Providing effective support for volunteers in emotionally-demanding roles

11 October 2017

Jessica Lghtfoot

by Jessica Lightfoot, Learning & Practice Development Officer, Volunteer Scotland

We know that volunteering can have a positive impact on individual wellbeing, with benefits for both volunteers themselves and their communities, and many volunteers offer direct support for service users or clients to overcome unexpected challenges or emotionally difficult situations. Recent examples include the response of volunteers to the fire in Grenfell Tower, the number of volunteers supporting people through life-changing illness, and the volunteers travelling across Europe to support refugees.

It can be incredibly rewarding for volunteers to see the difference they make for people in crisis. We’re also aware, however, that volunteers might need additional support or supervision to maintain their own wellbeing whilst volunteering. They might need a space to offload what they’ve seen or heard, or a chance to share experiences with other volunteers or staff to ensure they’re responding appropriately. Some people are more resilient than others in the face of another person’s emotion and that might not become apparent until each person starts volunteering.

Despite this, our experience suggests that additional support or supervision is not always readily available for staff or volunteers who take on emotionally demanding roles. We’re therefore looking for examples of good practice in this area, to help us guide organisations and volunteer managers towards more effective support for volunteers.

Are you a volunteer in a service delivery role who receives additional support, or provides peer support for others? Or are you a volunteer manager who makes sure front-line volunteers get regular supervision? If so, please get in touch and let us know your thoughts.

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