Getting help works in more ways than one

There is more than one good reason for parish councils to engage with volunteers. There’s the obvious – they can help with whatever the project may be. There’s the less than obvious – demonstrating the relevance of the council and engaging with the community it serves.

Full marks to Kirton Parish Council for its initiative to recruit volunteers to combat issues which affect everyone – motorists speeding through the village.

Some members of the public have already responded and are being trained as Speedwatch volunteers. I love their approach via social media:

“Kirton Parish Council needs willing volunteers who want to actively do something towards making the roads in Kirton a safer place by monitoring drivers who are speeding through the village, in an effort to persuade them to slow down. So those who are unhappy with the speeding drivers are now able to do something positive. Those who volunteer for Speedwatch will receive free training from Lincolnshire Police, and we ask those who wish to help to commit to doing 1 or 2 hours a week in the interests of safety for the community. Anyone interested please contact. Parish Clerk: Mrs Belinda Buttery 01205 460618. A big thank you to those who have already volunteered!”

This is a great example of a council bringing people together on a local task, creating a better community spirit, instilling a sense of achievement and making the place a better place to live.

Volunteers can make a valuable and unique contribution, assisting and complementing the services offered by the parish council. Volunteers can come from all walks of life, and represent the diversity of a community, bringing with them a wide range of skills and experience.

But managing volunteers is not always easy, and there are some areas which require careful consideration.

Councils should have a policy for engaging volunteers and the Lincolnshire Association for Local Councils (LALC) can help with this.

Here are some top tips:

  • Remember, It is a requirement for all volunteers  to treat information in a confidential manner, and use it solely for lawful purposes in accordance with acts of legislation and national guidance. All volunteers must maintain confidentiality of council business. Communications between volunteers and the council are not exempt from Freedom of Information requests;
  • Volunteers must be adequately trained – the exact nature of the training will depend on the role. Training must be sufficient to ensure the Health and Safety of volunteers and any people who might be affected by the work, as far as reasonable practicable;
  • The council should co-ordinate the day-to-day activity of volunteers and manage issues;
  • Volunteers should not be asked to take on tasks formally undertaken by council employees or to operate in ways that would result in a decrease in paid employment;
  • The lower age limit for volunteers is 15 years. A full risk assessment will be carried out in line with the Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997 and shared with the parent or legal guardian of the young person. There is no upper age limit if the volunteer is judged to be capable of carrying out the allotted task;
  • Volunteers undertaking agreed activities on behalf of the council must be covered by the council’s existing Public Liability and Employers’ Liability cover;
  • High visibility vests or other appropriate clothing must be worn where appropriate.

For further guidance contact LALC.