Voluntary work opens doors to employment.

What do you think:

  • Got unpaid Trustees, Governors, Board members, Non-Execs, advisers, committee members?
  • Got anyone who gives their time for free in any role?
  • Do at least 20% of them have long-term health conditions/disabilities to match the real world?

They say that 8 out of 10 jobs are filled due to networking rather than advertising.  But, if you are stuck at home on benefits, making those contacts and connections can be difficult.

Doing some voluntary work was absolutely the foundation of my being able to work after leaving the Navy: doing the admin for the county’s Prince’s Trust committee, helping organise the local community group, diversity trainers’ workshops and a back-to-work partnership.  All these contacts, references, know-how and experience helped me get paid work for over 15 years.

Signing up to the Disability Volunteer Charter isn’t onerous or difficult – but it could mean that thousands of organisations welcome more disabled volunteers like me: opening up a life of opportunities and getting another pair of willing hands too – everyone benefits.

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

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Disability Volunteer Charter

What do you think:

  • Can unpaid work be a stepping stone to employment for disabled people?
  • Should volunteering be open to everyone in society, regardless of long-term health conditions?
  • Should school Governors, charity Trustees and other volunteers represent all society including people with disabilities?

Doing some voluntary work can be the ideal first step back to employment if you’ve been off sick for some time.  If stepping direct in to a “real” job seems a bit daunting, being a volunteer can be easier.  The Disability Volunteer Charter is a really easy way to extend a helping hand for more people.

I think that, when a previous employer, your doctors and probably the benefits system have all told you that you can’t work, it is really easy to believe them.  But, if we know in our hearts that we have more to offer than just sitting at home, a spot of volunteering can prove that we still have what employers want  – even with a long-term health condition.

Just before I had to leave the Royal Navy because of my blindness and for years since, I have been doing voluntary work.  Some time with a national charity for young people, with local community organisations and with national ex-Service and disability charities – being a member of a Committee, a Trustee or just giving some help.  It all made me feel much more confident that I could do proper paid work (both the mental and physical capacity regardless of not being able to see), gave me new skills that I could use at work and, , built networks of contacts who could help with work (8 out of 10 jobs result from contacts rather than adverts).

So it has been good to play a small part in promoting the Disability Volunteer Charter that encourages any organisation that relies on volunteers to open their doors to disabled people willing to lend a hand.   Although not every volunteer wants to get a job, some will give their time to learn and practice new skills, make new friends and explore new employment prospects.  Whether it is a local community group, a school or college looking for Governors, a charity needing someone to man the shop, reception or Board of trustees, they can all achieve extra benefit and better understanding of the people they support by including more disabled people amongst their teams.

The Charter is not difficult or onerous – and completely in keeping with the values and interests of any organisation that relies on unpaid supporters.

Here are links to more information about disabled people and volunteering:

Tips on how to include disabled volunteers (Scope)

Top tips for realising person centred care through volunteering (SCIE)

Support for Volunteering in the not-for-profit sector (Reach)

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

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