their back home lives.

Volunteering could be with, by or for patients. There are two distinct processes – what needs doing by a volunteer and how can we find someone to volunteer for this? It may be obvious that it has to be someone from outside the hospital (eg if the aim is to provide rehab patients with contact with someone from beyond the hospital setting, who isn’t paid to be there.) Or by a current in-patient – eg for doing small domestic/homely tasks in the ward. Patients, staff, visitors and volunteers could come up with a ‘wish list’ of potential activities and experiences for patients. The ward examples below provide an inspiring springboard for ideas.

We’re strong advocates of volunteering policies and practices which don’t automatically exclude anyone with a criminal record – not least because 25% of adults have a criminal record!

While volunteers aren’t paid for their contributions, there are still costs involved not least in staff time. Planning, recruiting, training and supporting volunteers are all as essential as with employees and it’s particularly important that volunteers feel appreciated since there is no financial reward for them. Volunteering England and Attend have excellent information about some of the more technical aspects of involving volunteers – please see Resource section below.

Benefits of involving volunteers

  • Patients get to spend time with local, nice, friendly people
  • More time, energy and fresh perspectives on the ward
  • Wide range of skills and interests
  • Local knowledge, contacts and networks
  • Bridging gap between hospital and community
  • Can increase diversity of support available to patients, especially from minority communities (eg faith, BME, lesbian and gay, older/younger)
  • Increases awareness of reality of inpatient care and mental illness, reduces stigma
  • Frees up staff time to specialise in different areas
  • Helps prevent or hospital becoming, or more commonly, being seen as an excessively ‘closed’ institution

Benefits for volunteers

  • Giving something back, making a difference. Many volunteers start off, or become, passionate about ‘the cause’ they’re getting involved with.
  • Enjoying new challenges, developing new skills, having fun
  • Improving one’s confidence, health and well being
  • Exploring new types of work, benefitting from training opportunities, getting warm references
  • Satisfaction of contributing to people who are very unhappy and probably feeling very cut-off from wider world
  • Meeting extraordinary people coping in an extreme situation – patients and staff!
  • Helps volunteer feel more connected to their local community
  • Can use skills from different parts of their lives eg:
  • Professional
  • Personal/social
  • Cultural
  • Leisure

A survey for Community Service Volunteers, looking at what people get from volunteering, had some intriguing results! In the survey of 600 volunteers:

  • 47% say volunteering has improved their physical health and fitness.
  • 60% of 18-24 year olds say volunteering has improved their fitness
  • 22% of 18-24 year olds say volunteering helps them cut down on alcohol
  • 30% of 18-24 year old smokers say volunteering helps them smoke less
  • 17% of volunteers aged 18-24 years old say that volunteering has improved their sex life
  • 15% of all volunteers say volunteering had led them to eat less chocolate

Volunteering by service users, on and off the ward

For people with direct experience of mental illness it can be transformative to contribute to others’ well-being and recovery. Idea #35 describes the value of mutual support, in the context of peer supporters and Idea #25 Jobs the benefits to patients of being volunteers.

There are some wonderful examples of volunteering by inpatients in the section below. This might be on the ward, or in the hospital, or in a community setting. Clearly, the extent to which a person is motivated and able to volunteer will very much depend on issues like acuity of illness, length of stay, the possibility of s17 leave etc. And the concept of ‘volunteering’ on the ward may be off-putting, especially if the person is helping by, voluntarily, offering support to another patient.

What counts is the principle that many patients are keen to contribute. An interesting non-medical example is Skyros, a holistic holiday inspired by Jewish youth camps and kibbutzim. Skyros holidays have a strong community ethos and part of that is expressed by guests taking part in the centre’s domestic tasks via their ‘workgroup’ eg washing up (yes, on a paid holiday!) or watering the plants. Crucially, other aspects of a supportive community are actively nurtured including Demos, the daily gathering of the whole group, and co-listening (a turn-taking structure for attentive listening) in pairs and groups.

