Today is Dignity Action Day, a national awareness day that aims to ensure people who use care services are treated as individuals and are given choice, control and a sense of purpose in their daily lives. At Volunteering Matters, dignity and respect are values that we hold dear, particularly when it comes to supporting vulnerable people.

What role can volunteers play in helping to uphold the rights of vulnerable older people in care homes? Communications Manager Kate Bermingham spoke to Business Development Manager for Older People Yvonne Ogden to find out more…

Kate: What can volunteers do to help ensure vulnerable older people, in care homes and similar settings, are treated with dignity and respect?

Yvonne: Volunteers can help to represent the views and needs of vulnerable older people, and help to ensure the care they receive is provided with respect.  Our lay assessor’s scheme is one such example of this. Our Retired and Senior Volunteers engage with residents, families and providers to ensure older people have a good quality of life and that they are treated as they would wish to be.

Lay Assessors visit a care home more frequently than council staff, and in a different capacity, so they are ideally placed to form a broad and balanced perspective of a care home. Their work has been described as bringing an extra pair of eyes to the process.

Kate: In addition to offering volunteer opportunities to support vulnerable older people, what does Volunteering Matters do to further the goals of Dignity Action Day?

Yvonne:  Volunteering with people who face social exclusion as a result of their health and care needs, or as a result of disability, is an effective way to challenge discrimination and stigma. We also run projects that enable these people to become volunteers themselves.

This enables everyone to participate as an active citizen in their local communities, and prevents marginalised people from becoming ‘consigned to service land’.  Volunteer programmes also help providers of health and care services to engage with their local communities, and ultimately improve outcomes for service users.

Kate: How can volunteers support the paid workforce in the care industry?

Yvonne: Volunteers can add that extra layer of service that care providers struggle to find the capacity to offer. This can mean supporting residents to attend health appointments, or providing additional activities to enable residents to have a better quality of life and build social networks. Volunteers are a vital component in the movement to improve the health and wellbeing of older people.

Kate: What can the volunteers themselves gain from the experience of supporting vulnerable older people in care homes?

Yvonne: Our volunteers would tell you that they themselves have built their social networks and enriched their lives through volunteering.  We know from our recent volunteer survey that our volunteers feel more fullfilled and have a greater sense of purpose as a result of their volunteering.

Volunteers report a greater level of confidence and improvements to their health and wellbeing.  But don’t take my word for it – why not visit our Volunteering Matters website to read some of our inspiring first hand accounts from volunteers across the UK.