Guidance from the ABI – COVID-19: Insurer commitments on motor and home insurance

The ABI (Association of British Insurers) is reassuring people that its motor and home insurance members are offering enhanced help and support to all their customers who may be affected by the impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19).

The commitments include waiving any requirements to extend cover for key workers who may need to drive to different locations, people who want to help their communities by transporting medicines or groceries to support those affected by Coronavirus and office workers who need to work from home.

Please follow the link for more info: https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/motor-and-home-insurance-commitments/

These follow on from guidance issued by the Financial Conduct Authority yesterday.

 

Help us keep Brierley Hill Civic going!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brierley Hill Civic has had to close during the Covid-19 outbreak and has launched a Crowdfunder campaign to help Dudley CVS to cover its continued running costs. If you can help in any way, please visit: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/keeping-brierley-hill-civic-open

You may already know that Dudley CVS runs Brierley Hill Civic. Since we took on the management of the Civic in 2014, our team has worked incredibly hard to expand what Brierley Hill Civic has to offer, as well as making it look even more attractive a place to visit.

The Civic is becoming a popular venue and it brings people together on a regular basis for:

  • Charity use
  • Theatre
  • Gigs
  • Comedy
  • Sport
  • Dancing
  • Community engagement event

One of our plans this year was to work on further ways Brierley Hill Civic can be used as a real asset for bringing communities together in all sorts of ways and we look forward to working on that as soon as we are able.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that Dudley CVS has a whole is now focussed on supporting not-for-profits, partners and individuals in the joint effort to support everyone affected by the pandemic and make sure no-one is forgotten.

Brierley Hill Civic is currently closed. As well as being a community venue, it was one source of income for Dudley CVS and the Civic still has ongoing running costs to cover. If you are able to support the Civic’s Crowdfunder campaign while we focus on supporting our communities through the Covid-19 outbreak, we would be incredibly grateful. The Civic is offering various rewards based on the level of support you are able to offer.

To donate, visit: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/keeping-brierley-hill-civic-open

Thank you.

COVID-19 Community Action and support

Dudley CVS has been asked to lead on co-ordinating the community response to COVID-19 in Dudley borough, working with existing voluntary and community groups and the volunteer centre and connecting people that need support to assets in their local community.

For more info and to offer help as an individual or a group please follow this link


http://dudleycvsreview.org/covid-19-community-action-and-support/

So what tools do volunteers have at their disposal?

Volunteers are wonderful and often bring a variety of tools, skills and expertise to the organisation they choose to support.  So let’s see just what volunteers keep in their toolbox both figuratively and literally!

Cogs

Volunteers are invariably the cog in the machine that is your organisation.  They often take up a minor role within it, but if they weren’t there how would you function? If you rely on volunteers to provide a service and they aren’t there for some reason this can mean a drop in service and disappointed clients

Spanner

Many volunteers are campaigners, challenging inequalities or injustice and putting a spanner in the works!  Look at the volunteers who start petitions etc. to organise others into objecting to building on a greenbelt area, a social injustice etc.

Other volunteers quite literally get stuck in with a spanner e.g. volunteering for a cycle recycling project, helping rejuvenate old or damaged bicycles to give to a child or young person who could not afford one otherwise.

Hammer

Volunteers will often hammer a point home to encourage others to join a cause or raise awareness.  Volunteering for one of the many charities supporting health related conditions such as fibromyalgia or dementia means they make have to challenge misconceptions and spread accurate information.

Helping at a repair café and mending broken or damaged chairs etc. is a practical use of this volunteer tool.

Tape

Service users are often asked to step in on a voluntary basis to see if services measure up e.g. accessibility, inclusivity etc.

Volunteers can also use their measuring skills helping to bake cakes for a fundraiser or helping with sewing group.
 

Drill

Volunteers living in particular areas may identify local issues in communities, researching what’s happening and drilling down to the causes, before they start tackling them e.g. lack of skills, lack of awareness, people not working together to tackle problems etc.

