Connect Volunteer

Connect Volunteer

Getting You Started Guide

As a Connect volunteer you will support people to access and reconnect with the community and engage in social activities.

This support will help increase social connections and activities for people to help reduce loneliness and improve the mental wellbeing of the person needing support. 

The volunteer support for this activity is available either as a one-off or once a week for a maximum of 6 weeks and will take place in the person’s home or in their local community. 

You will support a range of people in diverse communities, and we ask that you make sure everyone feels supported, welcomed and valued for who they are.

Further information on how you can support people with accessibility needs and learn about different backgrounds and communities can be found in our Inclusion Hub[1].

Page last reviewed: 20 December 2023


Getting started

You will support people to reconnect with their local community and help to improve their mental wellbeing[2] and resilience. You will need to discuss with the person requiring support what their interests are and how you can support them to participate in these.

Please read the other sources of information[3] section of this guide for guidance on supporting a person living with dementia and supporting a person living with poor mental health which may help you in this activity. 

It is possible that the person you are supporting may ask you to purchase something for an activity such as, ingredients for baking, on their behalf. You are not permitted to take a person’s bank card to a cashpoint to withdraw money on their behalf or pay for shopping contactless or by pin payments. You are only permitted to use the cash access scheme[4] and must follow the payment guidance[5] we have for our Community Response volunteers. 

Page last reviewed: 20 December 2023


Supporting a person in their home

The person requiring support may want you to support them with their hobbies e.g. playing board games, reading, baking, gardening and enjoy a friendly chat whilst doing so. Be prepared to spend a couple of hours offering your time to support them.

The maximum time you can spend with someone in their home is 2 hours. Your first visit may be shorter as you get to know the person you are supporting and what they hope to get out of your time together.

The safety and wellbeing of our volunteers and the people we support is top priority to us, so when you are visiting a person in their home, we want to make sure you remain safe.

If you feel that someone may be unsafe in their home please contact the Support Team on 0808 196 3636.[6]

Supporting people in their homes fact sheet 

Please note this guidance refers to the Connect activity only, no other volunteer activity involves volunteers entering the home. 

This guidance is to ensure our volunteers and the people who we support are kept safe when entering a person’s home.  

Most interactions will be positive, we just want you to be aware of any risks that may put yourself or the person you are supporting at harm. Please note that you should only enter a person’s home if directed in the Getting You Started Guide for your volunteering activity. 

  • Ensure you follow the GoodSAM guidelines for ‘Lone Working’ when you accept and attend a support request as a Volunteer Responder. 
  • Ensure you have read and understood the Getting You Started Guide for the activity you are supporting.  
  • Make sure you have the Support Team number saved on your phone should you need to contact them - 0808 196 3382[7] 
  • If there is an emergency call 999[8] and then contact the Support Team to report the incident.  

When you arrive 

  • Say who you are, why you are there and show your GoodSAM ID on your phone. 
  • Do not attempt to enter the home if the person is inappropriately dressed which may place you in a vulnerable position, or if the person appears to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 
  • When entering a person’s home, try to keep the person in front of you. 
  • Whenever possible and upon leaving, do not allow the person to come between you and the exit. 
  • Ask for dogs or other animals to be put in another room. (Do not enter premises if a threatening animal is present.) 
  • Check, as you go in, how the front door opens. 
  • Take only what you need into the house. Do not spread your belongings around. 
  • Study your surroundings and look for an exit. 
  • Remain alert. Watch for changes in mood, movements, or expressions.  
  • If you are concerned for your safety in any situation, remove yourself as soon as possible. 

The environment 

We all live very differently and it’s important that we avoid passing judgement on another person’s environment. However, it you feel a person is at harm due to any of the following please report it as soon as possible to the Support Team on 0808 196 3382[9]

  • Try not to react to bad smells or surroundings that you consider to be “dirty”. However, if you feel the surroundings are unsanitary and want to leave, please do so.  
  • Hoarding is a mental health problem where people have a strong need to keep things and not be able to throw things away. This may mean there can be a lot of clutter or possessions around. Always respect peoples living environments. If you feel a person could come to harm because of the situation, please report it. 
  • If you think someone is at harm due to unsafe gas/electrical equipment or an infestation, please report it as soon as possible.

Minimising the risks 

It is important to be able to recognise the signs of aggressive and threatening behaviour. Increasing tension may be signalled by a person's voice getting louder or dropping to a threatening tone. 

Verbal threats should always be taken seriously: 

  • Racist comments, sexist remarks or foul language.
  • Threatening gestures.
  • Agitation.
  • Pointing/poking fingers or pushing.

For some people who are behaving aggressively it is likely that they are afraid of losing control. You can reassure them that they are still in control of their own circumstances and that you do not represent a threat to them. 

