Citizens Advice Leeds Volunteer Policy
- About Citizens Advice Leeds
Citizens Advice Leeds is a local charity offering free, independent, impartial and confidential advice to residents of Leeds and the surrounding areas. As part of the national Citizens Advice network we also seek to influence policies through Research and Campaigns work based on the evidence of our clients’ experiences.
- Voluntary work at Citizens Advice Leeds
- Citizens Advice Leeds relies on a team of paid and voluntary staff working together to deliver services to clients. This involvement of volunteers is part of the Citizens Advice ethos helping to ensure that organisations have close connections with the communities they are serving and providing local people with opportunities to develop new skills and gain experience.
- No contract of employment exists between the organisation and a volunteer.
- Diversity and Equal Opportunities
- It is our policy to recruit volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds and experience to reflect the diversity of our community. We believe that we have much to learn and profit from diverse cultures and perspectives, and that diversity will make our organisation more effective in meeting the needs of all our clients. We are committed to developing and maintaining an organisation in which differing ideas, abilities, backgrounds and needs are valued, and where those with diverse backgrounds and experiences can participate and contribute. We regularly monitor our progress towards diversity.
- We aim to provide appropriate support to volunteers who are disabled or have other additional needs, as organisation resources allow. We do not currently accept volunteers for any voluntary work if they are aged under 18.
- All volunteers are required to work in accordance with our Equality & Diversity policies.
4.1 Citizens Advice Leeds volunteers are covered by the organisation’s professional indemnity and public liability insurances.
- Volunteer Roles
- It is our policy to recruit volunteers to a variety of roles. All volunteer roles have written role descriptions that include the necessary skills, attitudes and knowledge required to carry them out effectively.
- Recruitment & Selection
- The Volunteer Opportunities Selection Procedure describes the way that the organisation promotes volunteer opportunities and recruits and selects volunteers for the roles available.
- Recruitment and selection of volunteers is based on clear written criteria and feedback will be offered to those who are not selected wherever possible.
- It may also be possible for volunteers to transfer between roles; this will require a formal discussion to consider the needs of both the volunteer and the organisation in respect of the new role.
- Induction, Training and Support
- All volunteers will be required to undertake training appropriate to the role they take on. Each volunteer will always have a named supervisor to organise and assess their training and support needs.
- Volunteers who give advice to clients must reach and sustain a high level of technical competence. If they do not reach or maintain this level, we may ask them to do further training, change roles and/or no longer give advice.
- Each volunteer will have an annual appraisal at which competence, along with other matters, will be reviewed. Where the volunteer is working below the required competence level then a Personal Development Plan will be developed, with three monthly periodic reviews, to help the volunteer regain full competence.
- Volunteer competence is assessed at supervision, appraisal and through normal voluntary work at the session. Volunteers who are identified as working below competence through supervision will be required to take steps to regain competence through attendance at training events, self study and other appropriate activity. Volunteers who do not progress towards an agreed level of competence after a period of 6 months will be asked to either apply for another role or be asked to leave the service.
- Volunteers are encouraged to talk about any emotionally demanding client work with their supervisor.
- Confidentiality and Data Protection
- As part of their induction, volunteers will need to sign a confidentiality agreement and agree to work in line with our values, policies and procedures.
- Citizens Advice Leeds is registered with the Information Commissioner and operates in accordance with General Data Protection Regulation and Information Assurance law and guidance. Volunteers are asked to provide some personal data to enable the organisation to manage our legal responsibilities and other requirements, e.g. to ensure appropriate support for volunteers with disabilities or health problems and to meet equalities legislation standards. All such data is stored confidentially and is only used for the purposes stated at the time.
- Communication between volunteers and Citizens Advice Leeds takes place through several channels:
- The Volunteer Information System is an online communications system available to volunteers and paid staff. Information about rotas, operational matters and other organisation updates are available through this or the Citizens Advice Intranet site.
- All volunteers are allocated a supervisor who will hold regular supervision meetings and this is an important channel for volunteers to discuss work related matters.
- A variety of other communication channels exist including briefings, meetings, email, the organisation intranet and newsletters.
- Dealing with Problems and Volunteer Complaints
- Concerns about a volunteer’s conduct or competence will be dealt with through the supervision system. A volunteer’s personal supervisor will initially discuss any problems with volunteers and agree a course of action and timetable for review to resolve them.
