This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Victim Support: the volunteer question

I am beginning to see advertisements for "Support Services to Victims of Crime" in various places, inviting organisations to express an interest in tendering for these new contracts that will be let by the Police & Crime Commissioners. Of course, we have known this policy was coming for some while.

There is a handy guide available from the Ministry of Justice (download from here). And many other resources too:
But where do volunteers fit into all of this?

On the national Victim Support website, it says:
Our charity is built on our volunteers. Without them we couldn't continue to do all the positive work for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales.Volunteers do much of our direct support of victims and witnesses, as well as helping us in so many other ways such as raising money, and promoting our work. We always need new volunteers throughout England and Wales so please get in touch, we’d value your support. We have around 5,600 people volunteering for us. 
The word volunteer is mentioned once in MoJ guidance (referenced above). The Home Office document "have you got what it takes'... does not have one use of the word volunteer. In the "Evidence and Practice Review of support for victims and outcome measurement", volunteers get more of a mention in terms of the need to make sure that volunteers like staff are properly trained and supported. For example:
Table 4.1 Indicators of quality in victim support service provision Governance and management - Defined organisational aims and objectives
- Standardised processes and procedures across the organisation
- Service accountable to Board and/or managers, and individual staff/volunteers accountable to an assigned line manager
- Monitoring of financial performance, including cost effectiveness
Staff/volunteer recruitment, training and support - Staff/volunteers have the qualifications and/or have received the training necessary to fulfil their role
- Staff/volunteers exhibit the necessary personal qualities and attributes to support victims professionally and sensitively
- Clinical supervision for staff/volunteers providing therapy to victims
- Support mechanisms in place for staff/volunteers - Opportunities for learning and development 
So it would seem that volunteers both are and are not central to the provision of effective support for victims. From what little I know of victim support, it relies on its volunteers to provide empathy, capacity and capability to its role.

But for me the big question is this: will volunteers want to work for a profit making company? 

As regular readers know, I work as volunteer for ChildLine which is part of the NSPCC, a notable and large charity. If it was ChildLine Ltd where some of the fruits of my voluntary labour were ending up in the pockets of the hedgefunds (or whatever) who were shareholders... I think I might find another organisation to volunteer for.

Would you?

Will the tender documents from commercial organisations (or perhaps consortia involving such companies), soon to be landing with a thud on the desks of PCCs, include statements about how volunteers will be part of the team...? How can they be sure that volunteers will want to work for them?

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