peers who volunteer

The Best Practice Guide Checklist

Best Practice Checklist

Every chapter in our best practice guide concludes with a checklist of the key issues for the three groups of people for which the guide is written: people with lived experience, providers of services across the social justice sector and the commissioners of those services. On this page, we have pulled together all those checklists aimed at providers into one short guide for use both as a quick reference guide and as a statement of key principles which organisations advertising for volunteer and paid positions on this site are asked to abide by. The seven headings represents the seven key chapters in our guide.

Recruitment

  • If your organisation is thinking of recruiting people with lived experience, please do your planning and ensure that you can invest in the right level of support to treat your volunteers with the same consideration you would give to paid staff.
  • Advertise opportunities widely
  • Discuss with a prospective volunteer the pros and cons of volunteering, in particular the timing of any commitment depending on what else is going on in an individual’s life.
  • If there are waiting lists or delays while waiting for DBS clearance, please keep in touch with prospective volunteers and start engaging them in the work of your organisation by sending them newsletters etc.

Training

  • Ensure your training is designed to match the role your peer volunteers will be undertaking.
  • Training should include a focus on how best peer volunteers can use their lived experience and include exploration of the risks of sharing experiences (including re-traumatisation).
  • Training which allows for space for reflection and support for personal development is particularly effective.
  • Ongoing training, including training alongside paid staff, helps peer volunteers to feel valued and be more effective in their roles.
  • Discuss career goals and associated training needs with individual volunteers regularly and plan jointly to meet these.
  • Accredited training is valuable and appreciated and can be the starting point for peer volunteers who want to find paid work.
  • Staff should also receive training or information about the roles of peer volunteers, including in induction programmes.

Support

  • Offer support to peer volunteers on a proactive basis, having regular check-ins to discuss how volunteering is impacting on an individual’s recovery journey.
  • Having a formal development plan makes it easy for peer volunteers to gain confidence and skills and set goals for themselves – and become a more valuable volunteer at the same time.
  • Encourage all staff who work alongside peer volunteers to offer informal support and encouragement.
  • Discuss matching volunteers with service users most likely to benefit from their support.
  • When peer volunteers share their life stories, they may experience strong negative feelings, include being re-traumatised. These feelings can emerge several days later and can be unpredictable. Organisations should always follow-up after these events to check in on an individual and offer the space for support.

Developing work skills

  • Treat new peer volunteers like new members of staff, identify their skills and areas in which they need training and support.
  • Many peer volunteers are initially concerned about how to use their lived experience – creating a safe space to discuss this, particularly with the input of more experienced peer volunteers can be invaluable.
  • Some peer volunteers may lack basic knowledge about IT (how to use a computer or use some software). Informal support can be very effective to help people get up to speed.
  • The opportunity to participate in training and briefings alongside paid staff often makes peer volunteers feel valued by the organisation and extends the number of roles they may be able to fulfil.
  • One-to-one mentoring from a member of staff is a very effective way of giving peer volunteers the confidence and a plan to develop their skills at work.

Help finding paid work

  • Recognising peer volunteers’ skills and encouraging them to think about their careers is the cornerstone of encouraging progression.
  • A peer volunteering programme which is based on an expectation that many peers will progress to paid work is more likely to meet that aim.
  • Organisations need to recognise that investing in volunteers’ progression to work will result in some turnover of volunteers and see this as a positive outcome rather than area of concern.
  • Offering peer volunteers a range of employment interventions such as interview skills training, CV writing and disclosure of criminal records strategies is a key element of a successful progression strategy.
  • The opportunity to shadow staff in different roles to identify career goals can be invaluable.
  • Ensure that job opportunities both within your own organisation and with partners are communicated to volunteers and that fair processes are in place for volunteers applying for these roles.
  • Providing continuing support to a peer volunteer who has found work can help that person sustain their job and start building a career.
  • Have a clear policy about providing references to your peer volunteers.

Financial help

  • Ensure that your system for reimbursing volunteers’ expenses is prompt and easy to use. Look to refund travel and subsistence expenses on the same day the costs are incurred.
  • Encourage all peer volunteers to record and submit their expenses.
  • Where you are remunerating people with lived experience on a more substantial basis, be proactive in providing them with written explanations to ensure their benefits are not compromised. Take specialist advice when needed.
  • If volunteers are expected to make extensive use of phones, computers etc. to fulfil their volunteering role, make sure these are provided.
  • Consider providing travel passes rather than individual ticket costs when this makes financial sense for your organisation and the volunteer.

Control and choice over voluntary work

  • Take responsibility as an organisation to safeguard your peer volunteers and limit the amount of volunteering they do, particularly in the early days of their recovery journeys.
  • Check in regularly with peer volunteers to ensure that they have the right balance between volunteering and other activities in their lives.
  • Encourage volunteers to express their areas of interest and suggest activities which appear to match their interests and skills.
  • Remember that volunteers should not be used as a way of filling staff shortages, even in “emergency” situations.
  • Remember that many peer volunteers will wish to move on from volunteering after a period of time – either to paid work or for other reasons. Try to facilitate these moves rather than retaining volunteers you have begun to rely on.

You can either download the full best practice guide here, or read the section you are interested in by clicking on the links below.

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