Volunteering Policy

Policy For Volunteering In The Western Isles


1.1 National Key Objectives

This policy has been developed following consultation with local voluntary agencies Western Isles Health Board and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (hereafter "The Public Sector Partners"). Its purpose is to support and promote volunteering and is built around four key objectives issued by the Government:

  • to encourage and enable people to become volunteers;
  • to maximise the involvement of volunteers and the impact volunteering has;
  • to improve the organisation and infrastructure of volunteering; and
  • to communicate the importance, effectiveness and value of volunteering

1.2 The Commitment

The Public Sector Partners are committed to supporting voluntary activity as it is seen as an essential element in the concept of citizenship.

When the services of volunteers are utilised by either Public Sector Partner they will always be used to complement the work of paid staff and never as a substitute for them.



"We aim to promote, support and recognise

the significant and essential contribution of volunteers in furthering the well-being of the people of the

Western Isles through their work in healthcare, the community and environmental issues".


1.3 Definition of Volunteering and the Voluntary Sector

1.3.1 Volunteering can be defined as:

"The commitment of time and energy for the benefit of society and the community, the environment or individuals outside one’s immediate family. It is undertaken freely and by choice without concern for financial gain".

This commitment may stem from:

  • a personal challenge;
  • a need for self development;
  • health gain;
  • spiritual development;
  • the need to have contact with people;
  • a genuine desire to help others; and
  • a need to be a part of a team
1.3.2 A voluntary organisation is a body that is led by volunteers, is non-profit distributing, is legally independent of the state, local and central, and is dedicated to the public good. Examples of voluntary organisations include:
  • National Voluntary Organisations eg, NCH Scotland;
  • National Umbrella Organisations, eg, Scottish Pre-school Play Association;
  • Islands Based Umbrella Organisations, eg, Councils for Voluntary Service;
  • Western Isles wide organisations including representative bodies for the voluntary sector such as Western Isles Citizens’ Advice Service; and
  • Local community organisations including housing/tenants associations

1.4 The Contribution of Volunteers in the Western Isles

1.4.1 Western Isles Health Board

Volunteers contribute a great deal to the quality of care for patients and their carers in the National Health Service in Scotland. Volunteers working in partnership with the Western Isles Health Board contribute significantly by:

  • providing a range of services to hospital and community patients, staff and visitors in the Western Isles;
  • providing a range of social services within the Western Isles;
  • providing a range of services in hospitals and the community;
  • helping with fundraising for essential equipment;
  • participating in the review and improvement of existing services;
  • contributing to the development of new voluntary initiatives;
  • contributing to initiatives in the Community which lead to a reduction in inequities in health; and
  • contributing to Public Sector party initiatives, to achieve a common goal
1.4.2 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

The Comhairle recognises the value of the voluntary sector and its vital role in enabling the Comhairle to achieve its vision, values and strategic aims. It believes that the voluntary sector’s role is much wider and deeper than simply providing services. For Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the voluntary sector’s specialist knowledge and expertise, its links to communities and its roots in active citizenship mean that it has an important contribution to make to the development of policies and services to meet the needs of citizens and communities. The voluntary sector also act as advocates for causes and individuals often in partnership with the Comhairle.

The voluntary sector plays an important role in both service provision, community activities and as advocates of communities/client groups. Specifically they are involved in:

  • The provision of services including those for children, young people, families, the elderly, people with special needs, housing and advice services;
  • Supporting or complementing the provision of services by Comhairle staff;
  • Working in Partnership with the Comhairle and other Public Sector organisations on issues such as those relating to the environment, eg, coastal erosion;
  • Initiating community projects such as play parks, community halls, Comunn Eachdraidh and community development companies; and
  • Acting as advocates representing the views of the community and users/clients of services provided by the Comhairle


2.1 The Role of the Public Sector Partners

The Public Sector Partners have a strategic role in planning and co-ordinating public services in the Western Isles. They recognise that volunteering and voluntary activities contribute significantly to the achievement of strategic objectives.

It is the responsibility of the Public Sector Partners to encourage and enable volunteering to take place in all aspects of their dealings with the voluntary sector.

This policy therefore addresses:

  • the relationships with voluntary organisations and individuals whom it engages directly in its service delivery and indirectly through other service providers;
  • the implications for commissioning volunteer services;
  • where appropriate, the recruitment, selection and induction of volunteers;
  • consultation on policy matters with local volunteering interests;
  • the reporting process regarding voluntary activity and related issues;
  • the relationship with the LVDA and CVS, which provide an important infrastructure for promoting and developing the contribution of volunteering at local level;
  • the Public Sector Partners’ role in the development and co-ordination of the Volunteering Policy; and
  • the responsibilities of organisations who are using volunteers

2.2 The Underlying Principles

The Public Sector Partners:

