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- NCBI Volunteer Policy - A Partnership in our Work
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NCBI Mission Statement
To enable people who are blind or vision impaired to overcome the barriers that impede their independence and participation in society.
Why NCBI involves volunteers in our work
NCBI is an organisation steeped in the tradition of volunteering. Indeed, it is true to remark that our prominence today as a major provider of support services to blind and visually impaired persons would not have been achieved were it not for the commitment given by local volunteers. In recent years NCBI has become increasingly professionalised employing a wide range of paid staff who bring a vast array of experience and knowledge to their work. The work has become more focussed and specialised in response to needs identified by our service users. However, NCBI continues to encourage the involvement of volunteers at all levels and within all appropriate activities. Volunteers serve the needs of our service users in a way that enhances and extends existing services.
Definition of a Volunteer
A volunteer contributes time and service, but is not paid, to assist NCBI in achieving its mission. Their role is beneficial to others as well as being satisfying to themselves. In return they are encouraged and supported in the volunteer activity they chose, by the organisation.
Who this policy applies to
Unless specifically stated, standards in this policy apply to all volunteers in all NCBI projects & establishments, home based or field based.
NCBI is committed to being an equal opportunities organisation. All volunteers should be free from discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, age, race, sexuality, religion, disability & membership of the Traveller Community.
Paid versus unpaid
Volunteer involvement will never be seen as a substitution for paid employment. Volunteers will enhance the work of paid staff, never replace it. Volunteers provide a service for NCBI customers into areas that otherwise could not be achieved.
Volunteer / paid staff relations
Volunteers and paid staff are considered partners in implementing NCBI’s mission. It is essential that each partner understands and respects the abilities of the other in working to the mission.
Volunteer / service user relationship
Volunteers undertake the role agreed between themselves and NCBI outlined in the role description. When a volunteer undertakes additional duties requested by customers, other than those agreed, the volunteer ceases to be covered by NCBIs insurance and undertakes these duties independently of NCBI.
Volunteers follow the same procedures as staff in areas of confidentiality. Volunteers are expected to keep information related to NCBI work confidential but, in certain circumstances, it is accepted that information may have to be passed on to a supervisor or support person.
Failure to maintain confidentiality may result in the termination of the volunteer’s relationship with NCBI.
Volunteers are considered to be authorised representatives of NCBI & therefore have access to information relevant to and necessary for the successful completion of their role.
Speaking on behalf of NCBI
Volunteers must in all cases seek approval from their supervisor prior to any action or statement that might significantly affect or obligate NCBI. These actions include public statements to the press, coalition or lobbying efforts with other organisations or any agreements involving contractual or financial obligations.
Alcohol & drugs
Whilst volunteering for NCBI, volunteers are prohibited from:
- Being under the influence, using, possessing, selling or otherwise being involved with illegal drugs
- Abusing alcohol
Volunteers are involved in activities, which provide direct services or indirect services to service users with a vision impairment.
Direct services involve contact with visually impaired people in the community or in resource centres eg. Community Based Volunteers. Community based volunteer activities include:
- Providing transport using their own vehicles
- Carrying out social visits or assisting with reading & writing.
- Providing assistance with shopping
- Going for walks
- Providing computer support
- Assisting NCBI staff on outings and respite events
The list is not exhaustive and volunteer activities are based on the expressed needs of service users. They are designed and carried out in accordance with the organisations mission to promote the independence of visually impaired people.
Indirect services involve tasks which benefit but do not include contact with visually impaired people such as:
- Library aid
- Talking books service
- Mrs Quin charity shops.
- Administrative support in NCBI offices
NCBI will define the roles and functions of volunteers. In every situation where a volunteer is involved they will agree with the NCBI staff member who supports them the tasks they will undertake. Volunteers will be adequately prepared for such tasks prior to commencing the voluntary work.
Each volunteer should be familiar with his/her role description and feel comfortable in offering suggestions for change and improvement.
NCBI recruits volunteers for specific tasks and this is done through formal (radio, newspapers & websites) and informal (notice boards, word of mouth) channels.
The following will be sent to those responding to NCBI recruitment campaigns:
- Volunteer partnership enrolment form
- Information about the organisation & the volunteer activity.
- The NCBI volunteer policy
All volunteers offering their services to NCBI will have their offers dealt with promptly and be given a warm welcome.
The interview is an informal chat with the NCBI staff member who will be supporting the volunteer. This gives the prospective volunteer a chance to learn about NCBI, its mission & available volunteer roles. It will also help determine the suitability of the individual to perform voluntary work on behalf of NCBI. The interview will often take place over the telephone. For some direct volunteer positions a face to face meeting may take place. If both the volunteer and NCBI agree to the mutual benefits of a partnership a date for induction training will be set.
Volunteers involved in direct service activity will be asked to provide two references, neither of which should be from an immediate family member.
These could be from an employer, school or college, a community representative etc. NCBI will contact the referees by telephone to ask a standard set of questions relating to the potential volunteers suitability for the position.
As an organisation committed to the protection of vulnerable adults we must ensure that under no circumstances are our service users placed at risk.
NCBI’s position is to obtain garda clearance for everyone that works directly with our service users (ie staff and volunteers). We are committed to achieving this at the earliest opportunity. Minister Brian Lenihan has confirmed the Central Vetting Unit will be extended in 2005. This will enable the Garda Síochána’s vetting services to be available to all persons working with children and vulnerable adults.
It is our policy therefore, once available, to seek Garda clearance for all volunteers who work as community based volunteers.
Placement No volunteer will be placed in a position for which he/she is not qualified or for which NCBI do not provide adequate training.
