Volunteer handbook


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 CRB/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

As you first get involved in North London Cares' network, you’re likely to volunteer under our “Social Clubs” programme. This project offers local younger and older people the chance to get out, to interact, and to share new experiences, skills and laughter in myriad community locations from Kilburn to King’s Cross, Camden Town to Caledonian Road. These clubs might hook on one of the following activities:

  • Film Nights
  • Cooking Sessions
  • Ballroom Dances
  • Storytelling Nights
  • Lunch Clubs
  • New Tech Workshops
  • Concert Trips
  • Business Visits
  • Meals Out
  • Vintage Afternoon Teas

These activities are run for medium-sized groups – normally 10-15 older people and 3-6 volunteers, although they can sometimes be bigger or smaller.

While the cultural exchange is important and we may ask you to help us make tea or chop up cake and sandwiches, we like to stress that the real value added for all participants is in the interactions you’ll have with your older neighbours, the conversations you’ll enjoy, and the benefit everyone gains from those connections.

For that reason we ask all our volunteers to be confident, to arrive with an open mind, and to sit and chat with your older neighbours. Ask them questions: how regularly do they join North London Cares’ events? Have they always lived around here? What did they do for a living?

And tell them about yourself too – people are interested to hear about your job, your family, your interests, what you got up to at the weekend, etc. Be sure to respond to your neighbours – if they want to follow up a topic of conversation, go with it; if they don’t, talk about something else.

A North London Cares member of staff or an “NLC Organiser” (a trained supervisor) will always be in attendance at each one of the “Social Clubs” you attend. You will know the name of this person before you get to the venue due to our communications with you ahead of time. Please announce yourself upon arrival at every venue and let the group leader know when you’re ready to leave – we don’t want anyone left behind!

In the interim, the group leader will help to facilitate conversations between people but feel free to be pro-active if there’s a lull in conversation.

The group leader is also important as a safety manager. If it’s your first time at a venue he or she will show you where the fire exit is in case of emergency. They will also be responsible for ensuring the venue is cleared in the agreed way, with lights off and doors locked and security alarms enabled. Please take direction from the group leader if they need your help with these matters.

Apart from that, you’re going to have a great time – so sit back, relax, converse and get ready to build some relationships with some truly inspiring people.

Just bear in mind the “Dos” and “Don’ts” of our Code of Conduct before you start (by attending any North London Cares activity you are agreeing to this code):

Please do:

  • Be talkative! North London Cares is an interactive charity building relationships between people who might not otherwise have the chance to interact. Just by signing up you’ve shown that you’re our type of person – so dive in and be confident to chat.
  • Stay in regular contact with North London Cares between volunteer sessions. Keep an eye on our website and social media channels, as well as our regular volunteer email blasts, and let us know whenever you’d like to join an activity: we’ll always have something for you to do across Camden and Islington.

Please don't:

  • Be late! Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but it really helps us run great events if volunteers arrive on time, fired up and ready to go. Also, please don’t drop out at the last minute – this could leave us with a big group of neighbours and no volunteers (and that defeats the purpose and is mean on us!).
  • Be anti-social. Tweeting and texting about what you’re doing is great but find a quiet moment to tell the world what you’re up to; don’t do it mid-natter with Lily or Ray.
  • Get too personal. No one likes their physical space invaded or their most difficult moments brought up for everyone to hear. Ask questions, be inquisitive about the older people you meet but remember there are other people around who don’t need to hear embarrassing tales. TMI.
  • Smoke, swear, drink or do anything you wouldn’t do in front of your Granny. We all know which behaviour types are inappropriate – keep it for the pub, please.

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 regularly. This may be once a month, once a fortnight or once a week – we’ll agree that together. But we do need to know that you can be where you say you’re going to be and at a regular given time. And we'll need to know, by text or email, whenever you've visited your neighbour and how they're getting on.

If you would like to be part of the Love Your Neighbour project, 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 North 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].


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

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