What we're saying
Find out what we're saying - where we share our thoughts and opinions and make comments on issues facing older people, volunteering and preventative care.
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“Volunteering gives me so much joy”
Meet Shirley who volunteers twice a week serving coffee and cake at the Vintage Tea Room at Chesham House in Lancing. She also volunteers at their Lunch Club, which serves sociable meals to older people. She started volunteering a couple of years ago and it helped her to re-connect with life after losing her husband.
“I absolutely love volunteering
, it gives me so much joy. I was very down after losing my husband, who I had nursed for 6 years. I didn’t want to go out or do anything. It was only after some counselling sessions that I started to feel more positive about life. Someone recommended that I start volunteering and I haven’t looked back.”
Volunteer and make a difference
Shirley volunteers every Tuesday and Wednesday in the tea room with her friend Angela: “I serve the delicious homemade cakes and Angela makes the drinks. I met Angela through volunteering and we are a great double act! We just love chatting to the members and making people laugh.”
“I would recommend volunteering to anyone. After retiring it’s hard to just down tools and manage all the extra time you have. I was shy at first but I soon got into it and now can’t imagine my life without it. I’ve so many new friends and it’s nice to know that you are helping older people who don’t have anyone to talk to unless they come into the tea room. It’s so nice to be needed.”
Shirley was featured on Good Morning Britain with our ambassador, Wayne Sleep
. Find out more about volunteering to make a difference in your community
or get support near you
Why we value Investing in Volunteers
We have just received the great news that we have retained our Investing in Volunteers Status (IiV). This is a quality standard that recognises our commitment to high quality volunteering standards and checks that we are providing this to those who volunteer for us.
The assessors visited a number of our volunteers in a selection of services in England, Scotland and Wales to hear what it is like to volunteer with Royal Voluntary Service. An online survey was also used to gather feedback and to find out how we matched up to the standard.
So we’ve achieved the standard but also received valuable feedback on how we can do even better in certain areas. This will be really useful as we seek to improve the volunteer experience further.
Throughout Royal Voluntary Service, our volunteers deliver incredibly valuable support to older people in their communities and in hospital. They are the backbone of the charity and have been for over 75 years. We have always got opportunities for volunteers who want to use their skills to help us and as our IiV accreditation shows, we’ll do our best to provide good volunteering in return.
We are really grateful for all our volunteers, the time they give and the work they do delivering such a fantastic service to older people. Going forward, we recognise there is so much more we can do so we’d love to have more volunteers on board helping provide more of the practical support that is so appreciated. And having achieved IiV again we want to build on this and provide an even better volunteer experience.
Royal Voluntary Service response to English Heritage
The face of the traditional volunteer is changing. As many people work well into their retirement years people are crafting a life made up of work, socialising and volunteering, finding a balance between these responsibilities. The truth is that volunteering is not just for people who have retired but people from all walks of life. Many of our volunteers are older and have retired but many are in full time work, have children or juggle various volunteering commitments, giving an hour or two of their time at weekends or in the evenings. If we are going to keep up with the changing demographic volunteering needs to evolve with those changes, making it easy and practical for people with a desire to help to step up and do so.
This post is in response to a story in The Daily Telegraph, 3 June 2014
New ONS data paints stark picture of ageing in UK - WRVS volunteers can help
The new ONS statistics on loneliness in older people, published today, paint a stark picture of growing old in Britain today, with almost half of those over the age of 80 feeling lonely. These feelings of loneliness are exacerbated by poor health and living alone, both of which we know increase as the nation ages. Those that feel lonely do fewer day to day activities creating a vicious circle of isolation with older people feeling trapped in their own homes. WRVS comes into contact with older people day in day out whose main company is the TV, and without our volunteers may not see another person from day to day. It doesn't have to be like this. Simple and cost effective solutions, such as befriending, can help tackle loneliness, help older people to stay connected to their communities and prevent unnecessary hospital stays.
The ONS have also today release a report on older people's wellbeing, leisure time and volunteering. With WRVS’ army of 40,000 volunteers, we know well the benefit of volunteering, as do the older people that our volunteers provide a lifeline for. The new ONS data shows that one in five of the over 50s volunteer and links volunteering with higher satisfaction in life. We know through our own research that older volunteers live happier and healthier lives and we see this every day, as over half of our volunteers are in this age group with some still volunteering into their 90s and over the age of 100. However, with an ageing population, this country needs more people to step up and volunteer to make life better for others. So we would encourage anyone thinking of volunteering to take the plunge and get involved!
