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Access to volunteering has been one of the defining features of the volunteering debate.
There has been a growing awareness among practitioners, researchers and policy makers that some groups are less well represented in volunteering than others, among them being disabled people.
In 2003, Skill added its voice to the debate by carrying out a two-year volunteering project, funded by the City Parochial Foundation. The overarching aim was to promote disabled people as volunteers to the wider volunteering community.
About the project
The project comprised four core elements.
View or download
To order a copy of the resource manual for volunteering organisations
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7450 0621
Fiona Mactaggart MP spoke at Skill's volunteering conference 2005, at Timebank Offices, London Bridge. Speakers included Fiona Mactaggart MP and Jamie Thomas Head of Review Team, Russell Commission on Youth Engagement and Participation.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Front row: Peter, Pablo, Tim. Back row: Jackie and Jason
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust boasts over 2,000 active volunteers across five hospital sites, 60 of who have a disability.
Disabled volunteers Peter, Pablo, Jason and Tim have served over 10 years between them. Volunteer Services Manager, Jackie Knowles is responsible for the strategic development of volunteering.
Her role includes trying to convince wards and department managers of the benefits and of taking on a volunteer, something she has mastered with some success.
She explains how. Read or listen.
Pablo Mortby - “The health service works for all sorts of people with different abilities and disabilities”
Pablo was encouraged to join the volunteering team two years ago by a disabled friend who was also a volunteer at the hospital. Find out what he gets up to as a volunteer. Read or listen.
Jason Chadburn - “Since I’ve been here it [Sheffield Great Northern Hospital] has improved a lot with better sign posting and for people to read like myself.”
Jason has been a volunteer at the trust for 4 years. He started out as a Hospital Welcomer, before helping to set a newsletter for disabled volunteers. Read or listen
Peter Watling - "I actually treat volunteering like therapy. The hospital is a safe environment for me.”
Three years ago Peter Watling suffered a stroke and spent fourteen weeks on a hospital ward.
A keen sportsman he was unable to play his beloved golf as actively as he once did or would have liked.
As well as developing an interest in computers, he has also fallen for volunteering in a big way too! Read more.
One-to-One Enfield - fully inclusive
One-to-One Enfield was set up 12 years ago to support people who would normally be excluded from their communities into mainstream society.
Through its Community Inclusion Project it builds relationships between people from different backgrounds together.
Photo: Andrew Wilson
“We are very much an organisation that works with people with learning disabilities,” explains Andrew Wilson, the projects Volunteer Co-ordinator. “But the ethos of the organisation is to treat everyone as equal”
Andrew’s role is to train and support volunteers so that they can fulfil the many volunteering opportunities involved at the organisation.
He currently works with a group of over 45 volunteers who carry out a range of roles from assisting in arts and crafts sessions to getting involved in the various committee meetings.
Before starting their placements all volunteers must attend a training course designed to help them get a better understanding of their role as a volunteer.
Andrew explains the approach to the sessions - listen
Committed volunteers- Sheila and Bill Barry
Photo: Sheila and Bill
Sheila and Bill Barry have been married for 12 years and began volunteering with Enfield 1-2-1 over six years ago. Bill sits on the fundraising committee that makes decisions on ways of raising funds for the organisation.
Sheila began as an advisor on the management committee and has since been voted in as a director. Read or listen to Bill and Sheila’s very first volunteering assignment.
Working with Words - empowering lives
Everyday events such as attending meetings at the benefits office or a visit to the doctor’s surgery can often be quite a daunting experience for people with learning difficulties.
Working with Words, a small company based in Greenwich helps individuals to take control of these situations by using picture and video images to make information more accessible.
As well as providing work experience placements, the organisation also has a trusted team of volunteers.
Denise Brown - from pen and paper to computers
Photo: Denise at the computer
After a spell in hospital Denise Brown, 52, was encouraged to take up volunteering by her support worker.
“I’d always wanted to work with computers and develop my typing skills,” she says.
“I’d never used computers before, when I was growing up we used pen and paper to write letters!
I still find working on the computers difficult at times as my hands are not so steady but it has really has given me more confidence with reading and writing.”
After three years with the organisation Denise has no doubts about the benefits voluntary work has brought to her life. “When I came out of hospital I really wanted to get back on my feet volunteering has helped me get into a routine.
It’s given me a chance to meet other people and gives me something to look forward to.”
Katherine Bone - growing independent
The organisation has not only enabled individuals to develop new skills and broaden social networks but also shaped the lives in other ways too.
Katherine doing photocopying
For Katherine Bowen, 21, who joined the team two years ago - after completing a computer course at college - it has meant getting used to a new travel arrangements.
“When I was at college I always relied on mum and dad to give me a lift to college but I now I can get a taxi to and from my volunteering placement on my own.”
