Stacie: So the NHS Volunteer Responder programme is a partnership between NHS England, Royal Voluntary Service and a digital company called GoodSAM. Our aim was to mobilise volunteers, to get them out and into their communities during the pandemic, to support people who were isolating or shielding. Every one of us in the partnership took individual responsibility – Royal Voluntary Service’s responsibility was to recruit and train volunteers. In March 2020 we quickly started a recruitment campaign to encourage people to join. We were looking for 250,000 volunteers to sign up to the programme. Just 10 days later and we had to switch recruitment off as we had 750,000 volunteers, which was just incredible and rather overwhelming.
About Michelle & Stacie
Michelle Parry-Slater is L&D Director at Kairos Modern Learning & author of The Learning & Development Handbook
Stacie is the Learning and Development Manager at Royal Voluntary Service.
Stacie: It was a really quick response, but we’ve always worked with the NHS, so it was such a natural partnership for us to support them in this initiative.
Michelle: So you were looking for a quarter of a million volunteers – and you’ve recruited three quarters of a million people. Your job at Royal Voluntary Service now was to make sure they knew what they needed to do. Your job has suddenly grown enormously hasn’t it? How on earth did you manage that?
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Stacie: Firstly, we answered lots of their questions at the recruitment stage – such as:
- What am I going to be asked to do?
- What’s my role going to look like?
- What’s expected of me?
- Do I need to go out and about?
- Am I going be kept safe?
We provided them with that information even before they had signed up, so they knew what the expectations were.
Secondly, we had four clearly defined roles:
1. A community response role, focused on supporting people with practical things like shopping, prescription pick ups, going to the post office and posting something, so very practical support.
2. A check-in and chat volunteer, which was all about telephone befriending. So volunteers could do that from their own homes, they didn’t need to go out and about.
3. A patient transport role, to support patients going to and from the hospital for appointments, or if people were being discharged from hospital to make sure that they got home safely.
4. An NHS transport role. So those volunteers were supporting things like local GP surgeries or local pharmacies with prescription collection and bulk drop-offs in the local community, going to several different locations.
Having those defined roles meant that we could think about what information they needed to be comfortable and confident.
Michelle: So what I’m interested in is the link between recruitment and learning. So it sounds like you had very clear expectations of what they needed to know in order to be able to do those roles. Was that link between learning and recruitment really clear for you?
Stacie: Yes I think it was quite clear and we really needed to explore what people in those different roles needed. So some people were going out and about in their communities, some people were doing things from home. And because it was micro-volunteering, all controlled via an app, they wouldn’t know who they were picking the phone up to, or helping. We had to provide learning for all these different scenarios, depending on the issues our volunteers would be faced with, whose door they’d be turning up on, who they were phoning. We had to scope out those roles and the learning requirements for all of them, and then come up with different options.
Michelle: But you had no time – you did this so quickly! We went from the pandemic starting and into lock down, and suddenly you’ve recruited 750,000 volunteers. You’ve already mentioned that you had a historic relationship with the NHS, so you knew to a certain extent what they needed, but what else… What’s the secret sauce to switching on 750,000 volunteers, literally overnight?
Stacie: Very early on, we created Getting You Started packs, and that was very informational. It explained things like data protection, what they could and couldn’t do in terms of safeguarding, how to keep themselves safe when they were out and about, the basics of their roles and things like that.
Stacie: Absolutely. We had all our compliance training already, that our Royal Voluntary Service volunteers go through. Luckily, a lot of that could be drawn upon. When volunteers first join RVS, they also get a Keeping You Safe and Legal Handbook. That handbook is their first introduction to the organisation and to their training. So I could pick snippets out of that too, although it had to be adapted for the needs of the NHS Volunteer Responders. But we did have the bare bones already available from our typical volunteering training.
Michelle: So what I’m hearing is: Start with where you are, start with what you’ve got, build from that, use the skills you talked earlier about, and you also mentioned an app. Can you talk a little bit more about the app that you used?
Stacie: The GoodSAM app has been around for a while. It’s predominantly been developed to support cardiac arrest – matching somebody in the local area who is able to help someone in need. So GoodSAM were the right people for us to work with from the very beginning. They developed a bespoke platform (accessed online as well as via an app) where we were able to take requests for help, from and for people in need. So NHS practitioners and GPs could refer people, for example, but anyone could also self-refer as well, if they were isolating and needed some support. The app would look for a volunteer responder in the area that had the right criteria, who has been trained in that role, who could offer support. So it matches somebody that needs help to somebody that’s willing to give help.
Michelle: So it wasn’t a learning app, it was literally a dating app! That’s very clever, as you’re using the technology in a way to support the work that was being done. I think that’s a lesson for all of us in learning and development. Often we’ll chase the shiny and the new but actually you just need what’s necessary to get the job done, and I think that’s a real strength in your story here. Thanks very much.
Michelle Parry-Slater was talking to Stacie Lloyd for a regular charity spotlight on Learning Now TV, which is sponsored by the Charity Learning Consortium.
About Stacie Lloyd
Stacie Lloyd is the Learning and Development Manager at Royal Voluntary Service. She has worked for Royal Voluntary Service for 17 years, predominately in a learning and development (L&D) or volunteering role. Stacie started her L&D journey as an L&D Coordinator and then spent a number of years as a L&D Partner. She supported a variety of departments with their learning needs, specialising in retail training initiatives. She also spent a few years as a Volunteer Partner, which she says opened her eyes to the value and benefits of volunteering – not only to those who receive the services they provide, but to the volunteers who gift their time, talents and skills to supporting their communities. Her volunteering background has enabled Stacie to think about how the L&D team can provide the best opportunities for Royal Voluntary Service. Stacie and her team aim to put their learners needs at the heart of everything they do, and continuously evolve to develop the most appropriate solutions to suit their needs and preferences.