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Can volunteers be equal to professionals?

Along with various other charities, I was at a meeting with the Department of Health to discuss the Government’s

Carer pushing wheelchair

upcoming vision for volunteering in health and social care.

One of the first things raised as being most important was that we should treat volunteers like professionals. They should not be viewed as being of lower standard and they and the roles they do should be treated seriously. We all say aye.

Later, and separately, it was pointed out that many people are put off volunteering for organisations because of processes they have to go through. They may have to complete forms about their interests, skills, employment history or go through a Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check. Some charities will ask for references.

Some said that potential volunteers can be put off by this, maybe even offended that so many questions are being asked of them, when all they want to do is help out a couple of hours a week. Ah yes we all said, this is definitely a problem.

But is this not treating them and the role they will do as equal to paid staff and their roles?

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Care have campaigned for carers to be treated as equals to health and social care professionals. What they do can be highly skilled and requires training and experience. Again, aye to that.

But we also campaign for friends, relatives, neighbours or volunteers to help carers (if the family want it) because carers can often be struggling alone without any help. This seems reasonable to most.

But by saying you have to be trained and skilled to provide care, are we discouraging people from volunteering to help? Do we encourage the thinking amongst people that there is nothing that they can do?

Now the following facts may be not be caused by such contradictions highlighted above, but they are surely related.

In the Household Survey of Carers 2009/10, 66% of carers said they would need a friend or relative to look after the person they care for if they wanted a break overnight. Of these carers 42% had not actually ever managed a break of two days since they started caring and 16% of carers said that they had nobody they could turn to who would help them take a break.

Now some will say that friends or family or volunteers shouldn’t be the ones providing help, we should be using paid care workers, but that only highlights the hypocrisy of saying that volunteers should be treated equal to professionals. To me, these statistics show there is a need, but I’m not sure how well we’re helping carers to meet that need.

Take care

Gordon

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March 18, 2011 - Posted by | Big Society, Relationships, Social Care | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. It’s a conundrum because the whole “Big Society” argument is seen as getting people to do paid work for nothing.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done voluntary work for over 20 years, and believe in it. But there are limits to what can and should be done by volunteers, and in an increasingly litigious society, volunteers have to be trained to the same level as paid staff. Strange to say that if I was now trying to enter the market as a volunteer I’d have to have a lot more training to do what I did 20 years ago, and without it would not be doing the job I now hold.

    Comment by charles47 | March 19, 2011 | Reply


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