Voluntary Work With Vulnerable Adults
A vulnerable adult is someone aged over 18 who may be in need of community care services due to a mental or physical disability, an addiction or a learning difficulty. This covers disabled people, people with mental illness and those with a wide variety of conditions such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome and Down’s syndrome. There are many rewarding opportunities available to volunteer with vulnerable adults if you can provide the necessary patience, sensitivity and calm.
Police Background CheckMost organisations working with vulnerable adults will invite you to have a police background check as part of your induction into their work. This is nothing to worry about it is simply a routine check to ensure that you do not have any relevant convictions which would prevent you from working with vulnerable adults. This will be conducted by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) formerly the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) in England and Wales and Disclosure Scotland in Scotland. Once you have had a clear background check you are ready to begin volunteering.
Contact your local Council for Voluntary Services to find out about relevant organisations which are local to you. They will be able to advise on the kinds of opportunities that are available. For example you may choose to become a befriender.
Becoming a befrienderA befriender is someone who spends one to one time with someone and builds up a relationship with them over time. You may accompany someone shopping or go to the cinema with them or spend time in the kitchen sharing recipes and cooking. You will provide a listening ear for problems and concerns and will provide a valuable link between the vulnerable adult and the wider community, helping to instil them with the confidence to take on new challenges. Most valuable of all you will offer them your companionship. In most cases this becomes a two-way street and will be as rewarding for you as it is fulfilling.
Becoming an advocateA similar but more formal role is to volunteer as an advocate. This means that you act on someone’s behalf to represent them to organisations and authorities. You will speak up on their behalf in situations where they may find it too difficult or overwhelming to do so. This can range from accompanying them to the doctor’s and ensuring that they receive the correct treatment to acting on their behalf in benefits interviews or at a solicitor. At all times you will be respectful of the wishes of your client. You are simply translating those wishes in a way that can be understood by the authorities. You will receive a thorough training before you begin in order to equip you with the tools you need to perform this vital role.
Becoming a personal assistantIf you would prefer to be of more practical support to a vulnerable adult you could look into becoming a personal assistant. In this role you would provide everyday help with tasks ranging from shopping, cooking and cleaning to personal grooming and care. The nature of the tasks required will vary greatly depending on the nature of the person’s disability. You could act as a scribe taking notes for someone with a physical impairment or provide cookery skills for someone with a learning disability.
These are just some of the ways in which you can support vulnerable adults. Contact your local CSV for information on further opportunities.