Volunteers in the UK worth £23m to children’s hospices

Categories: Research.

Over 17,000 people in the UK volunteer in a children’s hospice, collectively giving 38,000 hours of their time each week – 18% of the total hours worked by paid staff and volunteers combined.

On average, children’s hospices have 353 volunteers, with the majority of these working in fundraising and retail roles. But less than 15% of these volunteers work directly with children and their families, and just 5% of the total hours worked with children and families are made up by volunteers.

These are some of the findings from a survey of children’s hospices, published today by Together for Short Lives to highlight the impact of volunteering and the invaluable role it plays in children’s hospice care.

The survey also found that 75% of all volunteers are female, but that 60% of trustees are men. There is also variation in age when it comes to volunteering roles, with older people volunteering more in fundraising and retail, while a quarter of volunteers who work directly with children and families are 25 or under.

Possibly a reflection of the importance given to volunteering in organisations, senior managers are “not very” involved in managing volunteers in more than half of children’s hospices, while most hospices are unlikely to have a volunteer “champion” on their Board.

Innovative practice
Many children’s hospices demonstrated that they are working with volunteers in innovative ways to help improve the services offered to children and their families; for instance helping in families’ homes and providing sibling support.

One survey respondent commented: “We have recently started a home volunteer project. Volunteers go into family homes and undertake domestic tasks – to help siblings with homework or do painting and decorating. We are expanding the roles to take on befriending of young adults and children.”

Room for growth
Volunteer managers in children’s hospices indicated that there is room for growth in volunteering, particularly in care support and community roles.

David Pastor, CEO at Claire House children’s hospice, said: “This is a fascinating report, giving a thorough picture of the current nature of volunteering within children’s hospices. It highlights that there is great potential to use volunteers in more innovative ways, and the report must be seen by children’s hospices as an opportunity to consider how volunteers could be used to extend the reach and the quality of the services they deliver.”

Working with Help the Hospices, Together for Short Lives is taking the learning from this report to develop a resource aimed at helping hospices broaden the scope of volunteer roles, develop models for integrating volunteers with clinical teams, and have clarity on regulations that apply to the work of volunteers and what needs to be in place to meet them.

Throughout September they are also celebrating the work of volunteers in a special social media campaign, utilising social media channels.

Keep an eye out later this week for an article by Ros Scott in the UK edition of ehospice, who poses the question: ‘What value volunteers?’. Ros is the former director of organisational development at Children’s Hospice Association Scotland, and was a member of the project steering group for this new Together for Short Lives research. Ros will author the new resource mentioned above, and she will be at the Help the Hospices conference in October where she will be giving delegates an opportunity to feed into this resource.

You can read the original publication of this article in the UK edition of ehospice