Victim Support Scotland’s Volunteering during Covid-19
5 November 2020
Ewan McPherson, Volunteer Engagement Officer at Victim Support Scotland shares with us how Covid-19 has impacted their volunteering services and what is next for them for IVMDay 2020.
As with many services, the coronavirus our offices closed and court cases were postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, our service users were left struggling with the after-effects of crime, either with going to court to give evidence, or dealing with the impact of a crime committed against them. Thankfully, Victim Support Scotland’s volunteers continued to pledge their support even though perhaps dealing with their own issues related to the outbreak.
Within weeks, our IT department sent out equipment to volunteers able to continue working with our service users by telephone, rather than our usual face-to-face model of support. The courts closed during the pandemic, which affected thousands of vulnerable people waiting to give evidence. Most people find giving evidence in court a terrifying experience, and although our volunteers found it difficult informing service users that their court cases had been postponed, people were reassured that they would receive personal support while they waited for their case to start and throughout their trial.
Crime changed throughout the pandemic, and we saw an increase in certain crimes such as domestic abuse, stalking and antisocial behaviour. Our helpline centre faced an increase in calls as a result, so we recruited more volunteers for our helpline, tailoring online interview and recruitment to deal with the increased support needs. The helpline managers had to adapt their learning and development processes for the telephone and successfully managed to train larger groups of volunteers than they initially thought would be possible.
We continued to recruit volunteers across the country and, due to many people being unable to work, we received an enthusiastic response. In one case, we received enquiries regarding a volunteer opportunity for Shetlands from applicants in Dumfries and Galloway, simply because they were desperate to help. We created virtual ‘welcome sessions’ to provide a warm introduction to Victim Support Scotland, as we could not induct volunteers in person.
After consultation with our volunteers, we helped people return to volunteering after the first lockdown period by providing refresher training opportunities, guides for emotional support and reassurance that we were providing a safe and clean volunteering environment in offices and courts. Our support coordinators remained in contact with volunteers, checking in regularly and organising virtual social activities. This helped maintain engagement and overcome isolation, particularly for volunteers living by themselves who may depend on volunteering for social contact and wellbeing.
The lessons learned were that volunteers can continue to assist, adapt and amaze even in the toughest of times. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our volunteers, Victim Support Scotland has been able to rise above the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic and continue to provide the highest quality of support to people affected by crime.