- Where this fails to resolve the problem or the matter is serious (such as a deliberate breach of confidentiality or bringing the service into disrepute) then the relevant Manager may ask the volunteer to leave. The volunteer may appeal to the Chief Executive, whose decision is final.
- Should a volunteer have a complaint about the way they are being treated they can raise a complaint following the Volunteer Complaints Policy, attached at Appendix 1. The Policy allows for complaints to be raised informally initially and it is hoped that problems can be resolved at this stage. Where complaints cannot be resolved informally the formal stages of the procedure will be followed.
- Health and Safety
- Citizens Advice Leeds Health & Safety policy applies to everyone working in the organisation. All volunteers are provided with a Health & Safety induction on joining the organisation.
- To help ensure the health and safety of all staff, volunteers and clients, volunteers must inform their personal supervisor of any health issue, disability or other relevant matter, at the earliest opportunity. If the volunteer’s personal supervisor is not available, they should speak to an Advice Team Supervisor, Team Leader or Manager.
- Health and Safety concerns should be raised promptly with the relevant supervisor or Manager.
- Volunteer Expenses
- We do not want volunteers to be out of pocket due to their volunteering. We will contribute to reasonable expenses incurred through volunteering including travel expenses and some child care or other care costs.
- See also 5.2.2 Volunteer Expenses Policy.
- Temporary absence
- There is a high level of demand for Citizens Advice Leeds services and in order to maintain our obligations to the public we need to be able to plan ahead. Unexpected absences jeopardise our ability to maintain services so volunteers wishing to take time off are asked to speak to their personal supervisor at the earliest opportunity.
- We expect all volunteers to let us know as far in advance as possible if they are unable to volunteer on a particular day or are likely to be late or leave early.
- Recognition and leaving Citizens Advice Leeds
- Whilst volunteers remain with Citizens Advice Leeds we will regularly recognise their contribution, by both informal and formal means.
- There is no formal retirement age for volunteers.
- When a volunteer leaves the organisation they will be offered an exit interview and a reference confirming their volunteering with Citizens Advice Leeds.
- Once a volunteer has left the organisation, they must be re-interviewed and their competence reassessed should they wish to return.
- Review and Development of this Policy
This policy will be reviewed annually.
APPENDIX 1: VOLUNTEER COMPLAINTS POLICY
- Statement of intent
Citizens Advice Leeds wants to ensure that volunteers feel able to raise complaints about the way they are being treated in the knowledge that they will be dealt with in a way which is fair, transparent, objective and respectful. Volunteers will be made aware of each stage of the process, what it will entail and who will be involved. While it is important for the process to be based on the principles of a sound grievance procedure, it is not appropriate for the two to be the same.
- Who can use this procedure?
Any serving volunteer (including trustees), or a volunteer who has left within the last three months may use this procedure.
- The principles underpinning this policy are:
- Complaints can be made in writing or verbally but a written record of the complaint should be made as soon as possible.
- All complaints will be thoroughly investigated.
- The aim is to resolve a complaint as quickly as possible by following a clear and fair procedure.
- People involved in making decisions on complaints at one stage will not be involved in making decisions at a further stage.
- Details of complaints, investigations and outcomes or any resulting action will not be disclosed to anyone not directly involved in the process without the complainant’s express permission.
- All meetings will be minuted and minutes agreed by both parties.
- At any point the organisation may consider the use of external, independent mediation services to resolve the issue.
- Throughout the complaints process, details of the complaint will only be shared with the relevant people. At no time will details be shared more widely within the organisation. This is particularly relevant to the trustees, as they need to remain independent in case the complaint reaches Stage 2.
- A volunteer making a complaint can be accompanied to any meeting by someone from the organisation (either a paid staff member or volunteer) at any stage of the process but their role will be as a supporter, not an advocate.
- Informal stage
- Volunteers are encouraged to raise any complaints informally with their supervisor (this could be a Manager, Team Leader or Advice Team Supervisor) or some other appropriate person if the complaint is about their supervisor. This person will keep a record of any discussion and ensure that agreed action is followed up in a timely manner.
