Volunteering in care homes; what are we learning?

Today I’ve been interested in the tweets relating to the 10th annual conference organised by the Journal of Dementia Care in association with Dementia Care Matters #DCM2016.  Many of the tweets have highlighted person centred approaches, the need for community, reciprocal relationship between staff members and people supported, family life and loving people as they are.  I’m also learning about staff, recruitment and appreciation; a great question asked by David Sheard; “What makes a staff team feel worthy?”  Responses included; the sound of laughter, affection from people living in the home, talking about the home with pride, and recognition and appreciation from people supported, families and CQC.  To feel appreciated for the work you do and the contribution you make is a wonderful thing and also has a huge impact on the lives of people supported, their families and the wellbeing of staff; appreciation can reduce turnover of staff by 87% and job clarity and support can improve engagement by 73%.  These facts prove that a person centred culture works at many levels, supporting ripples of wellbeing through everyone.

At EachStep Blackburn, we are currently developing a family tree, which will include a mini profile of every member of staff, sharing what others appreciate about them and things that are important to them.  As well as a way for family and friends of the people we support to get to know our staff team, it also supports our culture of appreciation.

This culture of appreciation we build through working in a person centred way also has an impact on the engagement of volunteers.

I’ve recently read a report from the Institute of Volunteering Research, an evaluation of the project of volunteering in care homes, you can read the report here https://www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support/volunteering/volunteering-in-care-homes

Following the spirit of today’s tweets about relationships and wellbeing, it’s not surprising that the report highlighted the profound positive impact that volunteers have on the people supported in terms of social and emotional impact and their mental and physical wellbeing.

The report also states that the volunteers had a positive impact on staff members in terms of job satisfaction, staff retention, stress levels and feelings of job security.

For the volunteers themselves, their contribution supports their own social and emotional wellbeing and offers positive impacts in terms of learning new skills and career development.

Within Community Circles, relationships are at the core of what we do; supporting the person who’s circle it is to achieve its purpose, bringing together circle members to share ideas and to give and connect with each other.  The feedback we receive from Community Circles facilitators is that they gain more than they give in terms of their own wellbeing and learning new skills.  Community Circles also supports widening ripples of positivity through connections with our local communities and using the gifts and assets of our local neighbours.

We want to make sure that our facilitators feel valued in their role and fully supported.  The report highlighted key points of working well with volunteers;

  • The matching process is crucial, with personality traits particularly important.
    • Within Community Circles, we use a one page profile to match facilitators well. Facilitators are supported to develop their one page profile through the Elearning and then with guidance from their Community Circles Connector.  The one page profile records what other people appreciate about the facilitator, what’s important to them and how they can be supported in their role.  This detailed information about personality and shared interests supports us in the matching process and identifies how we can support the facilitator well.
  • Induction and training is key to supporting volunteers feel confident in their role.
    • The Elearning uses a variety of resources to take the facilitator through all aspects of the role, they are supported to develop their one page profile, with guidance from the Connector and have support from the Connector through the first three meetings. We use Slack, a messaging app, to support facilitators to keep connected with others in their local area and the Groupsite, an online forum, supports us to have discussions and share learning with our wider community
  • Appreciation goes far.
    • At Community Circles we recognise the gift of time that our facilitators contribute and are conscious to ensure they feel valued, being mindful to recognise people through tiny noticeable things, whether that’s a postcard of appreciation, flowers from the garden or a private message of thanks


Conclusions from the report are;

  • Volunteering remains underdeveloped in care homes, with few homes having dedicated resources to develop volunteering and volunteering is not seen as part of the wider strategy, rather as an ‘added bonus’.
    • At EachStep Blackburn we have a dedicated Community Circles Connector and a reciprocal offer to facilitators. Our process provides ongoing support to facilitators whilst ensuring a lean approach that can be developed at scale.  Through the ‘Working Together for Change’ process we will include feedback from everyone who lives, works, cares for and volunteers at EachStep so that co-production is at the heart of what we do.


  • Volunteers tend to be better supported where there is a strong emphasis on social and emotional wellbeing of people supported.
    • At EachStep our priority is the wellbeing of the people we support, ensuring that person centred support is embedded as our natural way of working.

Through the partnership between EachStep and Community Circles we want to involve the local community, appreciate the richness of gifts and talents in our neighbourhood, support people to stay connected or develop new relationships and have quality in their lives.

We’ll keep you up to date with our journey…


Want to know more?

If you’d like to know more about the potential of partnerships between Community Circles and care homes, contact Cath, Community Circles Connector via e-mail at cath@community-circles.co.uk or on 07979331745 to arrange a chat.