WRVS response to the announcement on social care costs
Paying for care in old age is a significant worry for many people. However, for a large number of people going into a care home is the last resort and most older people would rather live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. Supporting them to do this doesn’t have to have a large bill attached. Practical support provided by volunteers at crucial times, such as settling people back into their homes after a major operation, will be central to us managing demand for health services in lean times. WRVS volunteers bridge that gap through a whole range of practical services, such as supporting older people to continue do food shopping; making sure their houses are warm and cupboards well stocked when they are discharged from hospital or just a friendly face popping in to see them regularly. This support is relatively inexpensive but the rewards are considerable.
Setting the scene for 2013
As we enter 2013, the many issues that come with an ageing population have never been more centre stage. Keeping with the theatrical theme, even the film industry is getting in on the act with Dustin Hoffman making his directorial debut at the age of 75 with “Quartet”, a film about four friends who reside at home for retired opera singers.
The draft Care and Support Bill published in July 2012 proposes a single, modern law for adult care and support that replaces existing outdated and complex legislation. Comments were requested by the Government by 19 October and a summary of responses was published just before Christmas. The Joint Committee on the Draft Care and Support Bill has already begun to take evidence from experts and has invited written submissions by 11 January as part of this work.
In yesterday’s report by think-tank Centre Forum, Paul Burstow sets out some ideas of how the funding of future care could be achieved by linking winter fuel payments with Pension Credit, reducing the number of recipients from over 12 million to around 3 million, saving £1.5 billion annually. The idea is welcomed by some, but criticised by others and is likely to be controversial. But it does set down an early marker for the ensuing comprehensive spending review that will begin shortly.
In December local clinicians were given the green light to take control of the NHS budget in 34 areas of England shaping the way in which care is delivered for millions of older people in the coming months and years.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change hold their final evidence session on 9 January, where they will put the questions that have emerged over the course of their inquiry to Ministers Jeremy Hunt MP, Norman Lamb MP and Steve Webb MP. WRVS has been one of a number of organisations that have given oral evidence at hearings over the past few months. The inquiry is the first by Parliament to assess if our society, policies and public services are really ready for the ageing population. The evidence that the Committee has received so far suggests that we are worryingly underprepared.
The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in his final New Year Message centred on the crucial role of volunteers. He said that anyone who had seen the London Games “will have been made aware of the army of volunteers who cheerfully gave up their free time and worked away, without complaint, all hours of the day and night to make these great events happen. They were the key people who translated the Olympic vision into reality for the rest of us.” He recognised that similar acts are happening in many other communities around the country in far less glamorous circumstances. But he also asked the tougher question: what can we all do to join this silent conspiracy of generous dedication?
It is clear that urgent action is required by Government to put in place the adult social care framework that older people deserve and that will be necessary to meet the demands of the 21st century. It has also become clear that Government cannot do this alone.
Earlier this week building on the comments made by Williams, social care minister Norman Lamb said that friends, family and neighbours should all do more to prevent older people going into care unnecessarily. Just before Christmas it was announced that volunteers will soon benefit from a free service which will allow them to re-use criminal records checks time and time again. The move to cut red-tape and reduce the burden on those who give up their time to work with older people is a welcome step. The many tens of thousands that give up their time on a regular basis with WRVS and other organisations to help in their local communities are an essential part of the solution. So not only do we need a new legal framework, but also to devise new and innovative ways to encourage more people, especially those reaching retirement, to continue to contribute. At the same time movement to ensure cooperation and coordination between organisations and authorities is necessary, if we are to be in better shape at the end of 2013.
WRVS awarded IiV status
We were all delighted to learn recently that WRVS has been awarded Investing in Volunteers (IiV) status. It’s particularly satisfying as we are the largest and most complex organisation to gain the award both in terms of number of volunteers and geographical spread.
The award means that we are recognised as an organisation that appreciates and values its volunteers and is committed to ensuring that we offer meaningful volunteering roles. And of course that people have fun when they are working with us.
We are working towards growing our services so that we can help even more older people live the life they want to and that means we are going to need more volunteers, lots more. So having this award will send a message that WRVS is good at volunteering and it’s a great way to contribute to local communities by getting involved.
Of course IiV status does not mean we are perfect. We don’t always get it right. But there is a commitment across the organisation to be fair and open and to deal with issues that crop up quickly and effectively.