- If the volunteer raises a complaint of bullying, harassment or abuse, the Equalities and Diversity policy should be consulted.
- Formal stages
Where the informal process has not resolved the issue the formal process may be followed.
- Stage 1
- The volunteer must put their complaint in writing to their supervisor, or to a more senior manager, as appropriate. If the complaint is against the Chief Executive then it should be made directly to the Chair of Trustees. Care should be taken to ensure that the person investigating the complaint does not involve all the Trustees as this may jeopardise the review process.
- Should the complaint be about the Trustees, the organisation will consult Citizens Advice and respond to the volunteer.
- The person investigating the complaint must be someone who is neither implicated in, nor part of, the complaint. They need to reach a full understanding of the problem. They will need to talk to the volunteer and may need to interview other staff or volunteers. They will also examine any written material, as appropriate. Whoever is investigating should keep notes and records of what they have done and how they reached their decision.
- The complaint will be investigated within 20 working days of receipt.
- The decision made by the person investigating will be explained clearly, face-to-face, and in writing to the volunteer. They will ensure that all issues raised have been fully addressed. If the person investigating feels that any issues do need to be resolved, the letter will set out how this will be achieved and a timescale.
- The letter will also clearly set out details of the second stage of the process.
- Stage 2
- If the volunteer remains dissatisfied with the way their concerns have been handled, or feels that there are issues which remain unaddressed, then they can refer their complaint to the Chair of Trustees – who may delegate the matter to a fellow Trustee (e.g. if he or she has a conflict of interest). The volunteer must refer their complaint in writing.
- The Chair or other Trustee will review the way the initial complaint was handled and how decisions were made. They will ensure that a proper process was followed, that any decisions reached were made fairly and accurately, and that no issues were left outstanding.
- The review will be undertaken within 20 working days of the request.
- If the Trustee believes that the process followed by the person who made the original investigation was fair, then they will explain this in writing to the volunteer, and include their reasoning.
- The letter will make the volunteer aware that they have the option of referring their complaint to Citizens Advice.
- If the Trustee believes that the process was not fair, then they will instruct another investigation, identifying the issues which need to be resolved and a timescale for doing so. This investigation will be undertaken by someone not involved in the original one.
- Citizens Advice review
- Where the volunteer still feels that issues remain unaddressed or unresolved or that their complaint has not been treated fairly by the organisation, they can ask Citizens Advice to review their complaint.
- If the volunteer wants to pursue their complaint to this stage, they must put it in writing, providing details of their original grounds and why they feel the complaint has not been properly addressed at local level, to firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively call 03000 231 900.
- They must do so within 20 working days of receipt of the stage 2 decision, they must inform the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Leeds of their intentions. In exceptional circumstances, there may be an extension to this deadline. Requests submitted after 20 working days should provide a full explanation for the delay.
- Citizens Advice will deal with the review within 30 working days of receipt of the paperwork.
- Citizens Advice will check that the correct process was followed and that the outcome was a reasonable one. If so, Citizens Advice will inform both the volunteer and the organisation. The decision will be final.
- If it is felt that the correct procedure has not been followed or the outcome was not reasonable, the review may direct the local office to take relevant action, if necessary with the support of Citizens Advice. Complainants should note that Citizens Advice cannot direct a local office to re-engage a volunteer.
If we offer you a volunteering position, we’ll ask your referees about your previous and current work and experience.
We might contact the DBS for a criminal record check, if relevant. Once the DBS check is completed and you’ve received your certificate, we’d expect you to share this information with us as part of the background check process.
This information would include name, date of birth, place of birth, gender, position applied for and anything else disclosed on your DBS check.
How we use your information
We’ll use the information you give us to decide whether or not you’ve got the right skills for the role.
We’ll use the demographic information to make sure we’re employing a diverse workforce and volunteer community.
Staff who access your information have had information protection training to make sure your information is handled sensitively and securely.
Storing your information
We keep your information securely on our internal systems.
Contact us about your data
You can contact us at any time and ask us:
- what information we’ve stored about you
- to change or update your details
- to delete your details from our records (we may not always be able to do this for example, where we need to keep records in order to comply with contractual, legal or other obligations).
To make an enquiry about your data or to make a complaint if you’re not happy about how we’ve handled your data, contact us at:
Citizens Advice Leeds