Recruiting volunteers

Communicating what the hospital is about

There are many powerful, wildly distorted perceptions of what mental health hospitals are like. Local people coming in to spend time with patients (and staff) is an excellent way to extend understanding of the immense value of inpatient care, of the enormous skills of the staff team and of the resilience and humanity of the patients. The art is to disrupt the stereotypes sufficiently to attract volunteers. This is one of the reasons why we strongly encourage wards to get involved with their Communications Team. So that there is a regular flow of accurate, positive stories about the great work taking place in hospitals.

Finding volunteers

It’s of course much, much simpler if there is a hospital volunteer co-ordinator. Even if there isn’t one on-site, the Trust will probably (we’d hope!) have one somewhere in the service. At worst, a neighbouring Trust’s volunteer department might be able to provide advice if not ‘donate volunteers’!

Churches are, in our experience, the most involved and committed of all local communities/networks, perhaps partly thanks to the relationship-nurturing activities of hospital chaplains. This illustrates the value of person-to-person recruiting of volunteers. The people who are most likely to respond are those who are already committed to inpatient care such as retired staff, service users and members of patients’ own communities (eg from local churches/temples/synagogues but also from their zumba group, book club or pub). Having small flyers or even wallet-sized info about volunteering means that patients, staff and visitors can easily pass on the information. (Viral marketing at its finest!)

Helping to recruit volunteers can itself be a lovely role for a volunteer to undertake, including someone who has been a patient at that hospital. Minimally, existing volunteers should be involved in planning new volunteer roles, and can potentially help out with finding, inducting and/or supporting other volunteers. They are likely to be focused on what motivates people to volunteer and how opportunities on the ward can best be promoted to others.

Recruitment ideas

  • Your hospital and/or trust website. You might need to persuade the HR department to add a web feature to encourage and support volunteering
  • Posting opportunities on volunteering websites eg www.do-it.org.uk
  • Local volunteer bureau
  • Personal contacts. You can advertise for staff, patients and visitors to consider if they know people who would like to volunteer, or indeed if they themselves might take on this role in the future.
  • Printed materials eg leaflets, flyers, posters, postcards
  • Distributing in public places eg notice boards and leaflet dispensers in colleges, libraries, council offices, hospitals, doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms, sport centres, places of worship, shop windows, community centres, etc.
  • Speaking at community groups eg colleges, faith groups, pre-retirement groups etc
  • Promotional events eg World Mental Health Day
  • Companies are increasingly enabling their staff to get involved with local projects, either regularly or as a one-off (often ‘team-building’) exercise, including through large national events like CSV’s Make a Difference Day. (See feature on company staff volunteering below.)
  • Retired staff, service users, members of patients’ own communities (eg from local places of worship), people living close to the hospital and many other local people might be interested in volunteering.
  • Advertising in the media – another good reason to have a warm relationship with your comms’ team!
  • Volunteers can be recruited not only for ongoing support to patients but also for special one-off events. The Jewish communities annual Mitzvah Day (broadly ‘good deed day’ but more fun and less patronising than this sounds!) is a nifty example.

Supporting volunteers

  • There’s an excellent leaflet describing different ways in which volunteers can be supported eg through.
  • The personal approach (eg personal contact, thank yous)
  • Group and peer support
  • Training and participation
  • Organisational support (eg policies, features in Trust mags etc)

Ward Examples


  • Successfully recruited new volunteers through publicising volunteering opportunities via BBC Radio, local press, increasing links with local volunteer bureaus and having a stand at the University’s annual volunteers fair.
  • Designed a short ‘Registration form’ which is followed up with an informal chat with an existing volunteer and the volunteer co-ordinator.  Once volunteers’ skills have been identified, and a suitable location matched with them, they are supported and supervised by the occupational therapy staff.  In time, the occupational therapy staff aim to hand over support and mentoring to nursing staff once volunteers are established in their roles on the wards.
  • There’s a strong team of volunteers, called Robins and inspiredly, they wear bright red polo shirts. This not only makes them readily identifiable as volunteers, is also great for the volunteers’ sense of positive identity and groupness. Visitors for the visitor-less is a potential role for the Robins.
  • The placement of volunteer individuals is coordinated by the Hospital Administrator.
  • Volunteers are recruited not only for ongoing support to patients but also for special one-off events.
  • Highgate Mental Health Centre took part in the Jewish community’s annual Mitzvah Day (broadly ‘good deed day’ but more fun and less patronising than this sounds!)
  • It’s easy to recruit university students as volunteers, although there are gaps in holiday periods. Non-students often stay with the service as volunteers for years.