We have spent the last two years producing practical guides for managers on all aspects of volunteering and then working alongside them to make sure they feel confident. This was reflected in the IiV report when assessors visited many of our services to meet with volunteers and staff. Their feedback was brilliant; it’s clear that our people did us proud.
But this is just the start. It’s great to be recognised in this way but we will be continuing to look for ways to improve our volunteering offer and we are already thinking ahead to three years’ time when we will be going for reaccreditation. We have taken on board the points in the final report on areas where we could improve and have put plans in place to address these.
We want to be known as experts in the field of volunteering so that our stakeholders and partners have confidence in what we do. Volunteers are at the heart of what we do and so we will always strive to cherish them and encourage new people to get involved.
Why not volunteer for WRVS?!
Growing old in the UK - is it all bad news?
WRVS’ recent report, Ageing Across Europe, produced by Demos, paints a stark picture of growing old in this country. Our older people are proven to be the loneliest, poorest and the most worried that they are discriminated against because of their age, of the countries examined.
But is it all doom and gloom? The whole point of looking at the countries that we did: Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as the UK, was that these are countries that are in many ways – particularly in terms of wealth – similar to us. So we should be able to learn from the good things that Sweden and the Netherlands are doing (who came first and second on the experience of ageing, compared to our third) and replicate them in this country.
In Sweden, for example, there is a much greater focus on spending money on preventing health problems which get significantly worse later in life, by tackling the issues that cause them. So obesity, which we know can lead to diabetes in later life, is tackled earlier through public health programmes, as is smoking and drinking.
We do a lot of talking about “prevention” in this country, but given that this study shows that in the UK we have the highest prevalence of what is euphemistically called “life limiting illness” amongst older people, surely this is an indication that the public health messages to do with healthy eating and less drinking are not getting through? Or, at least, not as effectively as in those other countries. As David McCullough, WRVS chief executive, commented on the publication of the report – surely it should be a wake-up call for all of us?
So plenty of food for thought for local and central government, but what about for us as individuals? Well one interesting finding from the report, particularly from WRVS’ point of view, is that in Sweden and the Netherlands, there are much higher rates of volunteering. In Sweden - 55% of people volunteer, it’s 50% in the Netherlands , 45% of Germans volunteer and we lag behind at 26%. Separate WRVS research found that older people that volunteer actually improve their sense of wellbeing simply through helping others. People also get a sense of personal satisfaction from seeing their voluntary work is appreciated. Take note voluntary organisations – a pat on the back helps!
It’s common sense really that by giving back to your community, you are not only improving your own sense of worth, but you are also meeting people and staying active and so helping prevent the issues we so often, sadly, see amongst older people whereby they are housebound seeing few people, if any, from day to day. So, by volunteering, you help others but also help yourself. If encouraging more volunteering can help tackle the parlous state of ageing in this country, then that should be the positive that we can take from this shocking report.
Posted by Sarah Farndale, WRVS at 00:00
Wednesday, 06 June 2012.
Reabling Wales - Residential care of older people
On Thursday 26 April, I will be giving evidence to the Welsh Assembly’s Health & Social Care Committee
as part of its inquiry into the residential care of older people in Wales. I am doing so in my role as Chair of the Welsh Reablement Alliance
, an umbrella group of bodies who provide support to people when they come out of lengthy hospital stays and help them to adapt back to life at home.
Reablement is a hugely important step-change for social care – it changes the presumption of what sort of help people need, seeking to help them re-learn daily skills so they can stay in their own homes and remain independent rather than needing to look at formalised home care or residential care. This not only affords more dignity to older people, it also make significant savings for the public purse by preventing hospital readmissions and costly long-term care packages.
Typical examples of reablement might be short-term physiotherapy interventions, or physical adaptations to the home, or it might mean short-term social support to help a person (such as a lift to the shops, or a volunteer helping to walk the dog whilst they regain physical strength) – in practice though, it is a whole range of these services. Long-term hospital stays can knock a person’s self-confidence, diminish them physically, and put all sorts of practical barriers in place which make it hard to adapt to life back at home. Reablement is simply about overcoming those barriers through short-term interventions.
Currently, there are some excellent examples of reablement in Wales – but they are all too often quite patchy and inconsistent, with huge variations between regions and huge discrepancies in the levels of funding they attract. That is partly an accident of how the service has evolved over time, but now that the Welsh Government is making bold plans to extend reablement as part of its Social Services Bill
, the time has come for a more consistent level playing field for reablement, and for the Welsh Government to set out what it expects local authorities to provide.
