Volunteer spirit and the power of community

Sam Ward, Royal Voluntary Service
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This year, in the face of Covid-19 lockdown and with vulnerable people isolating in their millions, we changed the way our organisation operates, fundamentally and forever.  

Established 82 years ago in wartime, we drew on founder Stella Reading’s belief in the power of volunteers to work together to support society in times of great need. As Covid closed our community groups and restricted our dementia and hospital support services, people across Great Britain needed our urgent help. We couldn’t let them down and an army of volunteers stepped up.

NHS Volunteer responders delivering to 2.5 million people

Using local knowledge and national co-ordination, we delivered support locally to provide a much-needed safety net. This has continued ever since: local people delivering services to their local community.

159,000 volunteer calls have been made to check that vulnerable people are safe and well. A reassuring, regular chat was what many needed. Others were struggling. Thanks to knowledge gained during these calls, referrals were made to local authorities and other agencies, and in safeguarding instances, for urgent help.

Volunteers have also delivered 19,800 emergency food packs, made 7,600 grocery and prescription drops, made 3,080 home library book deliveries, sent out 3,860 dementia reminiscence packs, and 2,600 activity packs to keep people entertained and active at home.

Wearing PPE, they have driven people to essential medical appointments, helped settle vulnerable patients back into their homes after a hospital stay, made safe, socially distanced garden gate/doorstep visits and been walking buddies to encourage physical activity. This work and more will continue as long as needed.

360,000 NHS Volunteer Responders have delivered practical tasks for the 2.5million people most at risk from Covid and to shield the NHS frontline. One million tasks have been undertaken so far, using groundbreaking GoodSAM technology to register and respond to alerts for help.

This unprecedented groundswell of community spirit has been extraordinary, and volunteers will be vitally important, not only as winter NHS pressures are building and local lockdowns continue, but post Covid, forever.

Volunteers are integral and vital to communities

We want to shout from the rooftops that volunteers are more than ‘nice to have’ or peripheral to formal services - they are integral, vital. Volunteers are resourceful, connected, engaged in their community. They are already supporting professional networks, helping to address local health and social care challenges and building resilience, connection and wellbeing in local communities. There is so much more volunteers can do, given the opportunity.

Royal Voluntary Service has the national framework, local delivery structure and systems to recruit and deploy volunteers at scale and speed to meet local need, anywhere in Great Britain.

To health and social care commissioners, I say bring us your challenge and we’ll show you what the power of voluntary service can do.


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