Being a Volunteer - Q+A
What can you expect when you sign up as a volunteer with The Advocacy People?
We did a quick Q + A session with volunteer coordinator Claire Payne to find out the low-down on joining the charity.
What roles are available for volunteers?
As a volunteer with The Advocacy People, you could be carrying out one of a very wide variety of roles. We have people who do case work or help to run peer groups – working alongside people who are finding it difficult for many reasons to speak up for themselves.
You may also find yourself acting as a second person on home visits to support an experienced advocate.
There are roles in administrative support, for example helping to create reports which highlight the work the team are doing. There are also roles for people who might like to attend events and represent the organisation on forums and panels and at events in their community.
When anyone comes through the door, I tend to have a chat with them to find out what they’re good at and what they enjoy, and try and match their skills to the best sort of role. A volunteer might express the wish to upskill for a change of employment and we will look to how we can support that.
It is important to note, though, that there are very few office positions available with The Advocacy People. Almost all advocates work from home and this will be the same for volunteers.
How much time will I have to give?
It depends on the role, and there is no fixed amount. So, one volunteer might do ten hours one week, and then not a lot more for the rest of that month. Another person might do a more regular two hours a week.
We work as much as we can around how much time a person can offer and when they can be available. We ask that work is carried out during the working week as we are not open over the weekend and bank holidays, however some admin duties can be done during this time.
We do ask that for case work, people commit to at least six months plus, because of the training involved – and that they should be available to visit the person that they’re working with at least every six weeks.
What support will I receive?
When you arrive at The Advocacy People, there’s an induction process and the length of this will depend on your role.
You’ll have access to our new volunteer portal, which is a place to share resources with other volunteers and staff, to log your hours, to do your emails and to communicate with your team!
Who supports you will also be area-dependent, you may be supported by a volunteer coordinator or a supervising advocate, you may also receive support from a buddy or mentor.
Everyone who joins us does the mandatory training. Volunteers who go on to do one-to-one advocacy would do a Basic Advocacy Training course and sometimes service-relevant training on top. You will also get the opportunity to shadow an experienced advocate before you complete any work on your own.
Anyone who is working with clients must be supervised, as part of the Advocacy Charter, so you will have regular support throughout your volunteering journey which may start off being very frequent and reduce over time to no less than every six weeks. However, support is always available through many channels between these times.
In Berkshire we also offer volunteer group sessions every four weeks to help each other, talk about issues, do quizzes and share important updates.
How do I sign up?
We’ve found that the expression of interest form has worked well since we launched it in April 2022. We are getting lots more people coming through – including people from other areas that we don’t work in. When this is the case, we’re able to refer them on to other organisations in those places. You can check the areas where we currently have teams working by looking at the interactive map on the home page of the website.
What are the benefits of volunteering?
Volunteering can be a great way to upskill in order to change direction in your career and it’s often a bridge to paid employment.
It’s also social, fun, and rewarding, knowing that the time you’re giving is directly benefitting people, upholding their rights and helping improve their wellbeing.
The last words on this go to volunteers Mikal and Pauline.
Mikal says: “I think volunteering can help people at many different stages of their professional lives.
“Speaking personally, I was looking to further develop my skills in a field in which I had previously worked. Someone who is looking for a change in their career and who would like to gain experience in a completely different field would benefit from volunteering as well.
“At the same time, a retired professional who would like to continue working professionally during the week but who doesn’t want a full-time job would also gain a lot from volunteering.
“There is then the satisfaction one gets from doing volunteer work for a not-for-profit organisation, such as The Advocacy People, whose goal is to help bring improvement to the lives of other people.
“The whole team here is very supportive and friendly. This comes through in my one-on-one interactions with them, as well as in our team meetings, which always have a very pleasant atmosphere."
Pauline adds: “If you are a caring person and you want to make a difference in people’s lives, or you are wanting to expand your skills in listening and observation and want to learn more about advocacy in a truly rewarding role, then joining the team will be one decision you will not regret. I know I don’t!"