Senior Scene December 5,2016

To demonstrate an appreciation for voluntary engagement the United Nations (UN) have proclaimed December 05, 2016 (today) as the International Volunteer Day. Since 1986 International Volunteer Day compliments people who do work without payment and applauds their benevolence.

International Volunteer Day supports a unique topic each year but the aim is always to attract more people to the volunteer sector. A volunteer’s work is valuable for every society because people grow together as a community and skills shortages can be balanced. Community service programs particularly depend on volunteers and in exchange for their work, volunteers gain valuable experience, meet new people, and learn about things they may not encounter during their daily activities.

Agencies like ours, Community Care for South Hastings (CCSH), relies on our large complement of volunteers to provide most of the front line service to our clients. Last year for example, there were 490 active volunteers who provided 29,145 hours of their time to the seniors in our community.  Their commitment represents the equivalent of 16 fulltime employees.

Unfortunately, some people are deterred by our rather intense application and interviewing process for volunteers. Proper screening helps organizations find the right roles for their volunteers. The screening process takes into account the skills, experience and qualifications needed for a volunteer role, while providing an opportunity to learn about the applicant’s interests and goals. At the same time, screening improves the quality and safety of our communities, while establishing the responsibilities and boundaries of both organizations and volunteers.

Screening practices play a role in fulfilling an organization’s moral, legal and ethical responsibilities to the people it serves. This includes members, clients, participants, employees and volunteers. This obligation is even greater when the organization and their volunteers are working with vulnerable people, including children, youth, people with disabilities and senior adults.

It is important to note that screening should be ongoing during a volunteer’s involvement with the agency and their clientele. Screening involves ongoing monitoring and quality assurance. This approach benefits the organization and the volunteer, by ensuring that the volunteer role is meeting the needs and expectations of both. Screening is often used to select volunteers for specific roles, and it should continue as long as a volunteer is involved with the organization.

The “10 Steps of Screening” prepared by Volunteer Canada provide clear guidelines for developing screening policies. These policies show an organization’s commitment to safe and meaningful volunteer engagement. Here are some of the steps that would impact on anyone wishing to volunteer with our organization:

  • Application Forms – Request standard information about the applicant and specific information related to the position.
  • Interview – Develop specific questions and a consistent interview format for each position, with accurate and objective written records.
  • References – Check references in accordance with pre-determined position requirements.
  • Police Checks – Review information from a Police Check report as it relates to the requirements of the volunteer assignment. Request a Vulnerable Sector Check, when appropriate.
  • Orientation and Training – Provide clear information about the mission, values and policies of the organization and the specific tasks, procedures and scope of the position.

So, while CCSH honours and respects our many volunteers, this column will hopefully explain why we undertake such a rigorous screening process. We are not singling you out, we are simply protecting everyone involved with our agency, so please do not let it deter you from volunteering.