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Ending the volunteering relationship

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When a volunteer wants to leave 

As a volunteers life changes they may no longer feel able to commit to their volunteering role with your organisation. It’s important to have a positive approach to volunteers ending their role and to thank them for the commitment they have given. 

You need to recognise the safeguarding opportunities and risks that occur when someone leaves.

You should try to have a final discussion or exit interview. You can use this as a key opportunity to gain any feedback about their experience, including about the organisations approach to safeguarding. When someone is leaving an organisation they may be more willing to talk about any worries they have about the behaviour of others. It gives you a chance to explore any concerns they’ve never felt able to share or anything they think the organisation should be aware of in relation to safeguarding issues. You can also consider a survey or exit questionnaire which allows you to look at patterns and trends over time.

You need to make sure that they no longer have the access they had as a volunteer. It is important that others recognise that other staff, volunteers and those in contact with the organisation understand that they have left and they no longer have the duties or privileges of a volunteer. Staff and current volunteers should still comply with all minimum standards of behaviour. They should not have access to confidential information or staff/volunteer only spaces. 

When someone leaves you should:

  • check all property of the organisation is returned (eg ID badges, uniform or keys)
  • ensure they have completed any outstanding information required for an ongoing safeguarding concern
  • confirm they have deleted any personal details or data they held on behalf of the organisation
  • ask them to remove reference of their volunteering role from their social media accounts
  • remove them from administering any of the organisation’s social media accounts
  • change relevant passwords or codes for locks
  • confirm you have correct contact details for them and any additional consent to contact them in the future in line with your data protection policies
  • make sure all other staff and volunteers know they have left and do not share information or access to spaces that they should no longer have
Example 
GetOut! is a volunteering programme where adults accompany individuals with learning disabilities to take part in a range of leisure activities. Julianne has volunteered with the group for two years and really enjoys it but has started a new job and can no longer meet the time commitment. She speaks with the volunteer manager and has an exit discussion before going. There is a special goodbye event with her so that all the participants understand that she won’t be helping out anymore. The volunteer manager removes her from the volunteers' WhatsApp group and ensures that she returns the organisations security pass and lanyard. 

When the role is no longer needed 

As your organisation changes you may need to change the volunteering role. This might include changing:

  • the tasks volunteers will undertake
  • the level of time commitment needed
  • the knowledge, skills or experience required and therefore the training that must be completed. 

Where a role is changing you should always complete a revised role description. This process should incorporate the feedback of the current volunteers about the role and specifically about the safeguarding risks which they assist the organisation to manage.

Once a new role description has been agreed a new risk assessment for the role. This may show that the role now requires additional safeguarding measures to be in place and/or a higher level of criminal record check. You should not allow volunteers to switch between volunteering roles until they have completed all checks or training for the level of risk in that new role. 

Example
AllD’Action supports individuals with alcohol and drug misuse problems. Kalifa first became introduced to them as a fundraising volunteer through her workplace. After initially doing a run with her work colleagues she decided to apply as a volunteer fundraiser and assisted in recruiting other workplaces to fundraise. After a year of involvement she asks to get more involved in the service delivery side of the organisation. She is sent details of the project volunteer role description. She writes an email to explain why she wants to fulfil the role and then meets with the volunteer manager to discuss her suitability. An additional reference is taken and provides details of how Kalifa has supported others in the past. 

When you decide a problem means the role must end

At times you will decide that someone is no longer suitable to be volunteering with you. 

This may be because of a safeguarding concern, or it may be because of any other concern about their work. You should follow your problem solving procedure for volunteers and, if a safeguarding concern is involved, your reporting procedures for safeguarding. You should also make sure your volunteers understand how they can complain, and that their complaints will be treated separately to any investigation under your problem solving procedure.

Whatever the issue, you have a duty of care to your volunteers and must end the relationship with them only via a fair and transparent process. 

Example
Together Forever is a community organisation which supports adult refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into the local community. The group is led through a partnership of local religious organizations. Twice a year they take a group of asylum seekers on a weekend break away to another part of the UK. An allegation is made that a volunteer at one of the weekends, James, got very drunk and showed inappropriate videos from YouTube to some of the other volunteers and participants who were very offended. The organisation decides that whilst no child or adult at risk was harmed, his behaviour was incompatible with the aims and values of the organisation. James is asked to stand down from volunteering. 
  • When a volunteer is leaving because of a safeguarding concern, you should follow our closing a case guidance. You will need to do this even if they leave before you can ask them to, if they were involved in a safeguarding concern.
Page last edited Oct 04, 2019

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