It’s good to: 

  • Stay calm and keep your voice down. 
  • Listen and be interested. 
  • Avoid raising your hands or pointing. 
  • Not stand too close and don’t touch a person who is becoming agitated. 
  • Leave if necessary. 

Mobile phone use 

Volunteers should always carry a fully charged mobile phone and they should always check the signal strength. Keep to hand when in a person’s home and not in a handbag or coat elsewhere in the property.  

You may need to use your mobile phone to research local opportunities or information. You may also want to suggest that the person you are supporting does this on their device if applicable. We recommend that you do not hand over your phone at any point. 

Reporting incidents 

If there has been any problem during a visit or even a feeling of unease the details should be reported to the Support Team on 0808 196 3382[9] who will follow up with you and the person receiving support if required. Incidents that are left unreported can leave the next person in this situation at risk. 

Page last reviewed: 28 November 2023


Supporting a person in the community

Volunteers may be required to accompany a person to do their shopping or going for a walk, or even with support finding or attending a social group in the community. You may be required to support the planning of this including any travel routes or public transport times etc, but the support will always start from the person’s home address.

Volunteers are welcome to use their own vehicles to transport people to and from activities, however, we want to encourage people to be able to access activities independently in the future, so you may want to encourage use of public transport and support people to use it.

We advise that volunteers allow a few hours to support and be mindful that it could include travel to and from an activity, as well as the duration of the activity. Support can be provided for a maximum of 4 hours.

We don’t want volunteers to be out of pocket for taking part in any social clubs/activities with the people you are supporting so remember to check out the Expenses Policy and Guides to see what expenses you can claim for[10] when doing this activity.

Page last reviewed: 20 December 2023


Lone working process

To ensure the safety of our volunteers we are asking anyone who signs up as a Connect Volunteer to follow our lone working process on GoodSAM when volunteering with us.

It is really important that you familiarise yourself with the process as all volunteers undertaking this activity must use it.

See our process guide[11]

Page last reviewed: 20 December 2023


Who can get support?

Professionals can refer people over the age of 18 requiring support and this could include people receiving care or who are waiting for other local provision to be put in place.

This activity is not appropriate for people with complex vulnerabilities or needs. If you think that this is the case when speaking to or visiting the person who requires support, please contact the Support Team so we can follow up with the referrer.

Page last reviewed: 28 November 2023


Receiving requests for support

All requests for support will come from the GoodSAM app as an alert.

The volunteer support for this activity is available either as a one-off or once a week for a maximum of 6 weeks. The first alert will come up to 3 days in advance of the initial activity date.

If the request is for ongoing support, you will receive 6 alerts (1 per week) to support the same person for a 6-week period, this will be a new alert each week and it is important to look out for the recurring alerts. If a volunteer doesn’t accept the alert within a 10-minute time-frame it will be passed onto another volunteer in the local area.

If a volunteer is not available for the 6 weeks continuously or at a mutually agreeable time, you can reject an alert and this support will pass all remaining alerts within the original 6-week period onto the next available volunteer. When calling a person to discuss the support required, be mindful that they may have received support from a different volunteer in previous weeks. You should also let the person you are supporting know if you will not be completing any remaining tasks so that they are aware another volunteer will be contacting them.

Page last reviewed: 20 December 2023


Before your first call

  1. Ensure you withhold your number. This is to protect you from unsolicited calls and to ensure safeguarding procedures are followed. You can do this by dialling 141[12] before the person’s number or go into your phone’s settings. Find out more about  Data Protection and confidentiality[13] as well as safeguarding[14].
  2. It is important to uphold the confidentiality of the person at all times. You may receive/hear personal information or details through conversations. All forms of personal information must be treated with respect and be handled in a highly confidential way.
  3. Think about how you safely store contact details, do not leave these in a place that other people can access. If you are able to lock these away in a safe place, please do so. When you need to destroy this information, please ensure it is shredded in a confidential manner.
  4. If you call and don’t get an answer, try again later that day. If you find that you are not able to make contact after 3 attempts, please press the ‘PERSON DID NOT ANSWER’ button on the GoodSam App, this will alert our Support Team to follow up.

For more information read guidance for using the GoodSAM app[15].

Page last reviewed: 28 November 2023


Contacting the person that you are supporting

Call the person and introduce yourself as an NHS and Care Volunteer Responder and let them know that they have been referred into the programme by a health or care professional. Inform them that you will be supporting them either as a one-off or as part of the 6-week period.

If there was any information on the task that you would like to clarify it is best to do this now. The person making the request for support should have included details such as if there are any pets in the home, if anyone else will be there, do they smoke etc. If this information is not included and you have any concerns i.e. you are allergic to pet hair you can ask the person during your first call. If you are unable to support due to this information, please let the person know you will contact our Support Team who can arrange for another volunteer to attend.

