Report of the Interim Strategic Director, Communities and Environment
The Committee received an Annual Update report on the implementation of Gateshead’s Volunteer Plan, now known as Helping Out.
Gateshead Council has adopted the Making Gateshead a Place Where Everyone Thrives and this will now supersede the current Council Plan. The pledge “Support our communities to support themselves and each other” is at the heart of the Council’s approach to volunteering.
The Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy 2019/2020 to 2023/24 states that the Council will continue to seek to mitigate demand pressures within services by capacity building within communities, including where appropriate work with partners and volunteers.
In April 2018 Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed the content of the Volunteers Plan Refresh. The plan offered a new set of commitments to support residents and community organisations in Gateshead to help each other out.
There are now 2825 volunteers registered in Gateshead Council (originally 50 in 2013 and 1978 in 2018). As a very conservative estimate there could be as many as 8,000 – 10,000 volunteers actively helping across our communities.
Volunteers in Gateshead provide help to a range of council services and voluntary groups, most notably in the environmental area, social care, health and sport and community centres.
Corporate volunteer days continue to grow in demand, with a total of over 125 individual organisations requesting tailored bespoke volunteer days supporting an estimated 2,500 individual employee volunteers (as at 2019). The economic value to the Gateshead community is estimated at £219,995.
Gateshead’s seventh Volunteers Month took place in June 2019. Throughout June 128,199 hours were recorded on the volunteer totaliser which equates to £1,666,587 economic value for 2019. That’s an increase of 15,048 hours over the month and in increase of economic value of £195,624 from the figures in 2018.
In 2019 the funding available for Volunteers Month was incorporated into the main Thrive Fund. Grants of between £250-£3000 are available to support groups in different areas including volunteering. Projects can be delivered at any time and unlike previous years are not confined to June. This provides groups with more flexibility for their projects and activities.
For the first time The Gateshead Awards were held in June this year to link into Volunteers Month and increase the recognition of volunteers. The awards were held on the evening of Wednesday 12 June. The Gateshead Awards highlight the huge investment into the community from volunteers and voluntary groups. There are several categories including, volunteer and voluntary organisation of the year. A winner in each category was announced on the night.
One of the key areas this year has been Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) highlighting how private sector organisations assign their employees to volunteer projects in Gateshead through Helping Out Volunteer Days.
The Helping Out Volunteer Days involve any activities that a voluntary group would benefit from including gardening, painting and even website development.
From October 2018 (following the previous OSC report) until the end of April 2019, Neighbourhood Management and Volunteering coordinated the recruitment of 600+ volunteers to support the World Transplant Games 2019. Without these volunteer roles including; accommodation and hospitality, sports events and venues, social and cultural programme, marketing and PR, transport, logistics and Health and Safety the games could not be delivered.
The Volunteer Plan and systems for the management of volunteer projects had remained largely unchanged since 2013 until the refresh. Therefore some of the systems and processes that support the recruitment and retention of volunteers are now difficult to manage efficiently due to the increasing volume of volunteering requests and the capacity available to process the requests.
Following some research in 2018 and earlier, it was determined that an online system for volunteer recruitment would be the most effective for volunteers, organisations, voluntary groups and Council Officers in Gateshead.
A specification is currently being developed following Gateshead Council’s procurement process to identify the most suitable provider to create a bespoke online database. External funding has been sources by Neighbourhood Volunteering and Management to fund this.
The following priority areas for future action have been identified in order to continue the delivery of the Volunteers Plan:
· Work with a suitable provider to tailor a new online management system to recruit volunteers, record volunteers, promote volunteer roles and match available volunteers to opportunities within Gateshead. The system will also generate specific reports to monitor volunteering which can be reported back to OSC at a later date.
· Continue promotion of the Employee Volunteering Scheme specifically
group volunteer opportunities for teams of Council employees
· Look to refresh the application forms for the Employee Volunteering Scheme to remove any barriers to applying
· Development work with the Private Business Sector of Gateshead to determine Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies aims and align
them to project development.
· Continue development work and promotion of individual & group volunteering with corporate organisations and provide links to the voluntary sector
· Creation of new group projects using one central form. These will include proposed projects for volunteers and those for community service.
· Continued development of volunteering opportunities on Gateshead Council website and OurGateshead and using the online resource as a space to share experiences and good news stories to illustrate examples of good practice
· Continued development work with local colleges and universities
· Development of young people and volunteering including sixth forms and secondary schools as well as youth groups
· Continue to provide lead support for volunteering within the Voluntary & Community sector as well as for Council Service projects and roles.
· Continue development work with Environmental Friends of Groups including training needs, insurance issues, continued networking with services including insurance, Street Scene & Unions and the bi-annual Friends of Group Conferences.
· Re-establishment of the Volunteer Action Group. A new group will include Gateshead Council Volunteer Coordinators, as well as those from the Voluntary Sector to enable better communication and contacts to develop naturally.
· Continue working relationships with Trade Unions regarding the creation of further volunteering opportunities and FOG’s.
· Development work around training in general for volunteers from a central resource point.
· Detailed Annual timetable to be provided highlighting volunteer events and significant dates for projects etc. which will be available on Gateshead Council’s website and OurGateshead.
· Development of certificate and presentation to enable recognition of long serving council volunteers and The Gateshead Awards 2020 onwards.
RESOLVED - (i) That the progress of implementation of the Volunteers Plan be noted.
(ii) That the future actions be agreed.