HelpForce is a new national initiative to increase the use of volunteers in healthcare and has started investigating experiences within a group of 14 NHS providers and voluntary sector organisations.
Perhaps it is just me but the similarities between the terms “workforce” and “helpforce” jump out as being particularly interesting, and reflect concerns in other areas of public service regarding the way volunteering is sometimes positioned as a supplementary labour force. From Twitter I understand the NCVO are also involved and their expertise and understanding of the issues facing the voluntary sector will be essential if the programme is to achieve its ambitious aims.
This initiative is in the early days but the website is already up and running, providing details of the initiative and the overall aims, including:
“HelpForce will enable the NHS to make the greatest possible use of volunteers, volunteer-led and VCSE sector projects to deliver more effective services to patients. HelpForce will unlock community assets and mobilise greater involvement to supplement the volunteer work already provided by NHS organisations and partner charities. We will act as an ‘aggregator’ to expose and scale existing, proven examples of innovation and best practice of volunteer-centred interventions that have made an impact on the NHS”
It will be particular, interesting to see how smaller community and volunteer organisations are engaged with this initiative and it must be hoped that this will not result in even more concentration of funds in the currently dominant large charities in the sector (or a continued concentration in London).
This initiative appears to have links to the recently established “Health and Wellbeing Alliance” has been announce which aims to include the “voluntary, community and social enterprise’s sector’s voice and expertise into national policy making” , or at least it was good to see discussions on twitter last week about how to ensure these join up!
And of course our interest will be in the way in which volunteering is constructed through these discussions, and the implications for the experience of volunteers themselves particular in relation to any emerging emphasis on the digital in this context.