The government plans to expand the successful NHS Volunteer Responders Programme into social care, creating a joint NHS and care volunteering initiative. With £3 million in funding, the scheme will use the GoodSAM app to connect care providers with potential volunteers in their local areas.
The roles available for care volunteers include:
- Check in and Chat Plus: Reaching out to vulnerable individuals to combat loneliness and offer companionship.
- Pick up and Deliver: Transporting medicines and medical equipment from NHS sites to people’s homes or community settings to support hospital discharge or ongoing healthcare needs.
- Community Response: Collecting and delivering essential items such as food, prescriptions, and medications to people in the community.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately, highlighted the importance of volunteers in providing crucial support to those in need. By expanding into social care, the programme aims to aid hospital discharge and prevent admissions, especially with the Pick Up and Deliver role streamlining the process of delivering medications directly to patients.
The Royal Voluntary Service and GoodSAM will jointly deliver the expanded programme, alleviating pressure on both the NHS and social care systems. Volunteers will support patients awaiting admission to hospitals, those recently discharged, and individuals in the community, freeing up the social care workforce to focus on more complex needs.
Additionally, the government is exploring ways to enhance the benefit of volunteers in the NHS, considering measures such as simplifying the application process for volunteer roles by potentially removing the requirement for employment history in certain cases.
It’s important to note that while volunteers play a crucial role in supporting the health and care sector, they are not intended to replace the existing paid health and care staff, who are highly valued for their work. The expansion of the NHS Volunteer Responders Programme into social care is seen as a significant step in supporting individuals to live independently at home and providing essential aid to those in need.
Sam Ward OBE, Deputy CEO of Royal Voluntary Service said:
“The NHS Volunteer Responders scheme has been invaluable to the NHS and communities for the past three years. We are privileged to be taking the learning from the pandemic and extending the support of the valued volunteers to even more people and communities, working closely with social care providers and NHS England.”
Dame Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said:
“We are delighted that this innovative volunteering programme is being expanded and look forward to seeing what positive changes this move can bring for our social care colleagues – it has been a wonderful support for the NHS over the last couple of years.
“There are a wide range of roles available which give amazing support to our patients and existing staff – we are looking for people who can help provide essentials to others who may be vulnerable, or for those who want to take a potential first step into a career in the NHS. If you are interested – we want to hear from you.”
Local authorities have found the Volunteer Responder program useful and have been referring care recipients since its inception. Soon, care providers, including care homes, will be able to request volunteers for support in the community.
Samantha Aylott, a Specialist Advisor for Adult Social Care at Essex County Council, praises the Volunteer Responder program for providing emotional support and friendly phone calls to those in need, recommending it to other social care providers.
Maz Chafekar, a volunteer from Birmingham, initially signed up during the first lockdown and continues to volunteer as a Check in and Chat caller to support vulnerable and isolated individuals. Maz finds the role rewarding and fulfilling, knowing that a simple chat can make a significant difference in someone’s life.
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