Together we'll help change lives
Volunteers are at the heart of our organisation: it’s no exaggeration to say that without them, we simply could not carry out all the work that we do on a daily basis!
Our volunteers take on a wide variety of roles within our local Advocacy and Healthwatch teams, from behind-the-scenes tasks such as IT and administrative support, to face-to-face work with the public.
As a volunteer you could be helping at events to promote our services in your community, carrying out surveys to gather feedback from the public, taking part in visits to health and social care providers to ensure everything is working as it should be, or supporting vulnerable people to speak up for what matters to them.
Volunteers are a massive asset to our organisation, but volunteering also offers valuable and rewarding experiences to those who give of their time. We provide specialist training for our voluntary roles and it can be a great bridge into paid work, as well as being worthwhile in and of itself. Volunteering gives people the chance to know they are doing something positive for others – making a difference that could well reverberate into the future for the recipient!
We count ourselves lucky to have talented and dedicated volunteers across our teams and we’d like to thank them all. We’re shining a particular light this #VolunteersWeek on our Mercia team (that’s Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes) where coordinator Mikal supports a group of six volunteers.
Having started out with The Advocacy People as a volunteer himself, Mikal is well placed to give the low down on what it’s all about, and we also chatted with volunteer advocate Marion, who’s been with us for almost six years.
I first heard about The Advocacy People through the volunteer centre, Bracknell Involve. A few years before that I had worked for the organisation that at the time ran the ‘Be Heard’ self-advocacy group, so I had experience of advocacy through that. Prior to that I had worked for Social Services for many years, working with people with learning disabilities, and in the learning and development side of things – although I started my working life as a History teacher.
My role as a volunteer involves supporting another advocate to facilitate the ‘Be Heard’ group. This is a self-advocacy group for adults with learning disabilities that meets weekly in Bracknell Forest. I also have a small caseload of people whom I advocate for as their Relevant Person’s Representative (RPR)*.
When I joined the organisation there was training both for general advocacy and for the RPR role, which was very helpful.
I’m retired now, apart from doing a little freelance training. For me the benefit of volunteering is about being able to use my skills and experience (without most of the organisational hassle especially with IT systems!) and still having a bit of contact with fellow professionals.
To others considering volunteering with The Advocacy People, I’d say there are lots of different opportunities, both back-room and face-to-face, and the staff are very friendly and supportive.
We currently have six volunteers in our team. They are Marion, Jenny L, James, Alison, Pam, and Jenny CS.
Our volunteers help us out tremendously by working in several different fields and on many different assignments.
Marion and Jenny L do RPR advocacy for us and also work as coordinators at meetings of our Learning Disability self-advocacy groups.
And while Alison and Pam do Children and Young Person’s advocacy for us, James helps us out with our administrative tasks. Jenny CS is our newest volunteer, and she will also be doing RPR advocacy, as well as attending events for us to promote our services.
Our volunteers help drive our organisation forward, beyond points that we could have reached with just our own resources. That is why they are extremely important to our organisation, or to any charity for that matter.
They are self-motivated and hardworking individuals, who always work very professionally and perform quality work. I feel privileged to be the coordinator for our volunteer team, and not just in supporting them in the great work that they do for us, but also in getting the opportunity to interact with them and getting to know who they are personally.
I (and I am sure our other staff members) would like to really thank them, as well as all of the other volunteers in our organisation, for the amazing and important work that they do for us.
What positive things did your own volunteering experience bring to you?
When I first started out here, a long-term goal of mine was to work professionally again in an administrative role. During my volunteering with The Advocacy People, with the great support of our previous Volunteer Coordinator, Claire, and our Team Manager, Ann, I got to perform the type of administrative tasks that I had identified as ones I wanted to work on.
While volunteering with the organisation, I realised I wanted to stay on and achieve my professional goals here if I could: besides the very important work that the organisation does for society, I really enjoyed working with everyone in our team!
When the role of Volunteer Coordinator became available, I applied for it, and very fortunately for me, I got the job! This role is an even better one than I had originally hoped to attain for myself when I started volunteering.
Since starting work at The Advocacy People as a staff member, I’ve had the chance to work much more with colleagues and managers both in our area team and in the wider organisation. With this experience, my respect for the teamwork and team spirit, as well as the culture within our organisation, has grown even further. And working with our volunteers themselves is such a pleasure.
So I can honestly say that the volunteering that I started off doing with our organisation has turned out to be extremely rewarding for me.
Interested in volunteering with The Advocacy People?
We are currently actively recruiting volunteers in several parts of the South of England, including in Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. We’re also looking for new Trustees to join our Board.
Although please get in touch wherever you are – your enquiry will be welcomed!
Volunteer roles available vary by area between the different teams, and from month to month – it’s always worth getting in touch and finding out what’s available!
To find out more and download an information pack, visit the Get Involved section of our website. Alternatively email email@example.com or call 0330 440 9000, stating in your message whereabouts you live so your enquiry can be directed to the right person.
“Together, we’re going to help change lives.”
*What is an RPR – Relevant Person’s Representative?
Taking away someone’s freedom to choose can be called a ‘deprivation of liberty’. The law says that to do this the hospital or care home must get permission and certain things have to happen before permission is given. This is called Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS).
If the DoLS is granted, the person must have a representative who checks the DoLS remains legal and can speak up if they are worried about the care or treatment. If there isn’t a family member or friend who is able to do this, a Paid Relevant Person’s Representative (PRPR) will be instructed by the local authority.
When a person has been deprived of their liberty (DoLS authorisation) a Relevant Person’s Representative is an impartial, independent voice to ensure that that person’s rights are protected, and to represent them in matters relating to their care and treatment.