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Together for Short Lives conference launches guide to establish volunteer services for families

Author: Leila Hawkins
05 October 2017

Last week Together for Short Lives (TfSL) hosted a conference to launch Together We Can, a practical guide to help hospices and other organisations working in children’s palliative care support volunteers to work with the families of children with life-limiting conditions.

The guide draws on the experiences of families, volunteers and services from the Family Support Volunteering project, which piloted in 2014 and explored how volunteers can have a positive impact on the daily lives of families at home.

During the pilot, volunteers helped with everyday tasks like washing up, ironing, gardening and dog walking, as well as collecting prescriptions, playing with siblings and helping with their homework. This made it possible for the families to take much needed breaks from giving round-the-clock care and spend more quality time together.

Volunteers were recruited who lived near the families and who would fit into their lifestyles.  To ensure this families were assessed based on their needs and what they wanted to gain from the service.

The conference was attended by hospices and children’s palliative care organisations from across England. Those speaking about taking part in the pilot confirmed its benefits: how volunteers enhanced the families’ quality of life, improved their ability to cope,  and increased engagement with the community, like having someone to talk to, and having the time to be able to do this.

There were heartwarming stories too. Dr Ros Scott, Volunteering Researcher & Consultant, and co-chair of the European Association for Palliative Care Task Force on Volunteering, introduced a woman with four children, three of whom have life-limiting conditions. They live above the ground floor across from a park, but she is not able to take them there without help. In terms of the distance it “might as well be the moon” she said.

A volunteer for Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice in north London, talked about the rigorous training programme the hospice puts in place for its volunteers, and how useful she finds the role for her work as a teacher. She helps a sibling with autism with their homework for an hour a week, and very soon after starting teachers noticed a vast improvement in their  confidence and school work, before even knowing about the volunteer programme.

TfSL state that over the last year 62 families were matched with volunteers, and 48 of these are now receiving regular volunteering. By collecting the information acquired during this pilot, Together We Can aims to firmly establish volunteer services for families, which the stories and statistics talked about at the conference proved are essential for their wellbeing.

For more information visit Together We Can

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