  • Ward (patients, staff, visitors) have wish list of activities.
  • Volunteers are recruited for specific tasks:
  • Working in the activity club
  • Running card making sessions
  • Organising a film club
  • Visits the local shops for Service Users
  • Managing the ward library
  • Volunteers’ involvement includes:
  • Weekly creative sessions such as art, creative writing, pampering, card making and art therapy
  • Helping in the patient library and shop
  • A group of students from the university spent a week redecorating a former ward smoking room into a bright and useful activity space
  • The chaplaincy service also has a group of volunteers to assist in their role within the Trust.
  • Volunteers have been involved for many years in loads of different, valuable roles in the Trust including doing library trolley rounds, running the patients’ shop/café (well-stocked with exchangeable books and, thoughtfully, greetings cards as well as snack, toiletries etc), PALS’ reception, recreational spaces, putting on pantos.
  • An OT contact who works for the London School of Fashion volunteers to support arts’ activities, partly as a way to maintain her clinical practice, and is also a trained art therapist! Her groups include:
  • Felt – tactile, valuable for discussing feelings
  • Knitting – already quite a bit going on in the ward
  • Crocheting – no longer retro but hip!
  • Digital photography.
  • Volunteers help with personal laundry and gardening on the wards, and voluntary visiting.
  • Volunteers from local deaf association go out with deaf patients.
  • A male volunteer is running a Men’s Activity Group.
  • Volunteers help meet the needs of frail elderly relatives having to travel great distances to visit their elderly relatives
  • A number of volunteers visit the visitor-less.
  • Volunteers and staff run an ambitious fund-raising programme with monthly special, fun events.
  • Volunteers from the University and a local church offer a befriending service

Support to volunteers

  • A quarterly ‘Valuing Volunteers’ forum for networking, informal discussion and support, and as an important venue for staff to say thank you to the volunteers for their commitment.
  • Monthly two hour training sessions in the early evening covering the basics of mental health, group skills and discussion / engagement skills.  Volunteers attend staff mandatory training and have access to the full education and development prospectus if they wish to complete further appropriate training to their role.
  • A voluntary work steering group was set up with the Volunteer co-ordinator, Occupational Therapists, and a volunteer representative.

Mitzvah Day at Camden and Islington
By Geoff Brennan, Nurse ConsultantFrom Star Wards’ newsletter #55

Eating a good pizza and then taking in a movie. A typical, lazy Sunday afternoon? Not something you would expect following an admission to an acute psychiatric hospital?  Well, on Mitzvah Day 2010, on Fleet Ward at the Grove Centre in Camden and Islington, we created our very own Pizza and movie experience with the help of Danny Rosenburg and Nick Landau, two very lovely Mitzvah Day volunteers.Should you want to recreate the experience yourself, here is the recipe.

First, take a very capable Occupational Therapist called Gillian Rennie who is willing to give up her Sunday afternoon and roll up her sleeves as well as provide a good dose of Scottish humour. This is an essential ingredient and you will find you cannot commence without it!Next take a dollop of laid back but competent nursing staff to run the show whilst you make a bloody awful mess. Ideally they should be Jessica, Tamuka, Richard, and Sona, but any quality acute inpatient staff will do.Then take a fair smattering of patients stuck in the ward for the Sunday afternoon.

