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The value of volunteers

Sarah Clarke-Kuehn, Group Director – Care
Sanctuary Care

Volunteers are a valuable resource that can hugely benefit the quality of life for older people in care and nursing homes.

Two years ago, Sanctuary Care launched a volunteer drive aimed at introducing even more people to a career in the care sector while at the same time building on the high-quality care we deliver and enriching the lives of residents.

In that time the programme has gone from strength to strength, with nearly 800 people having enrolled so far. Volunteering provides the opportunity for people to gain an insight into work within care – positively leading to permanent employment, which is helping to further bridge the well-documented staff shortages across the adult social care sector.

Managing over 100 care homes across England and Scotland, caring for more than 5,600 residents, we are not immune to recruitment challenges and our drive to increase volunteering opportunities supports our overall strategy to recruit and train quality staff who share our passion for delivering quality care and enriching the lives of residents.

Our programme was designed to benefit residents, the homes they live in and those participating in the voluntary placements, providing opportunities to develop their skills and experiences, with the opportunity to lead to permanent employment.

Volunteers undertake a variety of tasks. This may be spending one-to-one time with a resident; a seemingly simple task yet one which is integral to a person’s overall wellbeing. Activities such as playing board games, helping with crossword puzzles, gardening and knitting are also an important part in maintaining social interaction for residents.

As well as providing vital hands-on experience, the programme’s success has also enabled us to forge fruitful links with other organisations, offering opportunities that provide mutual benefits for both residents and the volunteers themselves.

With this in mind, a successful link-up has been secured with disability charity Mencap, facilitating placements within care homes for people with learning disabilities.

We are also working with the younger generation with the aim of introducing them to care as a vocation and to pursue a career within the sector. To this end, a flourishing partnership has been developed with The Duke of Edinburgh Award, for which we are proud to be an Approved Activity Provider, one of just 42 organisations throughout the UK to have achieved such prestigious status.

Another growing partnership is with the University of Worcester and their WorcTogether project, where students undertake placements in some of our nine care homes in Worcestershire. WorcTogether promotes the opportunity for students to work with national employers such as ourselves to develop skills including communication, leadership and learning how to connect with people.

Significantly, volunteering isn’t just limited to people interested in care as a career and we have an exciting pilot initiative giving residents opportunity to volunteer within their own local communities.

Through speaking with residents and discovering their passions, including what they used to do in their own working lives, we have been able to tailor placements to suit them, including with local schools.

While volunteering is essentially unpaid, to see it solely as that is to miss the point. Those who have taken part in our programme have acquired valuable skills which are of benefit to all, and they will continue to further enrich the lives of our residents.

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