In practical terms a volunteer with a drill could be a lifesaver for someone vulnerable or elderly, who does not want workmen in their home. Local Age UK have DIY small tasks volunteers who can call on an older person by prior arrangement and assist by putting up smoke alarms, changing door handles etc.

Paintbrush

Volunteers with social media skills are in high demand as they can help to paint a picture of an organisation and tell their stories. This will help to raise an organisation’s profile and potentially attract more volunteers or clients.

People with painting sills are always in demand. Teams of staff from companies are often keen to help a not-for-profit with some decorating. A team of willing volunteers wielding a paintbrush can soon freshen up a tired looking space.

Spade

Everyone knows that volunteers invariably bring enthusiasm in spades and new volunteers joining an existing team can help bring fresh skills and ideas which will benefit the organisation.

In practical terms there are plenty of gardening and environmental projects who could benefit from this enthusiasm and a volunteer who’s handing with a spade!

If you would like to see how local people are giving their time to help develop creative spaces in Dudley, why not visit Gather Dudley’s page to see just what tools they are using?

What’s the currency of volunteers? #tuneintuesdays

Ok so you are now wondering what on earth currency has to do with volunteering, but bear with me and you’ll see where I’m going with this. I promise I’m not talking about Brexit, politics or international business, just the currencies that are exclusive to volunteers.

I recently lost a friend Steve, who had volunteered for 30+ years in the same place and had more recently come to me for support to look at other options as he was not being treated well by the management of his long-term placement, and his motivations to volunteer were being called into question.  He actually ended up volunteering for me with my annual Operation Santa appeal and spent 6 happy weeks wrapping and sorting donations, and his final role was helping to entertain 60 children and their parents at a Christmas party, making everyone laugh and smile.

This lovely volunteer when asked about why he volunteered said he was paid in smiles, so that was his volunteer currency – a smile.  So how did he gather his currency?  Steve volunteered on a children’s ward, so loved to approach a child or young person who had recently been admitted and was in pain, feeling miserable or at times in tears.  His approach varied from child to child and his first step was often to invite them to meet his teddy friend, who invariably end up in bed with the child. With a sulky teenager he would have a different approach and his tenacity was amazing as he always got them to talk to him, even if they wouldn’t talk to anyone else.  Steve was never happy until he’d managed to get a smile, even if it was a weak one it was a start!  That was his payment 🙂  He also collected wishes from the children on the ward and did his best to fulfil these. This amazing volunteer gave hours of his own time over 3 decades and made 551 local children’s dreams come true. Everything from riding in a helicopter or a Ferrari, to meeting a celebrity or smashing gnomes!  He even arranged a full prom for a young patient who couldn’t get to her school one.

Steve said himself:

“As a volunteer of course you don’t get paid for what you do not in financial terms, but to see that smile how can you put a price on that? Then of course you’ve got the day itself when you meet up and you see them lift off in that helicopter, or set off in that car so you get another smile, and you get a smile from the family and that’s a very fulfilling it’s very rewarding.” 

However, this post isn’t simply a eulogy to a much loved volunteer, but a recognition that although volunteers may not receive anything in financial terms, they do get other rewards and I believe that’s what keeps them giving their time and skills to help others.  So what other currencies are exclusive to volunteers and pardon the pun, something that money can’t buy?

Appreciation

What keeps a volunteer coming back to a role every week?  Perhaps their role is helping out at a day centre, chatting to people with disabilities who may not get much chance to socialise and doing activities with them to promote their independence.  A smile when you arrive and people wanting to chat to you makes you feel appreciated and realise that they value you giving your time.  That’s a powerful currency feeling appreciated let’s be honest. When did you last feel appreciated? Didn’t it make you feel great?

Kind words

I always encourage organisations to treat paid staff and volunteers in the same way to avoid volunteers feel less valued.  I met a volunteer whom I had signposted to an organisation who was regaling me with their adventures since they started volunteering there and apparently the volunteers were treated better than the paid staff!  Customers were much kinder and politer to the volunteers than the paid staff, telling them how wonderful they were and selfless for giving up their time to help the isolated and disabled.  This is wonderful, but not very fair on the paid staff who are no doubt doing a sterling job in difficult circumstances!  These kind words from customers are a wonderful motivational thing for volunteers wherever they may give their time, even the simplest things such as being thanked makes you feel better and know that you are doing a great thing by volunteering.

