Volunteer handbook

Introduction

Welcome to North London Cares. As a young organisation tackling some big challenges we’re always inspired to see new people joining our growing network and rolling up their sleeves to hang out with and help their older neighbours in Camden and Islington – and get plenty in return. We’re very pleased to have you on board and look forward to getting to know you in the coming weeks and months.

North London Cares is a small community network of young professionals and older neighbours offering one another a little extra practical help, social connection and human companionship.

We focus on recruiting young professional volunteers because we know that many people living busy work and social lives want to be involved in their local community but find it difficult to do so.

For that reason we try to make our programmes as accessible as possible. Many of our activities occur during evenings and weekends, and we do not require you to commit to volunteering for weeks at a time unless you want to. We’ve also eliminated a lot of the paperwork, so we don’t require you to be DBS checked unless you want to support an individual through our “Love Your Neighbour” programme or by becoming an “NLC Organiser”. That means you can start straight away.

In turn, we ask our volunteers to stay in regular contact with North London Cares staff by phone and email so that we can plan activities and interactions to make them the very best they can be – and to ensure they are always improving the lives of our older neighbours. We also ask our volunteers to talk to us regularly so that we can build a genuine social network flexible to changing needs.

That means we can be agile to your needs and the needs of our older neighbours over time – but once you’ve committed to an activity, we’ll expect you to be there.


Social Clubs

Our social clubs are free group activities that take place around 25 times a month. They offer older and younger neighbours the chance to share time, laughter and new experiences in locations across Camden and Islington.

Our social clubs programme is deliberately varied: both in when the events take place (we have plenty of clubs during evenings and weekends, as well as regular social clubs on weekdays) and in the types of activities we organise. Our social clubs might hook on one of the following activities:  

  • Tech workshops 
  • Film nights
  • Performances and gigs
  • Book club
  • Choir
  • Parties and dances
  • Yoga
  • Quiz clubs
  • Men's cooking
  • Storytelling and podcast clubs
  • Lunchtime concerts
  • Business visits

You can see all of the social clubs we have planned for this month here.

How many people are at each social club?

This varies from club to club. Some of our social clubs are deliberately smaller to attract your less outgoing older neighbours: so there’ll be 15 people maximum at our Men's Cooking club. Others – like our annual birthday celebrations – will have around 100 people chatting, laughing and dancing away. But typically there are between 20-40 people for you to get to know at our social clubs. 

As a volunteer, what’s my role at a social club?

Your main responsibility is to chat with your older neighbours! At every social club there is a North London Cares staff member or Volunteer Organiser who may ask you to help make tea or welcome people as they arrive, but we like to stress that the real value for all participants is in the interactions you’ll have, the conversations you’ll enjoy, and the benefit everyone gains from those connections.

The activities are there to attract people along, but the point of a quiz night, for example, is not to win – as with all our activities, it’s way of getting people chatting, letting loose and feeling party of a community.

Tips to get the most out of social clubs

  • Arrive with a get up and go attitude. It doesn’t matter if you’re attending a Ballroom dancing club and you’ve got two left feet – in fact that’s probably preferable to being a pro: your inexperience will break the ice and have you laughing and forging friendships in no time.
  • Get stuck in and ask the person you’re sitting with lots of questions. How regularly do they join North London Cares’ events? Have they always lived in south London? What did they do for a living?
  • Tell them about yourself too – people will be so interested to hear about your job, your family, your interests, what you got up to at the weekend. Be sure to respond – if they want to follow up a topic of conversation, go with it; if they don’t, talk about something else.
  • Speak loudly and clearly – if people are struggling to hear you, they won’t be offended if you’re raising your voice. 

What do I need to bring with me?

Just yourself and your best conversation starters!

How do I sign up to social clubs?

Once you’ve been to one of our volunteer inductions, around the 20th of each month, we will send you a list of the social clubs for the following month. You simply need to respond to the email with what you’d like to attend, and if there’s spaces left, we’ll book you in and send you over the address and any extra information. Places for social clubs are allocated on a first come, first served basis, and some of the events fill up quickly, so do get back to us as soon as you can.

It’s also worth noting that our emails often end up in junk – we’re working on it – so please do check your junk folder if you haven’t heard from us. 

Can I turn up late to a social club so I can get there after work?

Lots of our volunteers work long hours and aren’t able to leave work in time to get to a social club at its starting time. In these cases, we ask our volunteers either to:

1)    Ask their employer if they’re able to leave work a bit early (and potentially make up the time somewhere else) so they can fit in their volunteering commitment, OR:

2)    Attend one of our weekend social clubs. We have three a month, so even with a busy social life we hope you’ll be able to attend at least one of them.

