Volunteers: please don’t be deterred

WE were sorry to read about the experience of Sam Doe being turned away by a charity for a volunteering role, apparently because of his reading ability.

But if you are thinking of volunteering, please don’t be put off by his experience.

The vast majority of voluntary and charity groups are happy to, and do, take and train new volunteers, including those who may have the need for a bit of initial support to get started.

We all know, and particularly at the moment, just how vital volunteers are, and it is very fortunate that Worthing has thousands of them keeping things going in the voluntary sector every day.

Many members of the public pass through the doors of our volunteer centre, seeking a local placement, and we want all of them to have a positive experience when they approach local charities and community groups.

Our advice to groups we work with is that it is important to be supportive and encouraging towards all potential volunteers, regardless of ability.

If there are particular regulations or safety notices that volunteers are required to be familiar with, these can be communicated in more than one way. Omitting to consider this when faced with a potential volunteer who is, in all other respects, able to be a team player and make a contribution, is to lose them at the first hurdle.

Our advice to potential volunteers is to be open about what they can and cannot manage, and, where appropriate, what they can do with a bit of help.

The relationship between a volunteer and the organisation they are helping is meant to be a two-way exchange – a good experience all round.

In this case, the head office of the charity that “lost” Sam has assured us they are sending out renewed guidance, making it clear to their charity shops they must take steps to make their training for volunteers and their other information as accessible as possible, including helping people to understand them, reading them out if necessary and taking, wherever possible, a “mentoring” approach.

We are pleased this action is being taken and would encourage all voluntary and charity groups to review their own policies in this regard.

As a point of recruitment of many volunteers in Worthing, we need to be sure the organisations we are referring them to will give them a good reception.

There is also a Volunteer Co-ordinators Network in Worthing which meets quarterly and is attended by many managers of volunteers from a range of charitable and voluntary organisations. This is a useful way of sharing skills, policies and procedures, so if any groups out there would like further information about that, please contact Worthing Volunteer Centre at organiser@worthingvc.co.uk

Julia Carrette

chief officer

Worthing Council for Voluntary Service