Recognition

This is an area which tends to divide both volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations.  Is it right to celebrate and recognise a single volunteer when you have lots of them? How do you choose who to recognise? This dilemma is a common one and maybe the simplest way to decide what’s best is to know your volunteers well. You will have the volunteers who want to operate under the radar and a simple ‘thank you’ is sufficient for them to feel valued and appreciated, whereas you will have other volunteers who love the spotlight and need to be told constantly that they are wonderful.  Nominating volunteers for awards is always a conundrum isn’t it? Do you single out a volunteer or nominate a team?  If they receive an award will they attend the event? Some will arrive dressed up to the nines and a speech prepared just in case, whereas others are far happier avoiding all the fuss, at home on the sofa in their pj’s!  So tailored recognition is important and you should celebrate your volunteers as this makes them feel valued and reassures them that they are doing a great job, another currency of volunteering.

Feeling they’ve made a difference

Volunteering is all about making a difference let’s be honest, so this is yet another currency.  You could be the only person someone sees in a week or talks to, particularly with a vulnerable older person.  That hour every week is probably life-changing for them and that’s a powerful emotion isn’t it?   Perhaps you are a sighted guide for someone who’s lost their sight and your weekly stroll to the shops is the highlight of their week, or befriend a single parent giving them a grown up to talk to, or someone to look after their children whilst they grab a bath and a little time to themselves.  That’s the essence of volunteering isn’t it? Giving your time to make a difference to someone?

Elation

When did you last feel elated in your everyday life or feel you had achieved something?  Volunteers must often experience this feeling.  They could be the volunteer who set up a social group for people with dementia and their carers in a local church hall, helping both carers and those they care far have someone to talk to, discuss and share common problems, whilst those they are caring for enjoy some social activities.  Or the volunteer leader who has supported and encouraged their young beavers to achieve their first badge.  Imagine the elation and pride you would feel when they were presented and the smiles on their faces.  Volunteers get a real kick from this particular currency.

Leaving a legacy

When volunteers move on for whatever reason – a new challenge, paid work, moving away from the area or even ill-health, knowing they’ve left a legacy is a powerful currency. The volunteer who’s developed a new service for clients, who’s fundraised £’s for a cause or like my dear friend Steve, granted wishes to 550+ poorly children.  This is yet another currency that’s unique to volunteering, where someone investing their time can change lives and leave a lifelong legacy.

So volunteer currency has the feel-good factor, which can’t be said for traditional currencies. It is unique, international and accepted everywhere. It’s doesn’t devalue due to conflicting markets, war or political issues, in fact it’s a growing currency as more people choose to give their time as volunteers and enjoy it for themselves. Maybe we now need to capture this and encourage non-volunteers to buy into our single currency – volunteering 🙂

A volunteer’s eye view of … volunteers’ rights #tuneintuesdays

 

 

 

Much of the recommended volunteer management guidance focusses around good practice rather than legal requirements and ensuring you have these good practice measures in place helps minimise risk to both your organisation and the volunteers who support you.

Do volunteers have rights?

A few years ago the Volunteer Managers Network in Dudley were asked to write a Volunteering Compact to work across Dudley borough and we felt it was important to create a Volunteer Charter, which outlined both a volunteer’s rights and their responsibilities to the organisations they supported. This, we felt, would form the basis of a volunteer management programme for any volunteer-involving group.  To help I have marked where the various ‘rights’ and ‘responsibilities’ are good practice or a legal requirement.