If you are very fortunate, you may get a bubbly John who provides music, a mellow Frank who can talk in seven languages including Hebrew, a succulent Krishna who makes a demon cup of tea, a smooth Sourab who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty and a spicy Lysia with words of encouragement. It is important to balance these ingredients and not to mind if the odd sour note -like “there’s smoke coming out of the cooker ” – gets into the mix. You will find that a pinch of humour leads to just the right consistency. Also, do not worry if others join this frothy concoction for short periods as this will add rather than diminish from the overall flavour.

Finally, marinade all the ingredients plus the Mitzvah volunteers into a kitchen with flour, yeast, vegetables, pepperoni, passata and a working kettle. Leave for three hours and stir up occasionally. At this point you will have eight large pizzas for public consumption.At this point take a break and go around the other wards showing off you skills. Do not, under any circumstances, let them into the kitchen to see the unholy mess you have left behind. This would not help their appetite.

After the break, take the whole mixture and move to a specially set up Cinema in one of the large meeting rooms. Good quality equipment such as a projector is essential and you should be reminded to thank Faizal for getting all this set up before his deserved day off.

Before serving, garnish with people from the other wards, serve on a bed of popcorn, sit back and enjoy.I recommend it.



TalkWell Sessions

“We’ve been training volunteers in TalkWell as part of their induction. We find this gives them a useful foundation of understanding about the importance of listening skills and ways to start meaningful conversations. They’ve found TalkWell accessible, interesting and fun. We’ve created sessions based on the package specifically aimed at volunteers. Volunteers receive a certificate upon completion of the session. They also receive one of our famous TalkWell pens we’ve designed to help spread the word!

Most of the volunteers who approach us are either service users, psychology graduates or those wishing to gain experience before pursuing nurse training. So TalkWell gives them a great place to begin. The sessions allow them to ask questions, discuss typical scenarios, test out their ideas, learn new skills, raise their concerns and worries and meet other volunteers.”


Ward-based volunteers

“We have a number of volunteers who help each week in ward-based activities like current affairs, the Stop & Think problem-solving group, and pampering sessions. The function of the role is to help the ward deliver therapeutic activities and supporting service users in accessing them. The point of contact for ward-based volunteers is the ward’s Therapeutic Liaison Worker (TLW). The TLW co-ordinates their input and provides support. Ward-based volunteers are encouraged to think about their interests and skills and to consider bringing these to the ward. One of our volunteers who provides pampering sessions agreed to help us with a basic hand massage tutorial DVD. This DVD is now used by ward staff and patients to learn the technique.”

Possible Roles for Volunteers

An A-Z of Volunteer Jobs and Ideas

With thanks to Volunteering England

  • Advocacy
  • Arts & crafts
  • Befriending/ buddying
  • Benefit advice
  • Café
  • Carer support
  • Chaplaincy Visitor
  • Clubs eg book club, film club, gardening club, computer club, art club
  • Computers and Internet
  • Dining Companion
  • Discharge support
  • Entertainment and events
  • Exercise to music
  • Expert patient
  • Fish tank maintenance
  • Flower and plant care
  • Fundraising
  • Games players (e.g chess player companion)
  • Gardening
  • Hairdressing
  • Home escorts for vulnerable patients
  • Information/leaflet organisers
  • Information provider
  • Interpreter
  • Letter writer
  • Librarian
  • Magazine supplier and reader
  • Massage and aromatherapy massage
  • Mealtime support
  • Meet and greet/welcomer
  • Music
  • Pampering for the ladies, grooming for the gents
  • PAT dogs/ animal visits
  • Peer educators (various projects)
  • Plain language volunteers (to de-jargon written materials)
  • Runner (of errands in and out of hospital)
  • Shoppers
  • Skin camouflage (for patients who self-harm)
  • Social events organisers /helpers
  • Speech and language volunteers
  • Sport companions and organisers
  • Support groups for specific health conditions
  • Therapeutic hand care
  • Transport (drivers)
  • Walking companions
  • Yoga