The evidence session will be broadcast on senedd.tv
at 1pm on Thursday – be sure to tune in!
Posted by Ed Bridges, Public Affairs Manager (Wales) at 00:00
Thursday, 26 April 2012.
Welsh Reablement Alliance,
Social Services Bill,
Westminster Eye: An insight into the week of politics 27 February - 2 March
Monday 27 February
MP received a reply from the Minister to his question on what proportion of the Department of Health expenditure was spent on services for the elderly in the latest period for which figures are available. In his reply Paul Burstow said that around 40% NHS acute, mental health, primary care and prescribing by general practitioner is estimated to be spent on people aged 65 years and above. Information by age is not held centrally for other expenditure by the NHS. In addition, adult social care is funded by local authorities, through a combination of central Government grant funding and locally-raised council tax. He added that provisional data for 2010-11 shows that local authority net expenditure on adult social care for people aged 65 and over was £7.42 billion. This represents 50.8% of total net expenditure on adult social care.
Simon Hart MP asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office what estimate he has made of the number of people who are full-time volunteers; and how many such people volunteer for 35 or more hours per
Nick Hurd replied saying that data from the 2009-10 Citizenship Survey suggests that approximately 163,000 people in England and Wales volunteered for 140 hours or more in the four weeks prior to interview-equivalent to 35 hours a week or more. Data are not available to determine if such individuals were full-time volunteers.
Andrew Lansley laid before Parliament the Government response to the House of Commons Health Committee's report Public Expenditure.The Committee's report was published on 24 January 2012.
In its statement the Government said that the modernisation and efficiency challenges it is seeking across health and social care are exceptional; ones that are vitally necessary to secure sustainable and improving services. They are also inextricably linked and mutually supportive. These changes are critical to bringing about a modern care system that is fit to deliver the high quality, responsive, personalised services wanted by people today. As a part of these reforms, the Government is protecting funding for the NHS and allocating additional funding for social care.
Tuesday 28 February
On Tuesday Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen received a reply to her question which asked the Government what steps it is taking to reduce the burden of administration associated with volunteering. Lord Wallace of Saltaire replied saying that the Government is determined to make it easier to volunteer and run civil society organisations by cutting bureaucracy. The Government had set up the Civil Society Red Tape Taskforce, chaired by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, to identify what stops people giving more time and money to civil society organisations. Their report Unshackling Good Neighbours, makes 17 major recommendations that we are taking forward and Lord Hodgson will review progress in implementing them in May.
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen had asked a further question over making it easier for employers to release their employees to assist in the voluntary organisations in which they have an interest.
The Baroness Wilcox said that the Giving White Paper made clear that the Government fully supports and encourages organisations making time available for employees to volunteer. The Government has also made its ambitions clear with their commitment to turn the Civil Service into a civic service, supporting civil society organisations. This will encourage civil servants to give time by providing them with opportunities to use their skills and using volunteering as a means of learning and professional development both in terms of gaining new skills and experiences and also better understanding of the impact of government policies on the civil society sector. She added that under Every Business Commits, the Government is challenging businesses to take action on priorities including promoting employee well-being and engaging with communities, with Government committing in return to encourage enterprise and reduce red tape to create the best conditions for businesses to succeed.
Wednesday 29 February
On Wednesday Hilary Benn MP asked the Communities Minister what the average charge was for Meals on Wheels in each English local authority in each year since 2000. A reply is awaited.
Tracey Crouch MP asked the Health Minister what assessment he has made of the quality of annual reviews for patients with dementia and what measures he is taking to ensure that people diagnosed with dementia who are receiving anti-psychotic medication receive regular reviews of their progress. A reply is awaited.
Thursday 1 March
On Thursday during the House of Lords debate entitled “International Women’s Day - Motion to take note
” on 1 March Baroness Royall of Blaisdon included WRVS in her closing address for the opposition.
"Earlier this week I was privileged to attend a reception for the WRVS which now has 40,000 volunteers but needs more. When one thinks of the WRVS, meals on wheels and hospital cafes and trolleys come to mind. These are important tasks but the WRVS does so much more to help older people stay independent at home and active in their community"
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Posted by Steve Smith, Public Affairs Officer at 09:00
Saturday, 03 March 2012.
Services for the elderly,
Adult social care,
Public Expenditure report,
Unshackling Good Neighbours report,
Giving White Paper,
Every Business Commits policy,
International Women’s Day