Please don’t sign up to a club if you know it won’t be possible to make it there on-time or you’ll need to leave early – this can be disruptive. It’s important you’re there from the beginning to the end to make sure your older neighbours all have someone to talk to, and so we can fit all of the activities into what can be fairly tight timings.  

Can I drop out if something comes up?

We work really hard to ensure every older neighbour has a volunteer to speak to at our events: volunteers dropping out after signing up can make this tricky. Some of our social clubs are also over-subscribed, so by signing up and then dropping out last minute, you may be depriving another volunteer of a place.

For this reason we ask you only to sign up to social clubs that you’re certain you can make it along to. If you know that work is getting busy and it’s likely you’ll have to stay late at work for few weeks, we’d ask you not to sign up for social clubs during that busy period.

It goes without saying that if you’re unwell, make sure to look after yourself and stay home. We would however be really grateful if you could let us know in the morning if you’re off work, so we can try and find another volunteer to fill your space.  

Can I bring a friend or family member with me?

If a friend or relative wants to volunteer, they’ll need to attend a volunteer induction before joining you at a social club. They can sign up here.

If they’re over 65, please ask their permission to pass on their contact details, and we’ll give them a call, tell them more about North London Cares, and encourage them to sign up to some social clubs. 

Social media and photos

We take lots of pictures at our social clubs. We share the images on social media and occasionally use them in our leaflets to showcase the joy of interacting with neighbours of different ages.

If you don’t want your photo taken, please speak to the member of staff or Volunteer Organiser present at the beginning of the social club you’re attending,

Can I swap contact details with an older neighbour?

We ask you to keep your friendships inside the social clubs, and to refrain from sharing contact details with the older neighbours you meet at our events. This is to ensure everyone’s safety – neither the volunteers or older people attending social clubs have DBS (criminal records) checks.

If an older neighbour asks to swap contact details with you, please explain that you’ve been asked by the North London Cares team not to give them out or take other people’s down, but that you’d love to see and spend time with them at another social club soon.

Can I meet up with an older neighbour outside of a social club? 

If you really hit it off with an older neighbour at a social club, and would like to spend time one-to-one on a regular basis, this may be possible through our Love Your Neighbour programme.  If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with Harry ([email protected]) who leads our Love Your Neighbour programme.  

What should I do if an older neighbour asks if I can walk home with them?

If an older neighbour asks if you can walk home with them, that’s a lovely sign that they’ve been enjoying your company, but please don’t feel any pressure to do so. Feel free to politely decline or explain that you need to head to another engagement. If it’s not out of your way and you’re happy to walk home with them, let the NLC team member leading the social club know that you’re planning on doing this, and once you’ve ambled back with them, please don’t go inside their home – even if it means declining a good cuppa. 

If an older neighbour says or does something that I disagree with or makes me feel uncomfortable at a social club, what should I do?

As with any situation where someone says something that you disagree with, feel free to either politely state why you don’t agree, or move the conversation onto another topic.

If someone says something that you think is inappropriate, offensive or that you find uncomfortable, please let the present member of staff or Volunteer Organiser know at an appropriate moment or as soon as you feel necessary.

What should I do if someone shares information about their circumstances which worries me?

As you build strong relationships with your older neighbours at social clubs, from time to time they might open up to you about challenges they’re facing. Your empathy and listening ear will be a great comfort, but in some cases, they may need extra support – for example with housing, finance, self-care or bereavement. In these cases, please ask the older neighbour if they’re happy to share the information with a member of the NLC team who will be able to signpost them to an appropriate and trusted service.  

If an older neighbour shares something with you which gives you reason to feel they are at risk of abuse or neglect, or are at risk of other serious harm please do not hesitate to tell a member of the NLC team. If this is the case, you don’t need to ask for the permission of your older neighbour to share your concerns.

If I'm struggling to find the time to get to social clubs, how else can I help my older neighbours?

Head over to our fundraising page – from taking on a challenge to putting NLC on your wedding list, organizing a pub quiz to setting up a monthly donation – there’s dozens of creative ways you can support your older neighbours, at times that will work with your schedule. 

What’s a Volunteer Organiser?

We train a handful of our most committed volunteers to become Volunteer Organisers: they take on extra responsibility and run their own social clubs, without North London Cares’ staff present. This plays a big part in tackling isolation and loneliness: reaching new areas, supporting older neighbours we’ve not yet met, and adding more variety to our programme of events. In return, our Volunteer Organisers have the opportunity to form deeper relationships with their older neighbours and fellow volunteers, and we give them all of the training, tools and support they need to run activities they’re really proud of. 

I have skills to offer at a social club! Who should I contact?

Whether you’re a yoga teacher, musician, photographer, jive expert or craft extraordinaire, we’d love to hear from you if you have skills you’d like to share at a social club. Our volunteers’ skills and generosity help us to keep our programme diverse. Get in touch with Mike (mike.evans@northlondoncares.org.uk) if you’d like to lead a session. 

