8 Jun 2018

The Helpforce initiative, which has supported and evaluated volunteering pilot projects within NHS Trusts in England, has stimulated conversations about similar development in Wales

The intention is to set up a steering group in Wales, with representation from NHS Trusts, Social Care and Third Sector, to see how we can apply the Helpforce model to benefit Wales.

A report, 'Can volunteering help to create better health and care?', commissioned last year by Helpforce explored the potential impact on patients, services, staff and on volunteers themselves of different kinds of volunteer activity, both inside and outside of NHS settings.

A central question in the report is whether volunteering can help to relieve any of the NHS 'pinch points', (such as hospital discharge and the management of major chronic health conditions) and if so, where the priorities should lie.

The report identifies that the health sector needs to be 'more nimble in its use of communication and technology if it is to broaden its appeal across the whole population'. It needs to develop a new culture of participation, with increased acknowledgement of the role of patients themselves and members of their communities in processes of recovery.

Helpforce has five distinct strands to its work. One is the funding and evaluation of high impact volunteering interventions across different stages of the 'patient pathway'.  Second is the commitment to establishing a learning network and ways of sharing best practice and evidence. Third is the development of national support for volunteering such as a training programme recognised by the NHS and the idea of a volunteer 'passport' which would enable volunteers' training and experience to be recognised as they move from one health care context to another. Fourth is the gathering of evidence and the need for independent evaluation, Finally is the development of an economic/business case for volunteering, by quantifying its impact.

In Wales it is early days but there is an openness and enthusiasm from key stakeholders to date, in embracing the Helpforce model.  Helpforce is currnelty advertising for a new post of UK Development Director to support and oversee developments in Wales, Scotland and N Ireland. The closing date for this is 18th June. Some Lottery funding has been secured also for the appointment of a country worker in Wales and this post will be advertised once the foundation structures are in place. WCVA has agreed to act as a 'Country Partner' of Helpforce to facilitate developments in Wales.

For more information, contact Fiona Liddell fliddell@wcva.org.uk 0292043 1730