Royal Voluntary Service has multi-layered safeguarding processes in place for the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme. To ensure that appropriate and proportional safeguarding is in place for the tasks that are being undertaken, Royal Voluntary Service has followed Home Office guidance; risk assessed each role; and taken advice from appropriate bodies.
Risk assessments are reviewed when:
- New volunteer roles are introduced;
- Changes are made to the eligible patient cohort criteria; and/or
- A number of inappropriate referrals are received.
Royal Voluntary Service takes into consideration the different cohorts and their differing requirements. As the scheme has developed, the eligibility criteria have broadened to take into account a range of different circumstances. In particular, these cohorts include:
- those who are/were shielding;
- those with cognitive impairments and/or significant vulnerability; and
- people who may become vulnerable due to COVID-19.
The NHS England and NHS Improvement national safeguarding team have been offering peer support during their fortnightly review of the NHS Volunteer safeguarding reports. NHS Safeguarding have advised the commissioners that Royal Voluntary Service have adequate safeguarding in place. Serious concerns are escalated immediately through Royal Voluntary Service organisational processes, as required by the commissioning assurance process. There are also scheduled, fortnightly meetings between NHS England and NHS Improvement and Royal Voluntary Service, to specifically review safeguarding and for NHS England and NHS Improvement to offer peers support.
There are a range of mitigating actions in place to ensure the safety of both patients and volunteers, including, but not limited to:
- Patient safety information is provided to all patients upon being referred into the scheme.
- Volunteers receive the appropriate role-based guidance and safeguarding information once they have been approved to volunteer, and before being permitted to undertake any tasks. Further reminders about safeguarding processes are included in ongoing volunteer communications, such as social media, and volunteer newsletters. Additionally, there is a supportive safeguarding and wellbeing fact sheet for all volunteers to use.
- Identification checks were undertaken on all volunteers upon application to the scheme, which required a driving licence, passport, or two utility bills to confirm identity. Applicants to the scheme who were unable to provide sufficient evidence, were not accepted into the scheme.
- The scheme has connections with both the police and National Crime Agency, asking that they inform Royal Voluntary Service of any inappropriate NHS Volunteer Responder known to them. In such circumstances, this will lead to instant removal of the volunteer from the scheme.
- A safeguarding team is in place at Royal Voluntary Service to pick up any concerns regarding patients or volunteers. These processes include:
- Royal Voluntary Service are in partnership with NSPCC to pick up and action any concerns around children.
- All concerns are passed onto the referrer. If there is no referrer present, the patient’s GP or other most appropriate agency is contacted, ensuring they are aware of the identified concerns.
- A staff team of volunteer partners pick up and investigate any concerns regarding volunteers.
- The Royal Voluntary Service Support Team is available to support volunteers and patients with any queries that come in. Their phone lines (0808 196 3382) are open between 8am and 8pm, 7 days a week. Royal Voluntary Service can escalate concerns to their Safeguarding Team or the Problem Solving Team, if required.
- Further follow-up support is provided to both patients and volunteers where required.
- The GoodSAM app provides identification for volunteers; shows what task they are undertaking at the current time; and records volunteers as they are undertaking tasks.
- Volunteers should only undertake tasks during the permitted hours of 8am to 8pm. This helps ensure that any arising concerns of volunteers or patients, can be raised swiftly during the times the phone lines are in operation.
- Community Response Volunteers supporting patient prescription drop-off, are asked to provide a second photo identification to the pharmacy when volunteering.
- The GoodSAM system matches volunteers within a locality, against a task required, in real time, (with the exception of Check In and Chat Volunteers, which link to a volunteer anywhere in England). This means volunteers do not continue to volunteer for the same patient. If this does occur, volunteers are asked to only do this twice within a 4-week period, to ensure limited development of informal volunteer-patient relationships.
- People self-referring into the scheme are required to provide details of their GP.
- Referrals for patient transport can only be submitted by a health professional.
- Volunteers are not allowed to take volunteering ‘off-line’ by providing their own telephone numbers, or other contact details.
- Volunteers are not permitted to enter people’s homes.
- Volunteers are not permitted to keep patient contact details following successful delivery of their task; and the GoodSAM system removes these details from the app once the task has been completed.