Summary of focused discussion group - 15 February 2024

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Created by Debbie Ambrose
Last updated 3 months ago

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21 February 2024 at 9:56am


Accessibility for volunteers – removing barriers

Here is a summary of the conversation with comments, tips and advice from the group.


  • Setting up volunteering roles for people with learning or physical disabilities can be daunting. There was a feeling within the group that for some their knowledge was limited, and they needed expert advice.

Making the application process accessible

  • Filling in long complicated forms can be off putting for many but for someone with for example a learning disability or a limited knowledge of the English language it can be even more difficult.
  • Not everyone has or can have an email address and will therefore have little or no computer knowledge. Set up a system where an application can still be processed without an email address.
  • One-to-one support from volunteer managers and their colleagues is often required to help individuals get through the application forms.
  • Work with groups of people with learning disabilities to create ‘Easy Read’ documents.
  • Work with your equalities team on improving your documents to make them more accessible.
  • The advice regarding International and British sign language is that any documents are written in plain simple language.
  • For languages there are several translation programmes available. Look at the demographics in your area to help you decide which languages to use for translation purposes. The following applications were recommended by our guests.
  • Recite Me | Accessibility Software & Solutions
  • aidminutes.rescue A FREE app that has multiple languages

DBS Checks

  • The issues faced when trying to get an applicant through their DBS check often comes up in our discussion groups. One useful tip was to advise volunteers that once they get their DBS is to register with the DBS update service. This can also be useful to them if they wish to volunteer for another organisation. It was also suggested that a certain amount of flexibility within organisation would be helpful. For example, if someone has 6 months left on the DBS check and it is of the appropriate level for the role they are applying for, it should not be necessary to do it again.

Details from the government website:

  • A subscription to the Update Service lasts for one year. You can renew your subscription through the Update Service, either:
  • when you first register, by choosing automatic renewal
  • up to 30 days before your current subscription ends - but you cannot renew on the last day of your subscription

Make training accessible

  • Recommended by a guest: Have a standardised volunteering induction which is one day long but can be, if necessary, split into two sessions. The added advantage to face-to-face sessions is that it enables you to engage with the volunteers and vice versa enabling both parties to make a judgement as to if they are the right person for the volunteer role.
  • Design your training collaboratively with the other organisations you work with.

Logistics and transport

  • Transport for volunteers has become a big issue for an organisation based in Cornwall and they are looking for inventive solutions. They are not short of people wanting to volunteer but many people don’t drive and are at least half an hour from the next village or town. Because this area is so rural a lot of people are isolated and although the organisation has telephone befrienders there is a real need to be able to get people to more face-to-face activities.
  • Not being able to cover volunteer travel expenses can put some people off volunteering, particularly for those affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

Rural communities

  • An organisation based in Ipswich has a lot of rural communities around them, but they feel very lucky to have The Rural Coffee Van which is out and about every day.


  • One organisation is working on a funded programme with their ICS on an integrated volunteering model. This will include funding for a CNT Mentor to work across trusts in their region. They acknowledge that although there is the will to involve volunteers who need support the capacity isn’t there. The mentor will give ‘hands-on’ support to the volunteer team and help the volunteer with practical support. Eventually, in terms of sustainability the idea is that the Trusts will end up employing mentors in-house.
  • Another organisation is working with partners to establish a pathway for volunteers who require support. Trials are running with 5 people and the hope is that some will eventually be able to volunteer independently or gain employment within the Trust. To help with their lack of expertise in this area they are trying to get funding for some Base Training. British Association for Supported Employment Training

Risk Assessments

  • Most work with their Occupational Health department and candidates to help identify what practical help the volunteer would require.

Other Useful Links

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