Norfolk charity to pioneer care home volunteers scheme

Volunteer Mary Knights, right on one of her visits to see Thorpe St Andrew pensioner Beryl Forkes. P

Volunteer Mary Knights, right on one of her visits to see Thorpe St Andrew pensioner Beryl Forkes. Photo: Steve Adams.

A new scheme being pioneered by a Norwich-based charity could see the lives of care home residents enriched by visiting volunteers.

The programme will see volunteer activity coordinators placed in homes to get residents relieve pressure on care staff and allow unpaid workers to take responsibility for getting residents involved in social activities.

Norfolk County Council and Voluntary Norfolk, the two bodies behind the scheme, believe it could not only help older people to get more out of life but help the next generation of professional carers to develop.

The coordinators will start work at some private care homes in north Norfolk next month, and though they will be specifically trained for the role, they will not replace paid staff or do any of their duties.

Linda Rogers, Voluntary Norfolk's head of operations, said: 'While placing volunteers in private care homes is something of a new step, many of Voluntary Norfolk's existing volunteers already help older people in the community with social and leisure activities, so to some extent the new scheme is an extension of something that we know works well and is greatly appreciated.

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'The new scheme will benefit the residents, the volunteers themselves and, we hope, the caring profession in years to come.'

The county council has funded the project to promote volunteering, and the training and experience that come with it, as a way for young people and those seeking new jobs to find out if care work suits them.

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Sue Whitaker, NCC's cabinet member for adult social services, said: 'This is an opportunity for anyone – young people, those returning to work, or looking for a change of career – to find out more about care work, and whether it is for them. At the same time, the volunteers will help care home residents get more out of life, so everyone benefits.'

With the skills they learn during their volunteering, the coordinators can improve their future employment chances.

Paid staff in care homes will also be able to add to their own skills by undertaking Voluntary Norfolk training in Volunteer Management.

As a new project, the initiative is part of a National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) research project, funded by the Department of Health.

The scheme begins in October and Voluntary Norfolk is seeking a project leader to oversee it and recruit the volunteers who will help in the care homes.

To find out more about volunteering, contact Jonny Wood on 01263 510701, or, to enquire about the project manager role, Linda Rogers on 01603 883801.

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