This document is arranged so that the most frequently asked questions are answered first. However, please take a few minutes to read through the supplementary information as well, to gain a better understanding of how volunteering works in Midlothian currently.
1. What are the different routes for volunteers in Midlothian?
People in Midlothian typically get involved in volunteering through three main routes:
- By registering interest in an opportunity through Volunteer Midlothian or Volunteer Scotland’s website (with or without support to do so).
- By going direct to a local group or organisation and offering to help out – this can also happen through word of mouth or social media promotion.
- By signing up for Red Cross community reserves or NHS volunteering, or by directly approaching other large national charities such as MacMillan.
Over 500 people in Midlothian signed up to volunteer as part of the Ready Scotland national recruitment campaign in response to COVID-19. Over 300 potential volunteers remain contactable and/or on standby, but this figure could change. We have promoted various opportunities to this group so far and may be able to do so again. Please get in touch if you think this may be relevant.
2. I have a volunteer role I want to promote – who can help me with this?
To promote a non-urgent volunteering opportunity in Midlothian, complete an opportunity registration form and send it back to Volunteer Midlothian. Alternatively, contact us to discuss in more detail. We are checking our email every day and will respond promptly.
If you are looking for emergency response, short-term volunteers in Midlothian, which could include initiatives related to COVID-19, please email Lorraine Dilworth at British Red Cross.
3. How are volunteering opportunities promoted in Midlothian?
Opportunities registered with Volunteer Midlothian are promoted on our website, via local and national search engines that are linked. The national one sits with SCVO and is known as Volunteer Zone – you will need to register with them separately to promote an opportunity across multiple local authority areas in one go. Local promotion in Midlothian, via Volunteer Midlothian’s website, is available to any organisation that completes the relevant forms and meets our minimum standards (see Q2 and Q. 5). Local adverts will also visible to people out-with Midlothian who set their search criteria accordingly.
Members of Volunteer Midlothian can also promote opportunities via our social media channels and website. We will be launching a new website in autumn 2020, with more space for news stories about specific opportunities and a prominent volunteering opportunity ‘hotlist’. Membership of Volunteer Midlothian costs £30 per year and enables access to our Volunteer Manager’s Forum, which meets every three months. The forum is a great place to network with other volunteer managers (paid and unpaid) and share ideas around best practice in volunteering.
4. What if the organisation I work for promotes its own opportunities?
Other agencies such as the Red Cross, NHS Lothian and Midlothian Council have their own channels for promoting opportunities, although they do promote some volunteer roles via Volunteer Midlothian as well. If you work for one of these organisations as a volunteer manager or coordinator, your opportunity can be put up on our website, where it will have its own web link that can be shared widely and where more people will see it.
5. What else do I need to do to recruit volunteers?
Good planning and preparation are important when involving volunteers, to clarify expectations and enable a positive experience for everyone involved. Whatever the opportunity, we recommend that volunteer involving organisations in Midlothian put the following things in place:
- Public liability insurance and a volunteering policy.
- A role description and volunteering agreement for each volunteer role.
- Risk-assessments for each role and volunteer, in view of COVID-19 and Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG).
The minimum standard is to have insurance and a volunteering policy in place if you want to promote via our website.
6. I work for the Council or NHS, what else do I need to think about?
Most larger organisations that involve volunteers will already have a volunteering policy. If you work for Midlothian Council, you can view their policy here and should familiarise yourself with what it says. Similarly, NHS Lothian has its own policies and procedures for volunteer involvement and a dedicated voluntary services team who would normally oversee NHS volunteering in Midlothian.
Volunteering activity that sits with Midlothian’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) is more complicated in terms of which policies and procedures apply, so guidance should be sought from a service manager in the first instance. The good news is that a new worker has recently been appointed in Midlothian to develop HSCP volunteering. That person should hopefully be in post by January 2021 and will be taking forward several exciting projects to promote further involvement of volunteers within HSCP services.
7. Is volunteering admin and paperwork necessary?
Volunteering is not a legally defined process in the same way that employment is, but it can and should be underpinned by certain formalities. Having the correct procedures in place makes volunteering safer and more accountable for everyone involved. This is especially true in the context of COVID-19, but also in relation to GDPR (data protection) and PVG. Good volunteering infrastructure can help to protect volunteers, service users, staff and organisations. In the case of COVID-19 it will certainly help to reduce the risk of transmission.
8. Are there examples of risk assessments that I can look at?
Yes, you can go to Volunteer Midlothian’s website for a full range of templates that can be used and adapted as necessary for your project or organisation. You may also find it interesting to look at Volunteer Edinburgh’s ‘Volunteer Wiki’ page, which explores many different volunteering related issues from an organisational point of view.
9. Are there any other COVID-19 specific considerations?
Yes. The possibility of contracting COVID-19 when volunteering should be discussed in advance with each individual volunteer. If that person has a health condition making them more vulnerable to COVID-19, we recommend that you support them to pursue digital, remote or outdoor roles, avoiding indoor face-to-face contact. Government guidance about specific medical conditions and COVID-19 can be found here. You may also want to consider using NHS Lothian’s assessment tool to assess individual vulnerability to COVID-19.
We recently developed a flow chart to help organisations think through all the health and safety implications of volunteering and COVID-19. It contains links and information that will assist you to set up COVID-safe volunteering projects. It can be found here. Please note that it is a working document and is subject to change, in line with local and national guidance.
10. What is Volunteer Midlothian?
Volunteer Midlothian is the leading agency for volunteering development and promotion in Midlothian. We are funded by the Scottish Government to provide:
- Advice and guidance on how and where to volunteer in Midlothian.
- A database of volunteering opportunities.
- Specialist advice for young people, including access to the Saltire Awards scheme and supported volunteering opportunities.
- Support for organisations to develop volunteering projects and opportunities.
- Information and training on volunteer management.
- Promotion of volunteering opportunities through our website, social media and local networks.
11. Who does Volunteer Midlothian work with?
Volunteer Midlothian is part of the Midlothian Third Sector Interface (TSI). The TSI also consists of Midlothian Voluntary Action (MVA) and the Social Enterprise Alliance Midlothian (SEAM). The TSI provides support and representation for the third sector in Midlothian, which encompasses local community groups and charitable organisations, volunteers and social enterprises. We are one of 32 TSI’s across Scotland. Our community planning partners include Midlothian Council and Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership.
12. What else does Volunteer Midlothian do (and not do)?
We are a gateway organisation. We help to connect local volunteers with local opportunities and vice versa. As well as assisting people to find opportunities, we support organisations to achieve best practice when working with volunteers. Most of the opportunities we promote do not ‘belong’ to us, although we do run some of our own volunteering projects. We do not run projects or manage volunteers on behalf of other local organisations, unless there is a formal partnership agreement in place.
We understand the bigger picture of volunteering in Scotland and represent Midlothian at national networks and events about volunteering. We are also a community planning partner. This means we work closely with other local organisations to help improve opportunities and life chances for people in Midlothian.
13. Who else deals with volunteers in Midlothian?
There are several other organisations that deal directly with volunteers in Midlothian. This includes but is not limited to:
- Local charities and constituted voluntary groups
- Larger national charities
- Midlothian Council
- Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership
- NHS Lothian
- Community Development Trusts
- Community Councils
- The Red Cross
14. What other support can Volunteer Midlothian offer?
We are happy to discuss individual queries or requests for support from organisations and may be able to provide bespoke training. Just email us and we’ll get back to you to chat in more detail.