Problem Definition - Portability (Passporting)
17th December 2020
Is a volunteer passport solution a useful way to accelerate the impact of volunteering within systems?
What is the problem for systems?
Over the course of the last year the response to the pandemic has demonstrated the value of volunteering and what can be achieved when organisations stop working in silos and are truly collaborative.
This puts further pressure on systems to ensure that the barriers removed during a national crisis don’t creep back in. Finding sustainable ways to dramatically reduce the bureaucracy involved in registering as a volunteer is a critical part of that.
Currently, volunteers can often wait between three and six months after expressing their interest in a volunteer vacancy within a health and care organisation. This time lag and complexity means volunteers fall out of the process, they move on, feel it’s not worth it, or their opportunity to volunteer has passed.
- The friction that exists to prevent volunteers moving between organisations poses a number of challenges to system:-
- The poor volunteer experience creates high rates of attrition
- The length of time taken to bring volunteers into roles reduces an organisations ability to carry out adequate service planning
- Creates costs for organisations as processes to prove identity and train volunteers are duplicated
What causes these sort of delays?
Bureaucracy and an out of date approach to recruiting volunteers is at the heart of the problem. For example, whilst ensuring mandatory checks on an individual applicant is important, why would you complete those checks when another organisation (and employer or previous volunteering organisation) has done the same checks already? Equally a shared approach to whether or not volunteers require DBS checks, and how those checks are implemented can create a consistent experience for volunteers
This lack of trust in other organisations ‘checks’ infers a wider lack of trust in others processes and quality and is expensive and wasteful.
This duplication of effort is not just related to the checks but also the basic/ mandatory training volunteers need to complete.
There are of course, many other contributing factors that make a change in this situation hard to agree and then sustain such as:
- who in a system or wider would bear the cost and responsibility for a secure and reliable solution?
- how to gain consensus across multiple regulators to a series of standardised of checks?
- how would a central system differentiate between the screening needs of different role types?
- it’s been tried before and not been successful
- a desire for services to own their volunteers
- how to reconcile geographic boundary issues of a regional approach
How will things be better if the problem is solved?
The most obvious benefit of a volunteer passport is that it will make it easier for volunteers to move between different volunteer roles, reducing the likelihood of losing volunteers through time consuming and repetitive processes, and allowing them to support people & services across organisational boundaries.
This makes volunteering much more flexible and accessible to a wider cohort of potential volunteers, once standardised checks and training are completed and approved, then they can volunteer in any setting.
The economies of scale achieved through removing the processing cost for volunteer checks and basic training from individual organisations to a system basis has huge potential. As a result could free resources to be further invested in volunteering.
A passport solution could also open greater opportunity for volunteers who are building up a portfolio of work experience to be able to evidence their skills. The concept of the passport means that the evidence of skills, capability, training and checks is there for the individual to demonstrate how they can fulfil volunteering roles; this is empowering, in a digital world people are used to and expect to self serve, perhaps even identifying and filling their own training gaps so that they are ready to go.
The ability to better utilise volunteers means that systems will be able to better respond to civil emergencies. This system wide flexibility will create a level of resilience that will protect the ability to provide core services.
How does this impact on health priorities?
Developing a system wide approach to volunteer portability can provide a number of benefits in relation to specific health priorities. For example the underlying causes of poor health are not restricted to single organisations, within systems; therefore the responses to those causes should reflect how organisations need to integrate together.
The main benefits for portability of volunteers can be achieved where organisations currently hand off between each other. A prime example can be seen in the challenges around managing delayed discharge in acute trusts. Volunteers that support patients to move between organisational care can deliver measurable benefits to patients.
We can see other benefits through:-
- Making communities more resilient to civil emergencies by providing more capacity to services
- Prevention - keeping people healthy in communities and out of NHS services where possible
- With volunteers being recruited from communities they create a source of intelligence that can be utilised to reduce health inequalities. When volunteers have experience of a greater range of service environments they can bring a deeper insight to health systems.
- Portability of volunteers is a living example of how integration should work. We believe that integrated services will provide better care for patients and investing in flexible volunteering is an easy way to evidence this.