Despite her independence there is one small matter Katherine has yet to get used too. “I have to get up early to so I can get to my placement on time - I’m not very good at that yet!"
Alan Eagle is the manager of Abbey Charitable Trust. He has many years experience working with volunteers with additional support needs in the voluntary sector and was instrumental in setting up Abbey plc disabled mentoring pilot scheme for staff with disabilities. The company’s other volunteering projects include working with local school pupils through e/face-to-mentoring and supporting charities using their business expertise, both are open to all employees.
“What we try and do is pair people up on the basis of their disability so that if someone has a visual impairment we would try and find a mentor who has experience of visual impairment,” Alan explained when he spoke to Skill via telephone from his office in Milton Keynes.
Find out why he set up the scheme, the role of the mentor and the incentive to Abbey.
Read or listen to the interview.
Dr Mike Nussbaum
Dr Mike Nussbaum is the Chair of Volunteering England and former Chair of the now defunct Consortium for Opportunities in Volunteering. He has an extensive CV working in the field of community development for local authorities and in the voluntary sector.
“I have always been involved in and with the voluntary sector - as a volunteer literally since my teens, Mike explained “When I retired I got involved with Volunteer Connection, the local Volunteer Bureau in Milton Keynes that inevitably got me involved almost nationally.”
Dr Mike Nussbaum talks about the new organisation he Chairs, his volunteering experience, his role in the Guide Dogs Access for all Campaign and his views on the changing image of volunteering. The interview was conducted via telephone from his home in Milton Keynes.
Read or listen to the interview.
In April 2004 the Chancellor Gordon Brown announced an initiative to engage one million new young volunteers in community action. As a result The Russell Commission was set up to look at developing a National Strategy for Youth Action and Engagement.
The findings of the consultation that followed, (of which Skill was very much involved), acknowledged that some groups, specifically disabled people, found it difficult to access volunteering.
Subsequently, the final report recommended that there was a need for disability awareness and equality training amongst staff and volunteers; and disability audits, to help organisations identify barriers to volunteering.
In December 2005 Skill was awarded a small grant from the Commission to stage three regional conferences in Birmingham, Leeds and London.
The target audiences for these events are volunteer-involving organisations, parents/guardians and young disabled volunteers aged between 16-24 years.
Through our Step up! Conferences we aim to:
Step up! Project got off to a great start in Birmingham
The event took place on 3 March 2006 at Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC) and 30 delegates attended. Ten disabled volunteers from BVSC’s Millennium Volunteers B-Active Team took part as interviewers, photographers and in other supporting roles.
Brian Carr, Chief Executive at BVSC, gave the keynote speech and talked about the work of his organisation and some of the initiatives taking place in the wider volunteering world, such as Compact Code of Volunteering. He also praised the work of Skill.
Guest Speaker, Mukith Miah (Muks), Volunteering Outreach Development Officer (BVSC), talked about his work in the community. Muks also talked to Scott Swadkins (Volunteer Interviewer) about the kind of support volunteers can expect to receive on his project.
Volunteer Daniel Bennet interviewed volunteer, Scott Swadkins who talked about his experiences as a volunteer. Daniel started by asking Scott what type of volunteering work he had been involved in.
Delegates also got a chance to air their views when volunteers canvassed their opinions on why they (delegates) thought it was important for young people with disabilities to get involved in volunteering?
How to support young disabled people in volunteering was a theme covered during one of the seminars at the conference. Delegates were encouraged to voice their opinions and share their experiences on the subject. Paul Savill, Support Worker for Young Disabled People at Birmingham Association of Youth Clubs and Eileen Fielding, Development Officer at Dudley Volunteer Centre, did just that.
To wrap up a very busy day delegates were treated to a short film called ‘King Fu’ which was written and directed by, and starred, some of the volunteers.
So, what did our volunteers think about their volunteering experience on the day? Sandeep Saprai (Sandy) Active Citizenship Co-ordinator (BVSC) found out.
[18 April 2006]
The Thackray Museum in Leeds was the setting of Skill's second ‘Step Up!’ conference. It was held on Wednesday 15 March 2006 and a range of organisations attended, from children’s charities to housing and leisure services.
Our young disabled volunteers on the day were Kerry Hart and Sarah Wassell from ‘Make a Difference Volunteering’ in Rotherham. Kerry did a sterling job capturing the event through her camera lens, while Sarah carried out interviews with the delegates.
One of the things Skill was interested in finding out from delegates was their views on the best way(s) to attract young disabled people into volunteering. We asked Sarah to investigate.
Sarah also put questions to Robin Fry, Millennium Volunteer Co-ordinator at North Tyneside Volunteer Centre. Robin works with young people between the ages of 16-24 years old many of whom have a disability. Sarah started by asking Robin how he got into volunteering.
Robin also talked to Skill about the various arts and media related volunteering activities run by his volunteering team.
