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Contracting out volunteer support
Published: 12th September 2011
A Primary Care Trust in Kent has thought ‘outside the box’ when it comes to recruiting and supporting volunteer walk leaders.
Realising it did not have the necessary in-house expertise to manage the volunteers with East Kent Health Walks scheme, Kent Community Health NHS Trust contracted out this part of its work.
That was back in 2009. Dover Volunteer Centre took on the contract and the scheme – believed to be the largest in the country - is flourishing.
As the scheme expanded, the PCT recognised the importance of recruiting, managing and supporting volunteer walk leaders to provide an efficient, high-quality service. Without this, it was evident that the number of walk leaders - and hence the number of walks offered - would start to decline.
It came up with the innovative idea of commissioning the local volunteer centre to manage the day-to-day running of the scheme and to enhance volunteer support.
There have been many gains from this arrangement:
- Both the Trust and East Kent Health Walks have benefited from the new links, ideas and volunteering expertise acquired by contracting out this work.
- The process of contracting to a partner organisation made the Trust formally think about the aims and scope of the scheme and decide on key performance indicators. This provided a sharper focus which has benefited the scheme’s development.
- The health walk scheme is flourishing and the Volunteer Centre contract is shortly to be renewed.
With this effective partnership we have separated out strategic planning from the day to day management of the volunteers and the health walks.
The NHS Trust now deals with the long-term planning of the scheme and, once new walks are established, ongoing support moves to the Volunteer Centre.
Julia Wells, Health Improvement Specialist, Kent Community Health NHS Trust
What the contract involves
Dover Volunteer Centre now:
- recruits, trains and CRB checks all new volunteers;
- visits and maintains contact with all 83 health walks and 250 volunteer walk leaders;
- provides ‘9-5’ office support for volunteer walk leaders;
- provides emergency walk leader cover and supporting less confident/experienced walk leaders when requested;
- organises and co-delivers quarterly networking and ‘thank you’ events for volunteers;
- collates data about the walks and provides useful statistical information to the group and its partners;
- provides publicity materials, incentives and all administrative support.
There has been a steady increase in the number of health walkers and volunteer walk leaders in the two years since the partnership began.
- weekly health walks – up from 52 to 83;
- registered walkers – up from 1,885 to 2,258; and
- volunteer walk leaders - up from 168 to 250.
The volunteers feel valued and supported which means they are more likely to stay and this, in turn, means the scheme is more sustainable.
This innovative way of working has been very successful. Volunteers - the essential backbone of health walks - now have more regular contact with staff which fosters greater feelings of teamwork and camaraderie. There are more opportunities for them to express their views and socialise with scheme staff and fellow walk leaders.