If you have any other questions about social clubs, we’d love to hear from you: get in touch.


Love Your Neighbour

Once you have been volunteering with North London Cares for a while through our “Social Clubs” programme you may like to participate in our “Love Your Neighbour” project as well. This is where we match individual volunteers to individual older neighbours who are often housebound or otherwise isolated, so that you can offer a little practical support around the house, or just a little companionship and company to someone who needs a friend.

Our older neighbours who we engage through the “Love Your Neighbour” programme may be a little more frail or vulnerable than those who join our “Social Clubs”. We therefore require a little more commitment from volunteers who would like to support someone in this way. In particular, we need a DBS check before we can leave you alone with one of your neighbours. Although it takes a little back- and-forth and a few documents we can normally confirm a DBS check within two weeks, and we can still make an introduction to someone who we may think is a good fit for you in the meantime. We’ll do this as a team so it’s a nice informal introduction.

In addition, we need Love Your Neighbour volunteers to make a commitment, if you are willing to, to see your new friend once a week. Once a month you'll need to let us know the dates and times of your visits to your older neighbour that month, know, and how they're getting on.

If you would like to be part of the Love Your Neighbour programme, please email [email protected], who’ll let you know much more.


NLC Organisers

We now train some of our most committed volunteers to be NLC Organisers. This is a special position that offers volunteers who want to give more the chance to step even closer inside the NLC family – to be trained to run events under the South London Cares banner as “group leaders” themselves, to set up their own activities, to administer parts of our database in order to mobilise volunteers directly, and to ensure events are run smoothly – five times a year or more (whatever you can give).

In return, we will ensure our NLC Organisers have all the tools and contacts they need to run successful events.

“Organisers” will also receive the maximum NLC love: a unique t-shirt, a mug, a certificate and a professional reference from the charity as a thank you – and the warm glow of a job well done.

If you would like to train to become an NLC Organiser please contact [email protected]


Fundraising

Fundraising for North London Cares is a great way to make a difference to your older neighbours. With all of our events – from runs, to bake sales, to gigs, to pub quizzes, to dinners – there is a fun and vibrant atmosphere. And together, we can tackle isolation and loneliness in Camden and Islington.

How can I get involved?

There are three main ways to help us to make our older neighbours feel valued, vibrant and visible in this rapidly changing city:

  • Make a donation: By giving a one-off donation or regular donation to North London Cares, you will be helping older and younger and neighbours to share time, laughter and conversation. This is especially great if you are struggling to get along to a social club. Head to our donate page to see how a little amount can make a big difference. 


  •  Host your own event: Be creative and get fundraising for North London Cares! You could join us for Sweet Mondays and hold a bake sale in your office. Or you could host a clothes swap with some friends to raise funds. Or – if you’re already signed up to a challenge – consider fundraising for North London Cares. Whatever you choose, it’s a fun way to ensure friendships can flourish across our patch. Email Victoria on [email protected] for more information. 


  • Join one of our events: We have a bunch of exciting events and challenges and each and every month for you to get involved in. Check out our list of forthcoming challenges; there’s everything from half marathons, to swims to walks. Or join us at an event, like our pub quizzes, clothes swaps or comedy nights. Check out our Facebook page to see what’s on. 


My company has a charitable arm. Can I get North London Cares involved? 

Of course! We’d love to work with your business. If you have a charity of the year, please consider nominating North London Cares. Or maybe you have a Payroll Giving scheme, and can donate to North London Cares through this? Or maybe your company has a charitable foundation to which North London Cares could apply for funding. With any of these, you could help tackle isolation and loneliness across Camden and Islington. 

And in return, there’d be plenty of ways to get involved in North London Cares. From team volunteering days, to supporting us with skills in-kind, your company would really see the difference they are making. Please email Emily on [email protected] for more information on how your business could partner with North London Cares.


Importantly...

What North London Cares does, and the issues we’re trying to tackle, are complicated. As with every walk of life some of our work may contain risks. Although we have developed a robust risk assessment and policy framework to ensure that, where possible, all potentially harmful situations are avoided, mitigated or managed, we cannot avoid every eventuality – and you are ultimately individually responsible for your own behaviour, possessions, health and safety.

To guide you in case of a serious health emergency, please see the First Aid basics at the end of this Volunteer Handbook – and remember: if someone is in trouble please call the emergency services immediately.


First Aid Guidance

The need for First Aid is extremely rare. However, given the people we work with, we need to know how to react if an emergency may arise. North London Cares' core staff are all Emergency First Trained as part of their first month induction on the team. But so that you, as a volunteer, are aware of how you can help please consider the following in case of emergency.

THE THREE Cs.

