Guest blog by Volunteering Barnet
Anyone can volunteer, regardless of background, nationality, disability, age, class, gender or religion. However, some volunteers find there are barriers to getting involved, and volunteer coordinators play a vital role in removing barriers.
Your organisation’s inclusion and diversity statement should commit to inclusive volunteering, and policies and procedures should reflect this commitment.
When promoting volunteer roles, quote your inclusion policy and specify that you accept applications from people of various backgrounds, for example people with disabilities, people who speak English as a second language, and those from different cultural backgrounds and ages.
Making information accessible
When writing volunteer policies and processes, consider how accessible the information is. You may wish to adapt resources to make them suitable:
– Use simple and accessible language
– Produce information in languages other than English
– Provide copies of all information in large print or audio
It should not cost somebody money to volunteer. Paying travel and food expenses helps ensure anyone can volunteer with you. Some volunteers may not request expenses if they do not know they are available. If you do offer expenses, explain this in the volunteer advert and during inductions.
Disabled Volunteers – The Social Model of Disability
The Medical Model of Disability understands a person’s condition to be their disability. For example, if somebody is blind, their inability to see is understood to be their disability.
Conversely, the Social Model of Disability argues that it is society’s inability to consider the needs of people with impairments, which disables them. People are excluded from participating in mainstream society because of barriers, which deny them equal access. These barriers can be:
– Physical (e.g. the volunteering environment)
– Organisational (e.g. the processes to become a volunteer)
– Attitudinal barriers (e.g. the attitudes of staff or volunteers)
When thinking about inclusion, many people immediately consider adapting the physical environment, for example by installing lifts, which can be very costly. However, removing organisational and attitudinal barriers can have a large impact, and can be done for little cost.
Removing these barriers, and making your volunteer programme inclusive, will ultimately benefit all volunteers.
Keeping people safe
Volunteers, staff and clients should all be safe. During the recruitment process, it is appropriate to ask all volunteers if there are particular issues fellow workers or volunteers should know about, to make sure they are safe while volunteering. Give volunteers the opportunity to disclose information in a safe and supportive environment, and reassure volunteer this won’t affect their ability to be involved.
When working with vulnerable people, your organisation should have a safeguarding policy and procedure in place. Make sure volunteers are training on this where appropriate.
For templates and further guidance refer back to the Volunteering Barnet Resource Bank.