Helpforce launches in Wales

24th June 2019

The time is right to launch Helpforce, an organisation on a mission to bring more volunteers to our health and care, in Wales. We have an ageing population and increasing life expectancy which, combined with reduced financial resources, puts the squeeze on public services. Many individuals are primary carers for family members; others contribute more informally to the well being of others through neighbourly acts and by ‘keeping an eye’ on those who are vulnerable.

Helpforce is working to transform volunteering in and around hospital settings. In England it has been funding innovation and developing an evidence base for effective volunteer interventions for over two years. In Wales, Helpforce (Helplu in Welsh), is beginning to develop a presence and a programme of work which fits with our priorities.

Increasingly there is scope for people to volunteer within the NHS or community organisations and to contribute in specific ways which make a difference to patients and service users. Hospital transport schemes, befriending and bereavement support, helping out on wards, are just a few of the roles volunteers can take on. These can be rewarding opportunities for those with life experience and compassion to offer, as well as useful for those considering a career in health and social care.

Volunteers are well placed to pioneer new approaches and to work in flexible ways.

We need to build on what is already happening, to identify what works well and to gather evidence that can inform strategic decision makers. We want to see volunteers increasingly being recognised for making a real difference to patients and service users and to the effectiveness of service delivery. We want to develop the tools and the culture to support the growth of volunteering, including appropriate safeguarding and a good understanding with unions and other stakeholders about the appropriate role of volunteers.  We want to learn from one another to continuously improve what we are doing and to shout loudly about our success stories.

Helpforce, with WCVA as its lead partner in Wales, is working with partners across the UK to foster and spread innovation in volunteering within health and social care services. It will focus on how successful volunteering can be ‘packaged’ and ‘spread’ for wider benefit.

In Wales we can learn from experiences across the UK and from the evidence and the methodology which emerges. We shall be reviewing the published literature with research partners in the near future, as well as putting a spotlight on examples of effective volunteering which have strategic potential. If you know of such a project, please get in touch!

The Bevan Commission is embarking on a programme to support the appointment of adopters of health care innovation in each Welsh Health Board. These will be welcome allies in the cause.

We hope to develop the culture of an organisation, the attitudes of staff, and the policy infrastructure to enable volunteering to flourish. Working collaboratively we will also be preparing the ground through national conversations with a range of stakeholders and through the development of more consistent standards of volunteering practice.

Fiona Liddell is Helpforce Manager for Wales, based within WCVA. She can be contacted on  [email protected]  029 2043 1730.

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