For ten years our volunteer drivers have been supporting the Grass Routes Transport Service helping to tackle isolation in rural communities.
Owen Wilce is employed by Monmouthshire County Council
(MCC) to co-ordinate and develop volunteering within the
Council and more widely. With a background in the youth service,
Owen has experience of working with volunteers directly as well as
of the strategic development of volunteering. His two year
appointment aims to develop more consistent good practice across
Council departments and to pioneer new ways of involving volunteers
within public services in Monmouthshire.
We have a long and healthy history of volunteering and local
action in Monmouthshire. For ten years our volunteer drivers have
been supporting the Grass Routes Transport Service helping to
tackle isolation in rural communities. Leisure is supported by
seventy Sports Ambassadors delivering activities to their
communities. Volunteers are active and effective in many
departments and communities. This highlights that there is already
a sense of civic pride and local activism.
In Monmouthshire, we wish to become a local authority capable of
working with our citizens, helping people do things for themselves
and creating the conditions that enable people to help each other.
We want to create a movement that mobilises people across
Monmouthshire, to respond to the priories within our
Understanding the strength and diversity of our communities, we
want to create the environment that will enable all those who wish
to take an active role in Monmouthshire life, developing a
supportive culture. With volunteering being well established within
MCC it was key to understand how volunteers were currently making
At the start of the process we actioned a mapping exercisewhere
we met with 58 Monmouthshire staff who were supporting volunteers
and 28 external agencies supporting volunteers in Monmouthshire.
This gave us a baseline as well as detailed information on
volunteer activity and specifics around the levels of support
different departments were offering volunteers. Our baseline for
voluntary activity was extremely high: 1757 volunteers supporting
MCC, from Tourism Ambassadors to Community Bus drivers, Sports
Ambassadors and Countryside volunteers. Volunteer input is
The priorities for the development of the infrastructure were
determined by the outcomes of the mapping exercise. One hundred
percent of staff interviewed asked for clarity around procedure in
the form of a toolkit, one hundred percent asked for a network to
link up and share best practice. Publicity of opportunities,
training for volunteers and capturing outcomes were also identifies
as priorities. The overwhelming drive was that everyone valued the
support of their volunteers but all strived to improve the
Development of a Volunteer Toolkit took priority, which was
influenced by Volunteer coordinators and relevant officers alike to
ensure there was appropriate information and ownership. The toolkit
sets out guidance to ensure quality opportunities, uniformity and
easy to access forms so time can be saved by managers. The toolkit
will be complemented by training sessions to ensure everyone fully
understands the information and procedures.
Building a network was the next area for development both
internally and externally of the local authority. A MCC Volunteer
Coordinators network was set up and piloted in June 2015, with the
next meeting scheduled for September 2015. Emphasis was also put on
building strong links with Gwent Association of Voluntary
Organisations and other third sector bodies. An external network
called 'Joining Up Volunteering in Monmouthshire' has been
instrumental in positive developments for Volunteers in
Monmouthshire. As one example of a positive outcome, a
proposal to use the Volunteering Wales website www.volunteering-wales.net to publicise all
opportunities, county wide, has been adopted by all partners.
One of the encouraging developments we have seen is the growing
degree of trust, and new partnerships with Third Sector
organisations. One clear example is the partnership between the
Council and a well established befriending service in the County,
'Community Connections'. Due to funding constraints this service
did not operate within the Abergavenny area. MCC recognised
the evidence of need and the exemplary practice of Community
Connections. It funded the post of a new Volunteer
Co-ordinator, who was hosted by Community Connections.
As a local authority we understand that the experience and
infrastructure for supporting Volunteers lies within the
third sector. Therefore it has been mutually beneficial for the
partnership to develop. Now all parties benefit from the added
provision in Abergavenny that was previously not available.
Support has been provided for individual council departments
around developing volunteer role descriptions, safe recruitment and
impact measurement. This has been key to the programme achieving
its initial outcomes.
Acknowledging the fact as a local authority we are not the
experts, benefitting from the experience of our colleagues in the
third sector, and seeking out best practice locally and globally,
for example working with the Cities of Service programme has allowed us to
shape a programme that will benefit Monmouthshire volunteers and
their communities in the future.
Future goals for the programme include raising the profile of
volunteering opportunities in Monmouthshire, increasing our offer
to volunteers which includes training and recognition, and
celebration of the achievements our volunteers make within their
The 'A County that Serves' programme in Monmouthshire aims to
support and enable volunteers to make a major contribution to our
core purpose of creating sustainable and resilient communities.
One of the active priorities of The Wales Volunteering Policy Network is
to influence the practice of public sector organisations in
the involvement of volunteers. It will be working with Owen to
ensure that what is learned in Monmouthshire is shared more
widely across Wales.
For further information about volunteering developments in
Monmouthshire visit the website: