Help the Hospices did a survey in 2006 which found that financial value of volunteers to hospices was over £112 million. This means that if hospices paid people to do the work done by volunteers, their costs would increase by nearly a quarter.
However, hospice volunteering is not just about saving money. It is about making a difference to patients and families at a very difficult time in their lives. For volunteers, it can also be a way of:
Who can volunteer?
Hospice volunteers come from many different backgrounds, ranging from students to retired people. They may be people who volunteer skills related to their jobs or those who simply give their time and enthusiasm to take on a job that needs doing.
Most hospices can find opportunities for younger people to volunteer and for working people who can offer a few hours, on a regular basis, on their day off. Schools can help hospices too.
Some employers encourage their staff to volunteer, on an individual basis or as part of a team challenge.
What volunteers do
You can work directly with patients and their families, behind the scenes in an administrative role, or helping to raise money.
Volunteer roles in hospices are very varied and can include:
- driving patients to and from day care
- meeting and greeting visitors and patients
- serving meals and refreshments
- offering specialist skills such as hairdressing or complementary therapies
- providing information or bereavement support
- decorating and gardening
- fundraising or helping at fundraising events
- serving in hospice shops or helping to sort and price items.
Even if you are not giving direct support to patients or families, anything you can do that saves or makes money helps the hospice to spend more on care, and to make a real difference to patients and families.
How to volunteer
If you are interested in volunteering, contact your local hospice and ask for the person responsible for recruiting volunteers. This is usually the voluntary services manager or co-ordinator.
Before you can start volunteering, they will want to:
meet you to find out about your interests and skills
match your skills and interests with suitable roles
offer you an appropriate induction or training
arrange a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check if your volunteer role will involve direct contact with patients.