Volunteering – a new charter for Wales

26th February 2020

Develop Images Helpforce 181 1920x1080

The climate is right to bring volunteering centre-stage

Helpforce published a charter in April 2019, with the backing of health unions, to strengthen relations between the Helpforce programme and staff in the NHS (England). It creates a common understanding for the current pilot work in and around NHS trust hospitals. This is important in the light of NHS England’s long term commitment to increase volunteering. In Wales the need for such a charter is no less, but the context, the narrative (and the resulting document) is different. A new charter about relationships between paid workers and volunteers is being launched by Wales Council for Voluntary Action and Wales TUC. Fiona Liddell, Helpforce Cymru Manager, explains how this has come about.

Helpforce Cymru is working to extend the Helpforce vision in Wales, working closely with local networks and partners and aligning with our national strategic policies around health, care and volunteering. The rationale for a charter is to foster organisational cultures and practices which enable the development of volunteering in health and care – not only in hospitals but in community care settings too.

I was involved (in a previous role within WCVA), in developing a charter in 2011, which was agreed between WCVA and Wales TUC. By 2019 it was in serious need of a refresh. Significant legislation, around the delivery of social services and around planning to foster wellbeing to create a climate in which multi-agency working and preventative health tops the agenda; and citizen involvement in design and delivery of services is the expected norm.

Added to this, ten years of austerity, with diminishing resources to meet increasing health and social need, necessitated new thinking about how we deliver public services – including health and care. The climate is right to bring volunteering centre-stage.

Working with the Wales Volunteering Network, we began by holding workshop sessions with volunteering leads from voluntary and statutory sectors, to clarify what were the important guiding principles for volunteering within mixed workforces. We were mindful of the unease about volunteering, evident among some staff and labour movements, including understandable concerns about job security and about maintaining professional standards. However, we wanted to come up with some positive, enabling principles rather than a list of ‘Thou shalt not’s‘.

Feedback on an early draft charter was received from Unison, Royal College of Nursing and the GMB unions, and agreement reached on a version which was released for wider consultation with our respective networks. Significant changes were made in the light of feedback and the final version, published in January 2020, is applicable to a wider range of sectors and organisations – by avoiding terminology which is specific to health and care.

The published charter has already attracted the interest of leaders in civil society and in government. Our hope is that this will stimulate real discussion about the potential and the scope of volunteering and what is needed for volunteering to flourish.

The launch event on 3 March 2020 will be addressed by Jane Hutt AM, Deputy First Minister and Chief Whip, Shavannah Taj, Acting General Secretary Wales TUC and Ruth Marks, Chief Executive, WCVA.

Read Fiona’s blog about the lessons we can learn about relationships between volunteers and paid workers.