NHS APA member, Inclusion, sees volunteer engagement soar across Hampshire and Isle of Wight
The Recovery Communities and Volunteering and Peer Recovery Networks and Mentoring in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are seeing volunteer engagement soar rapidly as they continue making an enormous difference to the lives of those they support.
NHS APA members, Inclusion, provides a huge range of support for those affected by problems associated with drugs or alcohol, and its Recovery Communities and Volunteering and Peer-led Mentoring is a critical part to the success of the overall programme.
Regional Lead for Inclusion for Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Mark Poingdestre, explained: “Our volunteers play a key role, whether it’s staffing our café-style reception or waiting areas, setting up rooms, meeting and greeting service users, or helping staff in our mental health and housing teams. Every contribution is valuable.”
Some of the volunteer projects have become so popular that group sessions have increased and many of the volunteers have scooped awards. And now, since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an upsurge in volunteers offering to conduct miniature welfare checks with service users and coordinate other activities to keep them engaged and feeling positive.
Inclusion has always appointed volunteer coordinators across its services with the target to have one volunteer per staff member. With around 100 staff in Hampshire alone, they often have matching numbers of volunteers supporting the service.
Matthew Shipperly and Sian Bowes both coordinate volunteers across nine sites in Hampshire. Matthew said: “When a service user wants to start volunteering, we encourage it as it supports their recovery journey. So, we have very minimal relapses in our programme which says a lot.”
While some volunteers are family carers, concerned members of the community, or even retired drug and alcohol workers, most have a lived experience of recovery themselves.
This includes Preston, who was invited by his key worker at Inclusion to volunteer. He explained:
“Becoming a volunteer has been nothing shy of amazing. It has played a massive part in every area of my life. I have been able to get so involved and my role is growing and developing constantly. The program itself is amazing and the support of every single colleague has been superb. I found myself helping and assisting service users as well as facilitating groups. As things progressed with training, attending events and new challenges it has become something I nurture. I now believe that anything is possible, and I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”
“When a service user wants to start volunteering, we encourage it as it supports their recovery journey. So, we have very minimal relapses in our programme which says a lot.”
The investment in the volunteering programme is significant, and while the number of hours volunteers can do is regulated, their work supports and enhances the service provision delivered by staff including doctors, nurses, psychologists, and non-medical prescribers.
Mark said: “We invest heavily in volunteering and our governance structure aligns roles and responsibilities to the three levels of volunteering we offer. To achieve level three our volunteers will have had around 100 hours of training. This level of investment means that our volunteers give us a lot of commitment.”
It is an investment that is paying off as many of Inclusion’s volunteers go on to secure employment either within the Inclusion service or elsewhere.
Paul, an engagement worker at Inclusion, was originally a service user who then went on to volunteer. He explained: “I went from someone who was often too anxious to attend groups to being able to facilitate them. In 2019 I was accepted to be employed as an Engagement Worker at Inclusion and finally I found a vocation that I truly love. I look forward to going to work each day and the team I work with are brilliant.”
Mark said: “We do find staff that have been trained through our volunteer programme are better than those recruited from agencies, as they also attend staff training so they are getting a brilliant grounding in terms of training and investment.”
The sheer scale of the investment and inspiring work taking place in these recovery communities is a fantastic example of how volunteering gives hands-on experience, makes a difference to others, and gives back to the service they may have used themselves.