New charter to protect Sheffield volunteers from abuse

Volunteers Recruitment Day at The Circle Volunteer Centre on Rockingham Lane in Sheffield. Pictured is Paul Harvey.
Volunteers Recruitment Day at The Circle Volunteer Centre on Rockingham Lane in Sheffield. Pictured is Paul Harvey.
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Organisations in Sheffield are being urged to sign up to a new charter aimed at protecting volunteers from abuse.

The Volunteer Centre, on Rockingham Lane in the city centre, has drawn up the agreement after it was forced to reject several adverts for volunteers which were verging on exploitation.

The Sheffield Volunteering Standard is being launched to mark the end of Volunteers Week on Sunday.

Paul Harvey, from the Volunteer Centre, said: “It’s important volunteers are used appropriately by organisations.

“People volunteer because they think they are helping out a charity.

“It is important that it is a gift that is not abused.

“In Sheffield we have some wonderful volunteers and a lot of excellent organisations.

“However, at the Volunteer Centre we come across examples of volunteers who are not treated so well.

“This can be volunteers not being supported, being pushed into things they don’t really want to do, having high expectations or having high burdens of responsibility placed on them.”

He said examples of organisations looking for volunteers in the wrong way include one asking for a hunan resources assistant to deal with ‘sensitive legal issues’ without pay, while another is a children’s centre run entirely by volunteers with no paid staff.

Mr Harvey said: “We have spoken to some organisations who have said ‘we have lost funding and got rid of staff, so we need a volunteer.

“There are also sometimes concerns around different recruitment policies used.

“It’s very difficult to say when someone is being racist or sexist, but there are sometimes questionable practices.

“What we do is we check organisations out before we advertise any roles.

“If anyone applies for a role that we advertise, we know there’s a minimum quality standard because we have checked.

“What the Volunteering Standard is about is telling everyone ‘this is the standard that we should all reach’.

“If an organisation is signed up to this, a volunteer knows that they do volunteering well.”

A total of 10 organisations have signed up to the standard already, including HomeStart, Sheffield Mind, SOAR and St Luke’s Hospice.