Quality counts when providing vital volunteer support

Accreditation is welcome test for Chas, writes Scott Semple

Last year, 890 CHAS volunteers willingly donated 69,000 hours of their time. Picture: CHAS

Ten years ago, Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (Chas) was the first charity in Scotland to achieve the Investing in Volunteers (IiV) accreditation, a status which has successfully been renewed ever since.

IiV is the UK quality standard for all organisations which involve volunteers in their work. Chas is fortunate enough to have hundreds of volunteers spread throughout Scotland, who are involved in every aspect of our organisation, from caring directly for children and young people with life-shortening conditions and their families, to helping us raise the funds needed to run our vital services, to providing administrative support. Last year, we had 890 people registered to volunteer with us; people who willingly gave their time and donated 69,000 hours of their skills and enthusiasm to help us make a difference to the lives of families across Scotland. It is estimated it would have cost Chas around £1.1million to provide the valuable service given by our volunteers from 2013-14.

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This is why ensuring we meet the criteria for IiV accreditation is so important. The process involves interviewing a number of Chas volunteers and staff to ensure that we work collaboratively and continuously to keep standards high and retain the award. We want to ensure that the quality of our volunteer services, and the experience this creates for all of our volunteers, is of the highest standard and embraces best practice.

IiV gives us recognition but importantly it encourages development and an opportunity for everyone in the organisation to have a voice and put forward suggestions. The opportunity to benefit from an outside perspective is also welcomed as even the smallest of changes has the potential to make all the difference to our volunteers and most importantly, children and families in our care.

Karen Gullen is one of our dedicated volunteers. Karen said: “I got involved with Rachel House because it was a local hospice and I’d heard a lot of great things about it. When I was younger, I raised money for Chas by making and selling Christmas cards every year, I also held a raffle at Easter. My auntie owns a coffee shop in Muckhart [Mona’s of Muckhart] which was the perfect place for me to sell cards and hold the raffle.

“After being invited on a tour around Rachel House, I was keen to do more for the hospice and become a volunteer. In July 2010, I started volunteering in the kitchen, helping prepare meals for the young people, their families and the staff. I’m now 20 years old and I’m still volunteering! In the beginning, I was there twice a month, however, since becoming a student paediatric nurse I attend once a month and have also been lucky enough to work with the care team as part of my nursing placement.

“Rachel House is an amazing place where families can go and relax knowing their child is being looked after by the care team. Last year, my brother Calum started volunteering in the kitchen on a weekly basis which he really enjoys.

“The staff along with everyone else make Calum and I feel so welcome – from the minute we walked through the door on our first day to the second we finish each and every shift – they always show their appreciation which makes it all worthwhile.

“There are so many volunteers between Rachel House and Robin House and this shows how valued Chas is and how many people feel the same way as my brother and I do. It’s a privilege to help at the hospice, stopping volunteering has not even entered my head and I hope to be there for many more years as it’s just a great place to be involved with.”

Since our last accreditation renewal, there have been several changes throughout the organisation including a restructure of our nursing team. Achieving and maintaining our IiV re-accreditation highlights our commitment to volunteers like Karen and just how important they are to Chas. Our volunteers’ energy and passion for the charity is remarkable and we simply wouldn’t be able to provide our services without their help and dedication.

This year promises to be an exciting one for Chas, as the organisation develops and continues to provide specialised care and support to children and families across Scotland, at their greatest time of need.

We’re also involved with Volunteering Matters in a project which exists to inspire communities through promoting the power of social action and volunteering.

This important initiative enables volunteers to provide practical home support to families, such as ironing or gardening.

If you are interested in volunteering opportunities across Chas please visit our website or get in touch with us at any of our sites where a line manager or member of staff will be happy to talk with you.

Scott Semple is director of organisational development, Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (Chas)