THE STRONG CASE FOR INVOLVING MORE VOLUNTEERS IN SOCIAL CARE
The funding crisis in social care has been a high profile issue in recent months with commentators talking about a funding gap of £6bn pa and growing. This, coupled with the introduction of the National Living Wage, will put providers under severe financial pressure and adversely impact their ability to meet the needs of the people they support.
Our research suggests that there is scope for a significant increase in the involvement of volunteers in social care, but that only a few social care organisations are taking advantage of this opportunity.
First some numbers. Information from our Volunteers Count benchmarking study (Agenda Consulting, 2015) indicates that the cost of running a volunteer programme averages £280 per volunteer per year. When this cost is compared with a financial assessment of the volunteer contribution (the average volunteer puts in 10 hours per month) costed at national minimum wage, it shows that the return on investment is nearly 3:1. In other words, the financial contribution of volunteers is nearly 3 times the cost. This figure is even higher for those with larger volunteer programmes (over 5,000 volunteers).
Second the opportunity. The key is to think creatively about the roles that volunteers can play. How much can they get involved in personal care (e.g. massage, nails, medication), in direct support (e.g. outings, driving, personal finance), in indirect support (e.g. newsletters, events, fundraising)? This may require organisations to challenge assumptions and explore new models, and move the boundary between staff and volunteer roles.
Getting this right will result in meeting the wants not just the needs of the people you support. There will be strong other benefits too: for volunteers themselves an opportunity to strengthen their skills and networks, and for the organisation as a whole, the ability to increase service quality in a tough financial environment.
On average there are 760 volunteers in social care for every 1,000 employees. Whilst this is similar to the Third Sector average, it is considerably lower than hospices and medical research organisations which involve nearly 5 times as many volunteers. Given the pressing need in social care it would seem that there is plenty of scope for increasing the scope and number of volunteers.
Growing a volunteer programme is going to require that leaders of volunteer functions work strategically with their top teams, demonstrate costs and benefits, and make the case for investing in volunteers. Those social care organisations that do this will make a substantial difference to the lives of the people they support and as a result enhance their own effectiveness and reputation.
If you would like to discuss these ideas further, please contact Roger Parry – details below.