  • recognise the importance and value of the contribution made by volunteers working in partnership with the Public Sector Partners;
  • recognise that the role of volunteers complements but cannot replace that of paid staff and others who provide services;
  • acknowledge the unique contribution made by volunteers to the wider community;
  • will implement measures to support volunteering;
  • will implement good practice with regard to the involvement of volunteers and will expect organisations with whom we deal to adopt a similar model of good practice;
  • will seek to ensure that all the appropriate policies of the Public Sector Partners encourage volunteering in general;
  • will recognise, support and provide publicity to the work of CVSs and WILVDA as the key organisations as key co-ordinating and development bodies for volunteering in the Western Isles;
  • will demonstrate a commitment to provide access to suitable training and support for volunteers, whether directly or indirectly, where appropriate;
  • will make provision for appropriate training and support in grants and service agreements where appropriate;
  • will promote and contribute to training for voluntary service managers;
  • will identify key individuals through the Western Isles with responsibilities for co-ordinating voluntary activity;
  • will establish mechanisms to monitor the volunteering policy;
  • will require recipients of service provided by volunteers to be informed where volunteers are providing services, and their wishes respected;
  • will expect organisations from whom services are commissioned to be volunteer involving;
  • will establish (when relevant) seminars to monitor the joint policy document to improve communication mechanisms; and
  • will implement measures to ensure quality of service is maintained

The Public Sector Partners have nominated a Director in each organisation responsible for the management of voluntary issues. In the Western Isles Health Board this is the Director of Human Resources, at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this is the Chief Executive.

2.3 Aims of the Volunteering Policy

The aims of this policy are to:

  • acknowledge the value and importance of volunteering to the Public Sector Partners and the communities of the Western Isles;
  • actively promote the importance, value and effectiveness of volunteering;
  • make it easier for everyone in the community to volunteer regardless of their age, gender, marital status, race, religion, colour, creed, disability or sexual orientation;
  • apply equal opportunities to volunteering;
  • clarify the roles, responsibilities and relationships between volunteers, those who engage them and those who receive their services;
  • improve the ‘Public Sector Partners’ infrastructure in relation to volunteering, and set up appropriate channels for communication and consultation with the local volunteering sector;
  • clarify key areas of responsibility and activity in relation to volunteering in the Western Isles;
  • set standards of good practice in working with volunteers; and
  • provide systems of communication and support for volunteers working in partnership with the Public Sector Partners


3.1 Relationships with Staff

Where services are provided by or in partnership with the voluntary sector, reasonable steps will be taken to ensure that all levels of paid staff are clear about the role of volunteers, and that good working relationships are fostered between staff and volunteers. Trade Unions have been consulted on the content of this policy and will be involved in its implementation. Arrangements for ongoing consultation are clearly established as part of the Public Sector Partners’ implementation plans (appendices C and D).

Appropriate training, support and resources will be provided for all staff who work alongside volunteers. In order to provide quality voluntary services, appropriate training should also be provided to enhance the skills of the volunteers and also encourage them to continue offering their services.

Volunteers will not be asked to take on any tasks formerly undertaken by paid workers whose posts have been made redundant or hours have been reduced, or to work in any area or way that contributes to any decrease in paid employment.

Volunteers will not be engaged in times of industrial action to undertake or contribute the work of paid staff. Volunteers may continue with any regular voluntary activity, but will not be asked to undertake any additional duties.

Where possible, volunteers will have responsibility for carrying out specific duties. They will not be used merely to provide assistance to paid staff.

3.2 The Recruitment of Volunteers

3.2.1 Western Isles Health Board

Volunteering opportunities will be widely advertised in ways that are accessible to all sections of the community. Advertisements must be free from discrimination and complement the Health Boards Recruitment and Selection Policy.

All advertised voluntary opportunities will have written task descriptions detailing time commitment, and skill requirements of the volunteer and a detailed list of roles and responsibilities.

Volunteers will be engaged in accordance with the appropriate volunteer recruitment and selection procedures. These procedures will complement those of the Western Isles Health Board’s Recruitment and Selection Policy.

The Western Isles Health Board will be notified when volunteers have been engaged. Confirmation of satisfactory references will be provided in respect of volunteers working in partnership with the Health Board.

The procedures for vetting volunteers who will be required to work with children and other vulnerable groups will be clearly understood by all concerned.

The provision of adequate insurance must be established prior to a volunteer commencing any activity.

The communication process between the Health Board and volunteers will be established and regularly reviewed. Key personnel will be established as contacts designated with the responsibility of co-ordinating activity within their respective areas.

All volunteers working in partnership with the Western Isles Health Board will be required to comply with existing Health Board policies and procedures.

3.2.2 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Where volunteers are being recruited directly by a Comhairle department, the procedure should be identical to that used for the recruitment of paid employees. This would include the screening through references of all volunteers.  In addition, PVG checks (Protection of Vulnerable Groups Scheme) will be required for those who may come into contact with children and/or protected adults;  the associated cost would be met by the Comhairle.  For further information about the PVG Scheme, please see the Disclosure Scotland website (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

An example of this first group would be direct recruitment of volunteers led by a community education worker to provide help to a local youth organisation.

