The volunteers were from church groups, community centres and locally-run community cafés, and collectively form the Blackpool Food Network. Each volunteer comes into contact with up to 100 service users a week and so have a big impact across the town, but they have had little training.
With help from colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the National Offenders Management Service (NOMS), we used the day to improve the volunteers’ skills and confidence so they could make more of a difference to the people who use their services. Our aim is to reduce food poverty in Blackpool and empower citizens to be more independent and reduce their need to use government services.
Throughout the morning, we discussed ways volunteers could use coaching, mentoring and problem-solving techniques to help them understand their service users’ needs. From there, they could work out what the next step would be – however little that might be.
There was a productive discussion about respecting people’s boundaries before the volunteers reflected on what they had learned and used their new-found skills in role-play exercises.
The civil servants who took part in the training day felt it was a humbling experience, and they learned a great deal about the issues the volunteers face.
The local community volunteers appreciated that the civil servants had given up a Saturday to pass on their skills and experience, and thought it was valuable. Here's some of their feedback:
An excellent event, thank you so much for giving up your time to help us.
I can now use some of these new techniques to support vulnerable people who need our help on a daily basis.
Truly unique training event that was interactive and fun.
I didn’t think I could do the role play and interactive exercises, but I did, and it’s really helped my confidence.
I just want to know when we’re doing the next one!
Building on the success of the event, the next one is already being planned.