Bringing volunteer members of the public care into 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 by NCVO’s Institute for Volunteering Research found positive outcomes for residents, staff and volunteers. 89% of staff and 75% of volunteers thought 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 include:
- Staff, including care home managers, reported positive impacts on: satisfaction with their job (68%), retention (61%), stress levels (71%) and feelings of 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.
- Volunteers said they enjoyed the volunteering, and benefited from the personal satisfaction of seeing the difference they were making.
- Interviews with residents and relatives revealed positive impacts especially from befriending relationships.
There are around 17,000 care homes in England, run by a diverse range of organisations from large commercial groups to small family businesses alongside statutory providers and charitable organisations. The sector is widely considered to be facing a range of significant pressures. There is consensus that care must become more holistic and ‘person-centred’, while at the same time many homes face severe financial pressures as well as staff shortages.
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.”