  • Check the surroundings. Evaluate the situation. Do not rush into a situation where you could end up as a victim yourself. If approaching the victim will endanger your life, seek professional help immediately. First aid becomes useless if you can't safely perform it without hurting yourself.
  • Call for help. Call authorities or emergency services immediately if you believe someone to be seriously injured. If you are the only person on the scene, try to establish breathing in the patient before calling for help. Do not leave the victim alone for an extensive amount of time.
  • Care for the person. Caring for someone who has just gone through serious trauma includes both physical treatment and emotional support. Remember to stay calm and try to be reassuring; let the person know that help is on its way and that everything will be alright.

CARING FOR AN UNCONSCIOUS PERSON

  • Determine responsiveness. If a person is unconscious, try to rouse them by gently tickling their bare hands and feet or by speaking to them. If they do not respond to activity, sound, touch, or other stimulation, determine whether they are breathing.
  • Check for breathing and a pulse. If unconscious and unable to be roused, check for breathing: look for a rise in the chest area; listen for the sound of air coming in and out; feel for air using the side of your face. If no signs of breathing are apparent, check for a pulse.
  • If the person remains unresponsive, prep for CPR. Unless you suspect a spinal injury, carefully roll them onto their back and open their airway. If you suspect a spinal injury, leave the person where they are, provided they are breathing. If the person begins to vomit, move them over to their side to help prevent choking.Keep the head and neck aligned. Carefully roll them onto their back while holding their head. Open the airway by lifting the chin.
  • Perform 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths as part of CPR. In the centre of the chest, just below an imaginary line running between the nipples, put your two hands together and compress the chest down approximately 2 inches at a rate of 100 compressions per minute. After 30 compressions, give two rescue breaths and check vitals. If the breaths are blocked, reposition the airway. Make sure the head is tilted slightly back and the tongue is not obstructing it. Continue this cycle of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until someone else (ideally emergency services) relieves you.
  • Remember your ABCs of CPR. The ABCs of CPR refer to the three critical things you need to look for. Airway. Does the person have an unobstructed airway? Breathing. Is the person breathing? Circulation. Does the person show a pulse at major pulse points (wrist, carotid artery, groin)?
  • Make sure the person is warm as you wait for medical help. Drape a towel or a blanket over the person if you have one; if you don't remove some of your own clothing (such as your coat or jacket) and use it as a cover until medical help arrives.
  • Pay attention to a list of don'ts. As you administer first aid, be sure to be aware of these things that you should not do in any case: Do not feed or hydrate an unconscious person. This could cause choking and possible asphyxiation. Do not leave the person alone. Unless you absolutely need to signal or call for help, stay with the person at all times. Do not prop up an unconscious person's head with a pillow. Do not slap or splash with water an unconscious person's face.

TREATING SPECIFIC PROBLEMS

  • Cut/gash/flesh wounds. Stop the bleeding first. After you have established that the victim is breathing and has a pulse, your next priority should be to control any bleeding. Control of bleeding is one of the most important things you can do for a trauma victim. Use direct pressure on a wound before trying any other method of managing bleeding.
  • Help a choking victim. One of the ways to help a choking victim is the Heimlich manoeuvre. The Heimlich manoeuvre is performed by straddling the victim from behind and bear-hugging them with your hands interlocked above their belly-button but beneath their breastbone. Thrust upward to expel air from the lungs and repeat until you are successful in clearing the object from the windpipe.
  • Burns. Treat first- and second-degree burns by immersing or flushing with cool water (no ice). Don't use creams, butter or other ointments, and do not pop blisters. Third degree burns should be covered with a damp cloth. Remove clothing and jewellery from the burn, but do not try to remove charred clothing that is stuck to burns.
  • Concussion. If the victim has suffered a blow to the head, look for signs of concussion. Common symptoms include: Loss of consciousness following the injury. Disorientation or memory impairment. Vertigo. Nausea. Lethargy. Signs of concussion should be reported to emergency services.
  • Seizures. Seizures can be scary things for people who've never experienced them. Luckily, helping people with seizures is relatively straightforward. Help the person down to the floor and make sure that the person is breathing. This will help them to calm down. Prevent them from hurting themselves by slamming into anything. As soon as you can, write down any details that might help medical professionals diagnose the situation.
  • Heart attacks. It helps to know the symptoms of heart attack, which include rapid heartbeat, pressure or pain in the chest, and general unease or nausea. Rush the person to the hospital immediately while giving them an aspirin or a nitroglycerin, which the person should chew
  • Strokes. Knowing the symptoms of stroke is important. They include temporary inability to talk or understand what is being said; confusion; loss of balance or dizziness; and severe headache with no precursor, among others. Rush a person you suspect has had a stroke to A&E immediately.

View all of our supporters North London Cares is partnered with...

Living in Southwark or Lambeth? Check out our sister charity South London Cares