Volunteers ‘profound positive impact’ for residents says research

Bringing volunteer members of the public care into care homes can have a profound positive impact on residents’ wellbeing, according to new analysis of a pilot project that linked care homes with local volunteer centres.

The three-year project, run by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and funded by the Department of Health, piloted bringing volunteers into care homes in five separate clinical commissioning group areas.

Local volunteer centres recruited, trained and placed volunteers in care homes. Volunteers undertook befriending or activity-based roles, engaging residents in activities such as arts and crafts. Over 250 volunteers contributed nearly 10,000 hours of volunteering time.

Analysis found positive outcomes for residents, staff and volunteers with 89% of staff and 75% of volunteers considering the involvement of volunteers had contributed positively to their care home.

However, researchers also found that due to pressures including a lack of staff time, many care homes struggled with volunteer management, leaving some volunteers feeling unsupported.

Other findings included staff, including care home managers, reported positive impacts on:

  • Satisfaction with their job – 68%
  • Retention – 61%
  • Stress levels – 71%
  • Job security – 54%

Just under half of staff (46%) felt the project had a major positive impact on their organisation’s ability to achieve a high CQC rating.

The project has developed a new toolkit for volunteer management in care homes, based on learning from the project sites.

Nick Ockenden, head of research at NCVO, said: “With pressure on care services and the public purse, we all need to think creatively about involving volunteers in health and social care.

“As care home staff are frequently stretched, volunteers can make a real difference, particularly in social and emotional wellbeing. Indeed there may be scope for the CQC to explicitly recognise the value of volunteering in their assessments.

‘It’s clear that volunteers, residents and care homes all gained from these partnerships. The challenge now will be taking the learning forward to ensure that homes around the country can benefit.”

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