Discuss with them how you can support them, the types of social activities they are interested in, and if they would like support to access services in the local community.

Once you have agreed how you can support them discuss what date and time will work best each week, only taking instruction from the person named on the referral. You may decide to call every week and check requirements or agree a set day and time to support.

Once you have agreed how you can support them, confirm the date and time that was on the task notification. If the person you are supporting wants to change the time of support, you can do this via the GoodSAM app, if you are available to support at the new time. If they request for the date to be changed, you will need to contact the Support Team on 0808 196 3382[9] who will make the change for you. You can only make changes to the date and time of the referral when requested by the person names on the referral e.g. requests cannot be excepted from a family member or friend on their behalf. If you are not available to support on the new time and date requested, please pass the task to another volunteer. Refer to the lone working guidance[16].

Remember if you are supporting in the home you can attend for a maximum period of 2 hours or 4 hours if you are helping them out in the community.

The referral should give you an idea of the support that is required, but if you feel their needs don’t match your interests after the initial conversation, be honest with the person and tell them that you will pass the task onto another volunteer.

If you have contacted the person to arrange a visit and feel unwell, please cancel your visit by letting the person know and ringing our support team, they may be able to arrange for another volunteer to attend.

Please read the other sources of information[3] section of this guide for guidance on supporting a person living with dementia and supporting a person living with poor mental health which may help you in this activity.

It is really important you do not attend if feeling unwell as the person may have a weakened immune system.

Page last reviewed: 28 November 2023


Dealing with concerns

We are here to support you, if you would like to discuss anything you have been affected by during your volunteering, please call the Support Team on 0808 196 3382[9].

Page last reviewed: 28 November 2023


Using your car when supporting a person

We want to encourage people to access activities independently and therefore for you to promote the use of public transport where applicable.

However, there may be occasions where you wish to use your own vehicle to transport people to and from activities so, please ensure you read our guidance and that you have read the information about driving as a volunteer.

Page last reviewed: 20 December 2023


Ongoing support

What should I do if a person asks me to continue supporting them beyond the 6 weeks?

Please explain that you are not able to continue supporting as a Volunteer Responder after the 6-week period has ended.

The programme has been designed so that there are certain safeguards in place to protect you and the person you are supporting. Health and care professionals are referring people into the programme on the understanding that these safeguards are in place and upheld. Failure to do so risks undermining their confidence in making future referrals.

A person being supported can request further support via the professional referrer who raised the original request for support or during your contact, you may have conversations and realise that the person might benefit from further support such as Check In and Chat or Community Response. People can self-refer for a this support[18] by calling the Support Team on 0808 196 3382[9].

Page last reviewed: 28 November 2023


Key points for Volunteer Responders

Other sources of information

Links

  • [1] /im-a-volunteer/inclusion
  • [2] /guides/mental-health-and-wellbeing-fact-sheet
  • [3] /guides/connect-volunteer/other-sources-of-information
  • [4] https://supportcentre.natwest.com/Banking-from-home/How-to-use-the-Mobile-App/Get-Cash/913209212/What-is-Get-Cash-and-how-do-I-use-it.htm
  • [5] /guides/community-response-volunteer/payment-options-shopping
  • [6] tel:08081963636
  • [7] tel:0808%20196 3382
  • [8] tel:999
  • [9] tel:08081963382
  • [10] https://www.concur.co.uk/rvs
  • [11] /guides/the-goodsam-app/lone-working-whilst-volunteering
  • [12] tel:141
  • [13] /guides/key-points-for-volunteer-responders/data-protection-and-confidentiality
  • [14] /guides/key-points-for-volunteer-responders/safeguarding
  • [15] /guides/the-goodsam-app
  • [16] /guides/connect-volunteer/lone-working-process
  • [17] /guides/supporting-people-with-mobility-fact-sheet
  • [18] /id-like-support
  • [19] /guides/key-points-for-volunteer-responders/our-volunteering-agreement
  • [20] /guides/key-points-for-volunteer-responders/providing-an-emergency-contact
  • [21] /guides/key-points-for-volunteer-responders/equality
  • [22] /guides/key-points-for-volunteer-responders/reporting-accidents-and-incidents
  • [23] /guides/key-points-for-volunteer-responders/driving-for-royal-voluntary-service
  • [24] /guides/key-points-for-volunteer-responders/expenses
  • [25] /guides/mental-health-and-wellbeing-fact-sheet/5-steps-to-mental-wellbeing
  • [26] /guides/mental-health-and-wellbeing-fact-sheet/questions-to-explore-the-5-steps-to-mental-wellbeing
  • [27] /guides/dementia-fact-sheet/supporting-a-person-living-with-dementia
  • [28] /guides/mental-health-and-wellbeing-fact-sheet/supporting-people-who-are-experiencing-severe-distress