A somewhat random assortment of ideas for involving volunteers

Arts & crafts

  • Welcome bags
  • Handcrafted gift cards
  • Help the patients create table decorations
  • Produce a colourful collage or wall hanging to brighten up the living area
  • Decorate Pots and plant seeds
  • Making artwork for hospital display
  • Art Exhibition
  • Creating sensory pictures (eg quilted)

Arts and media

  • Book Club, Film club
  • Collecting, donating, advising on using book and DVD libraries
  • Music (concert, singalongs, karaoke, music appreciation sessions etc)
  • Themed concerts – campfire, seaside, Cockney, Olde Time, 40s/50s/60s etc,
  • Playinaday – write and perform a play in one day


  • Faith festivals
  • National events
  • Patient’s birthdays


  • Comedy room with CDs, DVDs, magazines, books etc
  • Comedy evenings
  • Humour noticeboard


  • Internet Café
  • Liaising with IT dept. to see whether there are decommissioned computers that patients could use on the wards possibly initially for games and word processing etc
  • Training staff in relevant IT skills


  • Sports eg football 5 a side, indoor hockey
  • Dance eg line dancing, dance exercise


  • Cooking eg dinner/tea party, baking
  • Nutrition
  • Food and mood


  • Can be a fun challenge, more The Apprentice than MBA


  • Help patients to do gardening
  • Plant a sensory garden and construct interesting garden features
  • Plant trees
  • Setting up an allotment

Going green

  • Advice and practical help on planetfriendly enhancements


  • Advice for patients
  • Jobs surgery with CV writing, mock interviews, careers advice
  • Onsite or as phone hotline. Specialist agencies (finance, employment, leisure, relationships etc) provide technical help and confidencebuilding


  • Quiz
  • Bringing and sharing games and activities with patients
  • Creating recreation pack with quizzes, origami, word searches, conversation/thought starters for community meetings and noticeboard
  • Information resources


  • Revamping Welcome/information leaflets or website features for patients, carers, visitors
  • Creating ward website with patients – eg free Weebly one.
  • Pets – probably dogs or small furry ones arriving in cages
  • Reminiscence project – collecting, donating, advising on using reminiscence resources books, magazines, clothes, food….
  • Special interest sessions   volunteers talking about their hobbies, jobs, travels etc

Ward makeovers

  • Interior design advice and enhancement
  • Mini-makeovers, speed makeovers etc
  • Chillout rooms – designing, donating resources, doing room makeover
  • Creating a fun, crazy mini golf course.

Icing on the cake  Diane Bown, the head of volunteering for the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust wrote:
“Volunteers are the icing on the cake. The analogy I use is to compare our volunteering programme, where volunteers visit patients and keep them company, to a fairy cake. If it’s just sponge, you can eat it, but put a bit of icing on it and it’s so much more palatable. What the volunteers do is the human, social stuff. They can sit on the wards and play Scrabble from the beginning to the end without getting called away.”


Volunteers with criminal records

Pioneering charities like CSV have for many years been supporting people with criminal records, including serving prisoners, to be successful volunteers, including working with vulnerable individuals. At first this might seem counter-intuitive and very risky, but as the information below outlines, for most people, having committed an offence many years ago….
Unnecessary – definitely not a legal requirement
Contrary to equal opps and diversity ethos and practices

Why it’s wrong to have simplistic ban on volunteers with criminal records:

  • 25% of adults have a criminal record, mainly for very minor offences and some for activities no longer treated as illegal – notably gay sex which, shockingly, only became legal in the UK in 1967.
  • It’s unnecessary for staff, patients and visitors to lose out on some great people, whose offence may be irrelevant – or even the catalyst for impressively turning their lives around resulting in them having much more to offer others facing turbulent times.
  • They might well be service users who, when on a ward, staff were encouraging to volunteer as a way of getting their lives back in order!
  • It’s definitely legally allowed, even though it’s often treated as if it’s not.
  • A crude ban on volunteers with criminal records is contrary to equal opps’ and diversity ethos and practices.

