‘Getting involved with Healthwatch Hertfordshire’ -
A Review of Volunteering – Jo Wilkinson, Project Co-ordinator

Healthwatch Hertfordshire (HwH) is the independent champion for people using local health and social care services in the County.  We listen to what people like about services and what could be improved. We share their views with bodies that can make change happen.  We are here to make care better for people.

To help us achieve this we rely on the support of local organisations and services but also the support of people in our local community who want to take an active role within the organisation by becoming volunteers.
We value the involvement that volunteers bring to:

• strengthen links with Hertfordshire communities
• help us engage with harder to reach communities and increase diversity
• improve public engagement
• increase capacity so that we can achieve more

HwH has used volunteers for a number of years who have helped to shape and develop the organisation to where it is today. We currently benefit from the support of more than 70 volunteers and some of them fulfil more than one volunteer role. 

In 2016, based on a background in Volunteer Management, I was asked to carry out a review of volunteering for the organisation.  The objective was to determine how we might enhance existing roles and develop new opportunities to strengthen our capacity and attract new recruits at the same time as reviewing our policies, procedures, and recruitment and training practices.
Following extensive research and review over a six-month period, which included looking at other Healthwatch organisations and national best practice, the Trustee Board approved a range of recommendations, which are now in place and form our Volunteer Implementation Plan.

The improvements include:
• Reviewed volunteer policies and procedures with a new Volunteer Handbook
• A new more co-ordinated Recruitment, Induction and Training Process with a greater focus on the use of social media, online application forms and Easy Read versions of key documents where appropriate
• Improved communication including a regular volunteer e-newsletter, informal feedback sessions, volunteer case studies, updated website pages, and a new annual celebration event to coincide with National Volunteer Week.

There are many volunteer roles on offer now including the established roles of Trustee, Representative, Youth Volunteers, Enter, and View Authorised Representatives alongside recently created roles of Community Ambassador, Engagement and Research Volunteers.

The new programme was launched in June with our first new Induction Session in July.  Since the launch, we have nine new volunteers who have applied to join us and are now on a journey to become fully fledged Healthwatch Volunteers.   This will increase our volunteer capacity by 13%. The team are excited about the prospect and we look forward to welcoming them.
When asked about our volunteer programme one of our long standing volunteers, Keith Shephard recently said “Growing the pool of appropriately trained and committed volunteers across the County enables Healthwatch to undertake greater volumes of activity, gather more intelligence and thereby strengthening influence on behalf of local people.”

I’ve enjoyed working on this project and look forward to seeing the added value that the improvements will hopefully bring to the important work of Healthwatch Hertfordshire and their dedicated team.

To find out more about the work that we do and volunteering opportunities visit our website https://www.healthwatchhertfordshire.co.uk/get-involved/volunteer