Where volunteers from a recognised local umbrella organisation are being used for assistance on Comhairle premises, as part of an overall provision of a service for which the Comhairle has overall responsibility, or on the initiative of an employee who is undertaking recognised Comhairle duties, the local organisation must be asked to provide information on their recruitment, screening and management procedures. The provision of this information must precede any approval of the volunteer arrangements.

The umbrella organisation will be provided with the information in section 3.5 of this policy document, setting out the rights and responsibilities of volunteers, as guidance on the areas about which the Comhairle will expect to be covered in the organisation’s own procedures.

Examples of this second group are the services provided through the League of Friends or the Befriending Service.

3.3 Support for Volunteers

3.3.1 Western Isles Health Board

Where appropriate, volunteers will be provided with a comprehensive induction programme, covering Health and Safety, legislation, confidentiality, Policy issues and other information relevant to their work.

The Western Isles Health Board will endeavour to reimburse out of pocket expenses incurred by volunteers. The reimbursement of expenses will only be considered in respect of planned, authorised activity.

The Western Isles Health Board would not wish individuals who volunteer from good will to carry the burden of risk themselves. Adequate insurance cover will be provided for volunteers working in partnership with the Western Isles Health Board

The Western Isles Health Board will not be responsible for the vehicle insurance of volunteers driving their own vehicles. Volunteers have a responsibility to inform their insurance companies of their intentions to use their vehicles for voluntary activities.

Feedback regarding performance will be provided to all volunteers by the commissioning body. The Health Board and Local Voluntary agencies will establish appropriate systems of performance appraisal.

3.3.2 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

The Comhairle provides support to the voluntary sector through advice, financial support and infrastructure. The Comhairle recognises the importance of allowing the voluntary sector control over its infrastructure that is accountable to itself. Indeed it is in the Comhairle’s own interest to support a voluntary sector infrastructure which is both representative of voluntary sector opinion and effective in providing development and support.

The Voluntary Sector also have duty in terms of ethos and practice in accordance with the guidance "following the pubic pound" when in receipt of grants or financial support from the Comhairle.

The Comhairle recognises the value of intermediary and umbrella bodies such as the Councils for Voluntary Service whose roles are to:

  • communicate with a wide range of voluntary and community groups;
  • provide independent support, advice, training etc;
  • work at community level with local groups to enable local people to play a real role in participation, policy making and decentralisation;
  • take a lead role in building networks for voluntary organisations;
  • promote partnership working between local authorities and the voluntary and community sector;
  • provide a first contact point for local authorities; and
  • provide access to training opportunities

3.4 Complaints

Service users will be informed where volunteers are providing a service, and their wishes respected.

In the event of a complaint been raised in respect of a volunteer or volunteer service, the relevant Public Sector Partner’s complaints procedure will be used.

The appropriate Voluntary service will be notified that a complaint had been made, and be informed as to the cause of action been taken.

In the event of a volunteer wishing to make a formal complaint, the relevant Public Sector Partner’s Grievance procedure may be used. The appropriate Voluntary service will be notified that a complaint had been made, and be informed as to the course of action been taken.

It would be hoped that local discussions would resolve most complaints and grievances, removing the need for formal procedures to be invoked. However, these procedures can be used if deemed appropriate.

3.5 The Rights and Responsibilities of Volunteers

It will be the right of volunteers to:

  • know what is expected of them;
  • have clearly specified lines of support;
  • to be effectively supervised;
  • have safe working conditions;
  • be insured;
  • know their rights and responsibilities if something goes wrong;
  • be paid reasonable expenses where appropriate;
  • be trained for the duties they are required to undertake; and
  • be free from discrimination

Volunteers will be expected to:

  • be honest;
  • be reliable;
  • respect confidentiality;
  • attend training and support sessions where agreed;
  • carry out tasks in a way that corresponds to the aims and values of the Public Sector Partners;
  • adhere to health and safety policies and procedures
  • work within agreed guidelines and remits


This policy should be regarded as a tool for the development of good practice on the part of both the Public Sector Partners and the voluntary sector. It is therefore anticipated that this document will evolve and require changes and review as a result of on-going dialogue.

Various criteria are suggested as being appropriate in order that the on-going partnership between the Public Sector Partners and the voluntary sector can be assessed and improved as necessary; including:

  • an understanding of the knowledge and needs of those involved in the partnership;
  • the confidence each partner has in being understood by the other;
  • openness between partners existing in ways that are explicit and appropriate;
  • ease of communication between the partners, and the confidence that communications will receive the proper attention; and
  • joint reviews of the relationships

The implementation plans as given in appendices C and D set out the actions proposed by the Public Sector Partners to put the Volunteering Policy into practice. Regular monitoring of progress will take place as set out in the implementation plans, with the policy itself being reviewed after one year, and then on a three yearly basis.

In monitoring the policy, recognition will be given to the type of voluntary organisation involved, and the purpose volunteering serves to the Public Sector Partner and the community at large.