All volunteers will receive induction training where the volunteer has planned time with a member/members of the staff team. This induction will cover:
- NCBI’s mission, values and goals
- An overview of our services
- Volunteering for NCBI and details of the specific volunteer role
- Introduction to the staff team
Training will be tailored to suit the individual volunteer role and available resources. Volunteers who work directly with service users will also receive
- General awareness training on different eye conditions
- Training on how to safely guide a vision impaired person and how to assist them to optimise their independence
All volunteers will receive regular support from a designated named member of paid staff. The level of support will be commensurate to the complexity of the task being carried out. A greater level of support and guidance will be required by volunteers working directly with visually impaired service users rather than by volunteers involved in the provision of indirect services.
Working with visually impaired children
Volunteers will not be allowed to work alone with visually impaired children. It is however acceptable for a volunteer to work with a group of children where a paid staff member is also present.
Volunteer performance standard
Volunteers are asked to give a commitment to ensuring that their involvement maintains & contributes to the standard of services being provided by NCBI.
Volunteers are expected to inform their supervisor of an impending absence as far in advance as possible so alternative arrangements can be made for the completion of work.
Volunteer involvement will be reviewed regularly and may in some instances be discontinued. Grounds for dismissal include, but are not limited to, gross misconduct, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, theft, breaches of confidentiality, abuse of clients and co-workers, failure to abide by NCBI’s policies & procedures, and failure to complete duties to a satisfactory standard.
If a volunteer wishes to make a complaint they should initially discuss their grievance with the staff member responsible for volunteer supervision and support. If problems cannot be resolved they can put their complaint in writing to the National Volunteer Co-ordinator who will consult with the local and/or regional manager who will jointly decide on further appropriate action. If the volunteer is dissatisfied with the reply she/he may then write, within 10 days to the Chief Executive.
NCBI will ensure that all volunteers input is recognised and appreciated.
Volunteers will be reimbursed for any mileage and out of pocket expenses. To help us budget for this expense we do ask volunteers to consider ways to keep expenses to a realistic level. All expense claims should be accompanied by receipts.
Volunteers themselves are covered by NCBI insurance when carrying out NCBI approved activities.
Those using their own cars to volunteer transport must have their own fully comprehensive insurance. They should ask their insurance company to sign a form to say they are aware of the volunteer doing volunteer driving. This typically does not attract an additional premium. In some instances volunteers may have to come to an arrangement with their insurer.
If a volunteer is willing to use their car for volunteering they need to
1. Ask their insurance company to sign a form to say they are aware the volunteer is using their car for volunteering. Some insurance companies do up a letter themselves, some reissue the insurance certificate with specific mention of the volunteer organisation, but most use a form provided by the organisation as this is the easiest option. This should not attract any additional premium.
2. Send a photocopy of their insurance certificate (fully comp) and the signed form from your insurance company to NCBI.
3. NCBI will pay mileage of 42 cent per mile.
The nature of volunteering is that it is transitory as people’s ability to volunteer and their other commitments often change over time. NCBI would like to conduct a short exit interview by telephone or in person to:
- Get feedback on the volunteering experience, both positive and negative elements.
- Find out if they were satisfied in their role and reason for leaving
- Thank them for their contribution.
Rights and responsibilities of NCBI Volunteers
On being accepted to work with NCBI as a volunteer you have the right:
- To receive information about NCBI’s purpose, work, values and its policy on volunteers.
- To be given meaningful work to do.
- To receive a clearly written description of the role you will undertake.
- To receive appropriate training to carry out your role
- To receive support and to know who to turn to with problems and difficulties as they arise.
- To be appreciated and have your work valued by NCBI.
- To make mistakes and learn from them.
- To express your views and opinions on the work in which you are engaged.
- To be listened to and taken seriously by members of staff.
- To receive regular supervision and constructive feedback on your performance.
- To have safe working conditions.
- To be covered by insurance.
- To be able to say no and leave without feeling guilty.
- To get something for yourself out of the work and carry out voluntary work without being exploited.
- To be reimbursed for any agreed expenses.
- Be free from discrimination on the grounds of gender, age, marital status, family status, race, sexuality, religion, disability and membership of the Travelling community.
On being accepted to work with NCBI as a volunteer you have a responsibility:
- To carry out work to the best of your ability and do so in a way that corresponds to the aims and values of NCBI as contained in its mission statement
- To be reliable, punctual and committed
- To attend your place of work at the times agreed and give your supervisor in the organisation sufficient warning if unable to turn up.
- To agree to NCBI’s volunteer policy
- To respect confidentiality
- To respect the rights of service users, other workers and volunteers within the organisation
- To be honest if there are problems
- To attend training sessions, support meetings if these are agreed as part of your work
- To give feedback, communicating relevant and important information to an appropriate staff member.
- To acknowledge decisions made by others
- To ask for help or support when you need it
- To always refrain from public criticism of NCBI, its work or its policies.
In return NCBI has the responsibility:
- To define clear, meaningful roles for volunteers to ensure your volunteering experience is a rewarding one
- To ensure equal access and not to discriminate
- To have policies and procedures in place for volunteers.
- To provide information and be available for volunteers.
- To provide training where necessary.
- To thank and value volunteers
- To provide insurance cover
- To supervise and provide support
- To re-imburse out of pocket expenses
- To provide a safe working environment.
And finally, NCBI has the right:
- To look for certain qualities and skills in volunteers to carry out tasks
- To select only volunteers who are suitable for the work
- To ask for tasks to be done in a particular way
- To ask for commitment, reliability and punctuality
- To deal with disciplinary and grievance matters
- To ask volunteers to leave if their involvement hinders the organisation achieving its goals.
Thank you for your kind interest in volunteering for NCBI.