Making it easier for people to get involved in their community, to form relationships, to share their learning and expertise with each other, and to support each other. This can help to improve people’s wellbeing and at the same time build community capacity.
There is a clear case for health and social care to explore how they can help to improve social connection and participation. For example:
- people who volunteer report improved mental health, confidence, skills and experience, and physical health.
- loneliness and social isolation increase someone’s likelihood of mortality by 26%, or equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Making it Real statements
I can keep in touch and meet up with people who are important to me, including family, friends and people who share my interests, identity and culture."
We know it can be helpful for people to share experiences so we encourage specialised support, peer support, self-help and self-advocacy groups."
Tips for success
- Invest infrastructure that supports organisations that recruit volunteers and explore how health and care partners can publicise and promote volunteering opportunities.
- Ensure that peer groups have access to clinical support or statutory services to give specialist advice or help manage escalation of need where relevant.
- Invest in the recruitment, training and management of volunteers and recognise that they may need support to continue doing the hard work.
- Recognise that peer support and community organisations can create a space for conversations that some people might struggle to have in a professional health or social care context.
- Enable people to volunteer and contribute recognising the value of their skills and experience.
- Remove barriers to people accessing their community, for example, by helping people to physically leave their homes, building their confidence to participate, helping them to use technology or ensuring local places are dementia/autism friendly.
- NCVO reports about volunteering and how and why people get involved in groups, clubs and organisations.
- National Voices – peer support hub which brings together guides and resources to support implementation of peer support.
- Q Lab – report on how people make decisions in peer support and an essay which gives useful insights for developing peer support.
- Nesta report on peer support highlighting its potential to improve outcomes and the value of training and supporting volunteers.
- Royal Voluntary Service report highlighting some the challenges and opportunities around volunteering and integrated care.
- King’s Fund report focussing on how five organisations have found different ways to support the people and how these approaches can be spread more widely, including how peer support and co-design has been used in a mental health inpatient context.
- Plymouth’s Good Neighbours scheme, an online platform in partnership between the council and VCSE sector that connects people to volunteering opportunities.
- Gig buddies, a project which pairs up people with and without learning disabilities (and/or autism) to be friends and go to events together.
- Care and Repair England evaluation of the Silverlinks Programme where older volunteers in a peer support model helped people make housing/care decisions.
- Alzheimer’s Society resources about how to make communities and organisations dementia friendly.
- A Living Autism resource about creating autism friendly environments.