Indeed, some roles can only be effectively carried out by a person who has engaged in currently illegal activity – notably peer supporters for people with drug addictions. (Of course, only a minority of people who use drugs have a criminal record for this, which illustrates how crude both the CRB and drugs’ policies are!)

Making the decision

When considering a potential volunteer who has all the skills and attributes you need but also a criminal record, it’s crucial to take into account factors like:

1. The role

  • How much responsibility is there?
  • Will the volunteer ever be alone with a patient, or with a group of patients without staff present?
  • Would someone with some additional street cred be an asset or even essential?

2. The record

  • What specific offence(s) committed
  • severity of crime and impact
  • relevance to volunteer role
  • would it even be regarded as a crime now – eg consensual gay sex was illegal til shockingly recently
  • When did the offence(s) occur
  • recently, ages ago?
  • was it a one-off or part of a pattern?

3. Protective factors

  • Has the person made changes in their life which give an indication of whether they might re-offend? (For example, do they have a lot to lose now in a way that they didn’t when they committed the crime?)
  • Could volunteering in a supportive environment be exactly what they need to stabilise their life in a sustainable way?
  • If they use mental health services, do they have a supportive key-worker/CPN/CPA co-ordinator?
  • What aspects of their lives could help ensure a successful volunteer placement – eg partners, friends, personal values – and, above all, skills relevant to the volunteer role.
  • Could the person be particularly strongly committed if they’re given the role because they’d appreciate the opportunity to contribute?
  • If the person did time inside, could this help (or confuse?) their feelings about volunteering on a ward, especially if it’s a locked one?

Patient examples

  • We had a whole folder on the ward about volunteering. When the time was right I started to help out at the local animal shelter. I find so much peace and contentment when I am there.
  • Helping others is as important as being helped, I think. Giving something to others makes you feel good.
  • I saw an employment advisor who helped me explore what type of voluntary work I would be interested in. The future certainly looks brighter.
  • I consider myself fully recovered and decided to give something back, so I now volunteer visiting the ward offering support to anyone who wants to chat.
  • You get into a habit of doing tea rounds for everyone. It’s good because it’s a way to get involved and get to know people.
  • Working in the League of Friends shop was a good experience for me. Being part of the team of volunteers was helpful and rewarding.

Outline of mentors and their role

The mentoring offered by the project is tailored to the individual needs of the young adults being mentored (the mentees). The philosophy of the project is that no two people are the same and so the mentoring will reflect the mentee’s needs and what they wish to achieve.

Initially, mentors will befriend the mentee and develop a trusting and understanding relationship. They will then help the mentee to develop and work towards the goals that will help to tackle their social isolation. This can include supporting access to social activities, learning to develop new relationships or signposting to other support services.

Mentoring will take place for between six and twelve months with a minimum contact of five hours per month. The level of support is agreed between the mentor and mentee and may change over time. When meetings take place will depend on the individuals and may be during the daytime, after work hours or at weekends.

The mentor and mentee matches are as near-to-peer as possible; mentors are same sex as the clients and aged 18-35. Mentors will vary in ethnicity, occupation and interests and will be matched as closely as possible to the interests of the young adults referred to the project. Mentors will come from all walks of life and some will have personal experience of mental health issues. However, all mentors share the common focus of supporting the young adults to participate more fully in society and fulfil their potential.

The Department of Health strategic vision for volunteering in health and social care which was published Spring 2010 highlights Back to Life as a programme which excellently demonstrates innovative volunteering making a real impact on people’s lives.

What have been the benefits for individual service users (and others) accessing your project?

Outcomes for clients accessing the project
Meeting someone outside of the medical setting, who’s not paid to be there, can make a real difference. One of the mentees to have benefitted from a volunteer mentor said:

“Having a mentor through Back to Life is the perfect supplement to everything I get from my nurse and therapy.”
Mentees receive regular contact from a non-clinical, supportive mentor who helps to:

•  reduce feelings of isolation
•  raise the mentee’s confidence and self-esteem
•  increase mentee’s access to social networks
•  increase engagement in activities including education, training, and employment, volunteering or social activities.

