Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

At the weekend I spent time with family and friends. We ate and drank, went to a sporting event and a music concert.

Things that thousands of people enjoy doing all over the world and things that thousands of Parisians and visitors did on Friday. But after a night of carnage, more than a hundred will never do any of those things again. The lives of those who loved them, the hundreds injured and countless survivors caught up in the tragedy will never be the same again. The impact will be felt far and wide touching families, friends and work colleagues. And behind each statistic there will be a human story of loss, pain and bewilderment.

As stories emerged over the weekend of heroism, compassion and people reaching out to help and support each other, these words from US TV personality Fred Rogers kept appearing on my Twitter timeline and rang true:

The helpers were there — shielding others, giving shelter, searching for friends, providing comfort and kindness. Time and again survivors movingly thanked strangers for coming to their aid.

Volunteers

The helpers are always there and that’s what I wanted to write about this week after a meeting organised by Volunteering Matters at the Department of Health to launch their report Volunteering & Social Action in Health & Care.

Dame Philippa Russell writes in the Foreword:

Philippa spoke at the meeting and highlighted the importance of volunteers in her son’s life and how important they have been for him and their family.

I was asked to say a few words about how volunteering fits with CQC’s judgment of whether services are safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs and well led.

Caring is perhaps the most obvious one. Volunteers can help people enjoy what they love doing or just provide that extra bit of time to sit and chat. It can also be a way for families to continue to connect with the service:

Ashgate Hospice

“Many of the volunteers we spoke with told us they had experienced ‘excellent’ care for their own family members, which in turn led them to become volunteers.”

The other clear link for me is to our assessment of whether a service is well led. A good service is an open and inclusive service that connects with their local community and welcomes the support that local volunteers can provide. Good services can come in many shapes and sizes and our inspection reports highlight good practice:

Marlborough Court

“The service actively promoted people’s involvement with their local community…We saw there was regular contact with local schools.”

Volunteering can be the sign of an effective service, especially when staff help people who use the service to volunteer themselves.

Volunteers can help services be responsive to people’s needs, for example, by providing opportunities for them to be involved in their hobbies and interests:

Perran Bay Care Home

“People were involved in the planning of activities with support from the home’s volunteers and specific activities had been arranged to meet peoples’ needs. For example one person had always worked with horses and had commented to staff that they missed them. This information had been passed to the volunteer team who had been able, through their links with the local community, arrange for a miniature pony to visit the service.”

Volunteers can also help to keep services safe; they can be the eyes and ears that may spot a problem for the local managers to resolve or if they are worried about a service they can share those worries with CQC. That is probably not what people who volunteer set out to do, but like anyone else visiting a service they can provide insight that helps us to inform the work we do.

Volunteering matters

So in a week when helpers abroad have made such an impact, let’s welcome and say thank you to all the volunteers who make such a contribution in our adult social care services.

Originally published at www.cqc.org.uk.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

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