Our full-time volunteers have been supporting people living with a learning disability in Stratford-upon-Avon for 10 years. Our Regional Volunteer Manager Jenny Szewiel spoke to Heart of England Mencap Manager John Morton to find out more about their history with Volunteering Matters…

Jenny: What made you decide to recruit full-time volunteers to support your customers?

John: Volunteers enhance the service we can offer to our customers, and meet their needs in a unique way. Volunteers offer companionship to our customers. Staff support the customer with activities such as health appointments, while volunteers give extra support, and fill any service gaps. It’s cost effective as well.

Jenny: How many of your customers have been supported by our full-time volunteers over the past decade?

John: Five have been supported by full-time volunteers for the full 10 years, and six others have been supported for a shorter period. We have involved 93 volunteers over that time!

Volunteers often leave a personal note for the next volunteer giving them specific information about the placement. I think that’s really good, it’s encouraging and reassuring for the next person.

Jenny: What’s your favourite memory of working with full-time volunteers?

John: One of our recent volunteers had a fantastic relationship with the customer she supported. Tom had dementia and Laura realised how important it was for him to access the local community, so she found out all the things he used to do before the dementia and supported him to do them. She established a routine with him, and they used to go to the local coffee shop and local pub together. She used to sit down and interact with him, and play darts with him.

It was so nice to see Laura supporting Tom in the community; they were all laughter and smiles. They had great rapport. She took the role personally rather than just professionally; she was just fantastic in everything she did with him. She achieved a lot. It was difficult sometimes, but she got on with it and did her best.

When Laura left she gave Tom a photo book of their shared memories. I got an email from her last week asking how he was getting on in his new care home. I’ve never had a volunteer stay in contact so often after they’ve left.

Jenny: Tell me about a full-time volunteer that particularly stood out for you (and why).

John: One of our first volunteers, Monica, built a great rapport with Robert, her customer, and the staff team. She also had a great relationship with Robert’s parents and they stayed in touch with her when she left. She was always happy and helpful, she always tried her best. They were disappointed when she had to go. It was a really good relationship.

Jenny: What’s been your biggest challenge in working with full-time volunteers?

John: As my role has evolved I have less day to day contact with the volunteers and I miss that! I gain satisfaction in supporting them in their role. I like to find out about their cultures and learn their customs, it’s fascinating. We aim to be sensitive towards people’s different needs. Working with full-time volunteers helps develop cultural understanding.

Jenny: What’s special or different about the support that full-time volunteers can offer, as opposed to care workers? 

John: Full-time volunteers offer companionship and friendship. They’re someone for the customer to talk to. This maintains their wellbeing and ensures that they’re safe and well. Full-time volunteers give our customers independence, and help them access the community.

Jenny: What’s next – do you plan to keep recruiting full-time volunteers?

John: Yes, we may offer more placements in the future.


Some names have been changed to protect privacy.