Company staff volunteering

Ideas for company volunteering days

Companies are increasingly enabling their staff to get involved with local projects, either regularly or as a one-off (often ‘team-building’) exercise, including through large national events like the Jewish community’s Mitzvah Day and CSV’s Make a Difference Day. Although the ideas below are intended for one-off group volunteering days for companies, most of them can be used or adapted for on-going volunteering by other groups and individuals.

Benefits for company’s staff

  • A fun, satisfying and memorable experience of helping others
  • Self-esteem boost and feeling valued (by the project, the beneficiaries, their employer and each other)
  • A stimulating and refreshing change of scenery for desk-bound individuals.
  • Develop skills such as communication, problem solving, change management and innovation
  • Develop new practical skills not possible in their day-to-day role,
  • Contact with people (especially socially very disadvantaged people) that the employees don’t usually, or ever, meet
  • Giving something back to the community and improved awareness of local issues.
  • Work/life balance

Benefits for the company

  • Staff can try out a much wider range of tasks than in their day-to-day work including leading projects and having responsibility for motivating others.
  • Employers with successful volunteering programmes find that they benefit from a positive image,  staff are proud to work for them, potential employees want to join them, customers feel good about using them, and partners want to work with them.
  • Improved staff retention, motivation and morale.
  • Enhanced staff team working, interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Brings together colleagues from different branches, departments, disciplines etc
  • Staff going out on community projects can act as ambassadors for the organisation.

Benefits for hospital

  • Practical help, whether with the physical environment, management systems/skills or direct resources and/or experiences for patients
  • Reducing the fear and stigma of mental health hospitals and those who use them

Requirements of projects

  • Practical!
  • Simple
  • Enjoyable
  • Almost cost-free
  • Minimum risk

Resources and references

Information about volunteering

The charity Attend (previously called the National Association of League of Friends) has lots of excellent information about involving volunteers with inpatients and your hospital (or League of Friends) may already be a member. (Interestingly, their website notes that they chose the new name because ‘attend’ means “to respond, to reach out and to give care.” Nice.)

Volunteering England

Volunteering England has a comprehensive collection of policies, good practice advice etc.
For example, their Good Practice Bank includes these aspects of working with volunteers.

  • Volunteer Policies and Agreements
  • Recruitment
  • Creating Volunteer Roles
  • Expenses and State Benefits
  • Induction and Training
  • Support and Supervision
  • Reward, Recognition and Retention
  • Health and Safety and Insurance
  • Dealing with Problems, Complaints and Disputes
  • Protection and Safeguarding
  • Equal Opportunities and Diversity
  • Legal Issues and Volunteering
  • Resources for Volunteer Managers and Co-ordinators

Volunteering Ireland also has top-notch resources

Getting volunteers


Business in the Community www.bitc.org.uk
Community Service Volunteers www.csv.org.uk

Faith communities’ national day of volunteering

Mitzvah Day www.mitzvahday.org.uk
Sewa Day www.sewaday.org

Service users as volunteers

Volunteers with extra support (or ‘complex’) needs

Back to life

Volunteering – involving people and communities in delivering and developing health and social care services

Volunteers who have a criminal record

Applying for work (with a criminal record)

Volunteering with a criminal record. Back on Track Manchester.
This excellent booklet sets out the main issues, and has inspiring stories of ex-offenders who are changing others lives as well as their own through volunteering.

Supporting volunteers

Voluntary Action Leeds’ excellent guide to supporting volunteers

Avoiding job substitution

News release



Fabulous blog about volunteering (in this case, becoming friends with) an elderly man with dementia.

Recruiting ex-offenders


Prime, J., White, S., Liniano, S. and Patel, K. (2001) ‘Criminal Careers of Those Born Between 1953 and 1978’. Home Office

Categories: Neighbours, Wardipedia