Our response to the snow and ice has now come to the fore at national level. Penny Gee from Volunteering England’s magazine emailed and asked if we were doing anything linked to the weather emergency. It was Penny who mentioned the brilliant title, “Snow Angels”. I am posting the article that I wrote for Penny that will be in the next issue of Volunteering England’s magazine.
In response to the prolonged bad weather, we realised that elderly, disabled and vulnerable people may not able to get out of the house to get to the shops for essential supplies. We had heard that a few people were spontaneously helping out by picking up shopping for neighbours, but we became concerned that many other people could be getting no help at all.
South Derbyshire is a rural area and many of the villages have been worse affected by snow and ice than the centre of Swadlincote, so we circulated an email to every volunteer on our database who had indicated that they were willing to be contacted asking if they would be prepared to be called on if needed. Within 48 hours, more than 70 people of all ages from across the district and beyond had replied offering their help; from school students to some of those older people who we had originally set out to help,.
We also wanted to be sure that voluntary and statutory organisations across the area were aware of the team and how to access it. We have an active Strategic Volunteering Partnership in South Derbyshire, with representation from the district and county councils, the primary care trust, the voluntary sector and the business community. It took just one email to ask the members of this network to cascade information out more widely.
As the word went out, we picked up even more volunteers to swell the team further still; with offers of help from district council staff, as well as school students and others. The local newspaper, the Burton Mail also ran a story about the team.
Fortunately, the team has not had very much to do because South Derbyshire seems not to have been as badly hit by the snow and ice as some other parts of the country, but we are now thinking about how to retain the goodwill and enthusiasm that these volunteers have shown. We would very much like to keep the team in place and to invite them to take part in other one-off volunteering opportunities during the year.
We have also given a lot of thought to issues of safeguarding. The team was brought together quickly to respond to an emergency situation. We did not have had time to carry out CRB checks or to provide an induction or training programme for these volunteers. We did draft some guidelines about cash handling and I am grateful to those volunteer managers who shared their experience of managing this aspect of volunteering with me via UKVPMs and i-volunteer However, if the team is to have a more formal existence, we will have to put some systems in place.
But that is for the coming weeks and months, for now, let’s celebrate the great volunteers of the South Derbyshire Weather Emergency Team.