Another of our young participates; Adam Fisher from ‘Change’, the national disability organisation run and led by disabled people and based in Leeds, spoke about his positive experiences as a volunteer. He explained that having left school he did not want to go back into education and was introduced to volunteering through a friend and has never looked back.
Dave Forrest, Development Officer for Yorkshire and the Humber, Volunteering England gave the keynote speech. He talked about his role, which is to work with and support volunteering infra structure in the region, network and to be a voice for volunteering. He also spoke about some of the current volunteering initiatives like that introduced by the Russell Commission.
In a separate interview with Skill, Dave talked about the work he does with volunteering centres on his patch!
Diane Dale and Jack Allison (disabled volunteer) from Keighley Volunteer Bureau, gave a joint presentation on the success of the bureau’s supported volunteering scheme. Diane stressed that were keen to get more young disabled people involved. So, if you are young, disabled, fancy doing some volunteering and come from the Keighley and Bradford area, contact Diane at the Keighley Volunteer Bureau on call.
Front row: L to R Susan Hanley, Paul Zulu, Durbali Roy. Back row: Austin Bradshaw
The Rainbow Group, from the disability organisation, ‘Change’, rounded off the programme with a short live drama production. The three members, Durbali Roy, Paul Zulu and Susan Hanley, performed an improvised piece called ‘Getting a Letter’, which centred on the theme of information.
After a very lively performance Skill asked Susan, Why the theme of information? She explained:
‘Information is important because it helps people with learning disabilities understand things a bit more,’
So, where did the group get their ideas from? Project Worker, Austin Bradshaw, who works closely with the group, told Skill:
‘The ideas definitely come from the group; they come up with the issues and the real life experiences.
Some people will explain what has happened to them, other people in the group that do not have verbal communication, will show what has happened to them and then the group will discuss it.
I will then support them on how to structure the piece so that it fits in with the theatre style and so that it can be used for training purposes.’
As well as being budding thespians they are also all active volunteers. Durbali revealed:
‘I have been a volunteer at Change for four and a half years. I have learnt a lot of things like drama, training other people in drama and doing support work. I love it!’
‘I got involved through my work with Roots, which is an organisation that works with black disabled people like me.’
Like Paul, many volunteers join the group through local disability organisations. Austin explained how:
‘The drama group go out into the community and do presentations in colleges, day centres and other disability organisations. Disabled people show an interest and join us that way.
We also have two or three open days a year and invite people like college students, mainly those who are leaving college or attend college one or two days a week who might want to come in and do some volunteering with us.’
If you would like to get in touch with the Rainbow Group to find out how you can become a volunteer Tel: 0113 243 0202 Minicom: 0113 243 2225.
[6 April 2006]
Rap music, disability and volunteering
An unlikely combination, perhaps, but one that proved a huge success at Skill's third and final Step Up! conference, which was held at the National Centre for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Kings Cross, on Monday 27 March, and attended by a good mix of volunteer-involving organisations, parents and guardians and young disabled people.
Presentations were delivered by June Pratley, Development Officer, Volunteering England, provided delegates with an overview of the volunteering landscape and some of the initiatives around diversity and inclusion; Louise Davis, Development Officer, Volunteer Centre Westminster talked about some of the positives and issues surrounding the supported volunteering project she runs for people with learning difficulties; and David Bourroughs, who spoke about his experiences as a disabled volunteer, in an interview with fellow Step Up! volunteer, from Scope, Murtaza Merali Dewji.
The entertainment at the event was provided by West London rap band, 1st Chancers, aka Daniel, Mitchell, Zoe Brien and Eugenia Bertin. They belong to the disability organisation HAFAD (Hammersmith and Fulham Action on Disability) and performed a track from their second CD called ‘We are the 1st Chancers’. After the performance Eugenia talked to some of Step Up! volunteers about how the group got together, her thoughts on Simon Cowell and ‘Pop Idol’.
For two of our youngest volunteers, Segan Hailu and Louise O’Sullivan, both 17, volunteering was a completely new experience. Skill sent them off to find out from delegates why they had come to the event. Once they had overcome their nerves the students from Lambeth College took to their task like ducks to water!
Skill also was also interested to discover from delegates why they thought it was important for organisations to sell volunteering opportunities to young disabled volunteers; Step Up! volunteers Louise Jones (Scope) and David Bourroughs took to their mics in search of some answers.
Read or listen to what delegates had to say about selling volunteering opportunities to disabled volunteers. (Audio 2’ 14” )
Some of our volunteers were interviewed by Natalie Jeal, Youth Volunteering Co-ordinator, Scope, who also ran a ‘communicating with disabled volunteers’ seminar at the event with Danielle Moore (Volunteering Co-ordinator). Natalie wanted to find out what our volunteers had made of their experiences at Step Up!
[18 April 2006]
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