Professional Comment

The Vital Role of Volunteers in Care

By Sam Ward OBE, Deputy CEO, Royal Voluntary Service (

Volunteers can play a vital role in enriching the lives of people living in care and easing pressure on care home professionals.

The Volunteer Responders programme, which was originally created to support NHS colleagues and services in England during the pandemic, has recently extended its reach to adult social care. Since its creation, the programme has responded to over 2.5 million requests for help to support approximately 200,000 people. The pandemic truly highlighted the critical role of volunteers.

Today, NHS and Care Volunteer Responders is a free, flexible, and easy-to-use volunteering programme supporting the NHS and adult social care across England. The programme is built on a digital platform and links an available pool of volunteers to local live tasks through the GoodSAM app.

ID checks are carried out for all volunteers, and some roles require additional checks such as a DBS check. Volunteers also receive a Getting You Started Guide and have access to a trained Safeguarding Team working 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week.

Volunteers are available to support with a range of services. They offer friendly telephone support to help with the emotional wellbeing and mental health of care recipients, perhaps those with fewer visitors or family members to call, for example.

There are also practical services that volunteers can support with, including grocery and essential shopping delivery for individuals, and collection and delivery of medical equipment.

These services can support care home residents’ wellbeing and contribute to improved quality of life. Volunteers will not undertake any of the duties of care colleagues, but will complement the existing workforce, allowing care and health staff to focus on providing quality care to those who need it most.

Research conducted by Royal Voluntary Service found that volunteer support improved and enriched people’s experiences of care in care home settings. The evidence highlighted further benefits for care recipients, including improved mood, enhanced cognitive functions, and general improvements in care service quality.

The evidence also showed a public interest in care sector volunteering with 43% planning or considering offering their time. What Volunteer Responders aims to do is make it as straightforward as possible for busy care colleagues to tap into this valuable resource of willing volunteers.

It’s quick and simple for care professionals to refer in-need individuals for support from volunteers. Requests for support can be made at a moment’s notice.

Since the expansion of Volunteer Responders, care professionals have begun utilising the programme to support care recipients, adding value and boosting people’s experiences of care. Samantha Aylott, Specialist Advisor in Adult Social Care has been making referrals to the programmes Check In and Chat telephone support services and is encouraging care colleagues to do the same. She said: “It’s immensely helpful to be able to offer people emotional wellbeing support and the opportunity to have a friendly phone call as part of their care package. Having someone to chat to can mean a lot to the adults we work with; it’s about knowing someone cares and is interested in them.

“I would recommend the programme to other social care providers, it’s quick and easy to use.”

Personal testimonies reveal the profound impact of volunteer phone calls on the lives of those in receipt of care. David Fielden receives regular phone calls as part of the programme.

He said: “I can’t express how grateful I am for the volunteer phone calls I receive. Being largely housebound and living with a chronic illness can make you feel so isolated and it’s easy to fall into a state of loneliness. These phone calls have truly become the high point of my day. Without [them], my days would be much more difficult and lonelier. I am forever grateful to the volunteers who selflessly give their time to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Volunteer Responders support is available seven days a week and comes with comprehensive support and assurance. There is a helpline, safeguarding team and problem-solving team available between 8am – 8pm every day. Regional Relationship Managers are available in each region to answer questions about the programme, the volunteer support available and how to make a referral.

We want more care providers to make full use of the programme. It’s incredibly straightforward to request volunteer support and I urge anyone interested in exploring this additional service to visit or call our Support Team on 0808 196 3382 to find out more information or to make a referral.