Volunteers’ Rights

Law

Good Practice

To be given a clear idea of their tasks and responsibilities within the organisation.  

yes

To be given the name of someone in the organisation who will look after their interests and who will offer them appropriate support, and supervision on a regular basis.  

yes

To be assured that any information shared with the organisation is kept confidential. [Data Protection]

yes

 
To be given the same protection under health & safety regulations and public liability as paid employees.   [Health and Safety]

yes

 
To be offered opportunities for training and skills development, appropriate for the voluntary tasks involved.   yes
To have a complementary relationship with paid staff, who should be fully aware of the role and responsibilities of a volunteer.   yes
To have access i.e. through volunteer meetings etc., and to play a part in the decision-making process of the organisation/project.  

yes

To be informed about the agency’s policies relevant to the volunteer i.e. health & safety, grievance and disciplinary procedures.  

yes

To be provided with appropriate equipment, tools and materials associated to their tasks.   yes
Volunteers may join a trade union relevant to the work in which they are involved. NUPE, MSF and UNISON currently welcome volunteers into their membership.   yes
To be supported when things go wrong and to be encouraged to learn from their mistakes or difficulties.  

yes

Volunteers should not: –    
˜  Be used to replace paid workers [if they do so they may have employment rights]

yes

yes

˜  Have unfair demands made on their time  

yes

˜  Be asked to do something which is against their principles or beliefs   yes
˜  Be subject to any discrimination e.g. on the basis of race, sexuality, age, gender   yes
˜  Be out of pocket through undertaking voluntary work – travel and other expenses should be reimbursed   yes

Volunteers’ Responsibilities

   
To support and embrace the organisation’s aims and objectives.   yes
To do what is reasonably requested of them, to the best of their ability.   yes
To recognise the right of the organisation to expect quality of service from all its volunteers.   yes
To recognise that they represent the organisation and therefore need to act in an appropriate manner at all times.   yes
To honour any commitment made to the best of their abilities, notifying the organisation in good time should they be unable to keep that commitment e.g. for holidays.   yes
To be willing to undertake appropriate training with respect to health & safety issues, insurance liability and general good practice as necessary for the voluntary work undertaken. [volunteers need to understand they are responsible for their own health and safety and to raise any health and safety issues they observe with the appropriate person] yes yes
To abide by any relevant policies and procedures.   yes
To offer suggestions for changes/improvements in working practices to the Volunteer Co-ordinator/Project Officer.   yes

 

When it goes wrong …

Good practice procedures around volunteer involvement are essential and should cover all elements of involving volunteers.  If a volunteer feels unfairly treated and the organisation does not have robust, transparent procedures in place to deal with problem solving around their volunteers, they may be tempted to attempt to go to an employment tribunal.

“I’ve been volunteering for XXXX for three years and receive a set sum every week for expenses to make sure that I am not out of pocket.  We also receive this when we do not come in due to being not well or away on holidays with our families.  I had to commit to work 12 hours per week as a ‘volunteer’ and receive £25 per week (subsequently increased to £40) ‘to cover expenses’.  When I became pregnant I was dismissed.  I have taken the organisation to court to claim sex discrimination and unfair dismissal due to sex.”

So has this volunteer been treated unfairly?  The tribunal had to decide whether she was working under a contract of employment in order to claim unfair dismissal. It’s quite clear that the organisation had unwittingly created an employment contract, so she was in fact considered an employee by the fact that she received a fixed payment for volunteering, which was even paid when she was on holiday or off sick, plus she was volunteering for a fixed commitment of 12 hours per week. She thus had rights to claim unfair dismissal.

 “Myself and the other volunteers sign a written agreement and we are expected to attend monthly meetings and induction training. There is no minimum time commitment by volunteers and XXXX reimburse actual out of pocket expenses only. We claim we are employees.”

What do you think about this grievance? Do the volunteers have employment rights?  In this case they don’t for the following reasons:

  1. “expected to attend” – means there is no obligation on the part of the volunteer to attend if they do not wish to
  2. “no minimum time commitment” – the volunteers are not signed up to volunteer for a fixed amount of time per week
  3. “reimburse actual out of pocket expenses only” – there are no fixed amounts

The organisation is clearly very careful to ensure they have good practice in place around involving volunteers, so do not create an employment contract with their volunteers.

Please don’t forget if you need any help or support I’m happy to help and that’s what I’m here for 🙂  Just contact me on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk