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Revise, rebuild and improve

Papworth Trust has delivered vital housing, work, care and leisure/day services for disabled people in the East of England since 1917. Our vision is to create a world where disabled people are seen for who they are.

We have a long history of working with volunteers, adding value to the services we offer and improving outcomes for our customers.

Volunteers are a valuable part of what we do. They help our customers to learn new skills, support with activities, share their experiences and reduce the feeling of isolation. We positively support our customers to become volunteers, either within our services or with external organisations, we find this helps to build their confidence, acquire new skills and in many cases supports them on their journey to finding employment.

Like many organisations, the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns had a devasting impact on our services, and now we are looking to revise, rebuild and improve our volunteering offering.

Recently, Papworth Trust has started looking at a more flexible opportunities for volunteers.

These include:

  • Offering short, informal, relaxed ‘taster’ sessions to volunteers to make the volunteering experience less daunting. It allows us to showcase the amazing work we do, without any expectation or pressure.
  • One-off events such as gardening.
  • Short-term opportunities – like running a 10-week drama or woodwork project.
  • Asking what skills or interests people would like to share.
  • Flexible/occasional – to fit in with different demographics availability.
  • Specialist – where expert skills are required, like bike repair, financial advice, talking therapy or work preparation (CV writing, interview skills).
  • Encouraging our corporate partners to hold activity/team building events at one of our centres – with idea of individuals becoming involved as long-term supporters.

We have a large corporate event at the end of March with over 120 volunteers across our sites coming to help with gardening activities, upskill staff with digital training and host mock interviews for our employment customers. These types of events are always fun and make such a difference.

Recruiting volunteers since the pandemic remains a challenge, particularly where we need to recruit specific skillsets such as minibus drivers or drama teachers. We are also reviewing the way we welcome new volunteers and ensure this is as smooth a process as it can be. There are changes that can be made both internally and externally; our online training is brilliant, but we recognise digital platforms don’t suit everyone so we’re looking at ways to make that more accessible. Externally, the DBS system is vital for safeguarding both customers and volunteers, but there are improvements to be made such as making the certificate portable between organisations.

Raising the profile of volunteers and the impact they make is key to our work moving forwards. Papworth Trust is proud to be part of the Shaping the Future of Volunteering project where we intend to keep volunteering on the national agenda, showcasing the transformative way volunteers can help shape our society.

Paul Sands
Volunteer Manager,
Papworth Trust
15 March 2023