Barclays & Leonard Cheshire Disability – Ready to Start programme
Barclays bank employees who volunteer with the Leonard Cheshire Disability Ready to Start programme can now be reassured they are in the safest of hands thanks to the dual awarding to the company and its charity partner of the Investing in Volunteers for Employers and Investing in Volunteers quality standards.
A pilot project was launched in 2007 which approached the concept of assessment in a novel way – Barclays would be judged on the quality of the support it gave to employees, while Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) would be assessed on its management of those volunteers while involved in the programme at the same time. Advice and support was provided by specially trained staff at Volunteer Centre Westminster, culminating in a tripartite initiative which proved to be a great success.
Ready to Start is a unique programme which started in October 2006 with the aim of helping 600 individuals with disabilities successfully launch their own business with the support of Barclays Bank employee volunteers acting as mentors. As part of the IiVE assessment process, 18 mentors and a number of other non-volunteer Barclays management staff were interviewed by an independent assessor who rated the company on a variety of indicators. These included committing adequate resources to making volunteering accessible to all employees, matching volunteers with opportunities in line with diversity management and Data Protection requirements and giving their employee volunteers appropriate recognition.
Meanwhile, LCD achieved its IiV status by successfully meeting indicators including the appropriate use of references and official checks, developing appropriate roles for volunteers and ensuring that volunteers were protected from physical, financial and emotional harm.
Volunteers praised the support they received from volunteer coordinators. One said: “she’s absolutely brilliant, I’m impressed. She’s been a small business adviser herself and has absolutely the right skills.” Another said the training “had a big impact” and that a DVD on understanding the world from the perspective of a person with a disability was “excellent…made you think”.
The key staff driving the project were also delighted with its success. Udeni Salmon, head of volunteer support at Leonard Cheshire Disability, commented that, “It’s been really good to have an external assessment of our volunteer programme – it will enhance our finding bids, but more importantly, internally it acknowledges what a great job out volunteer co-ordinators are doing. It’s a motivator, and it’s about the reputation of the volunteer programme within the wider organisation.”
Meanwhile, Alan Hands, sponsorship and donations manager at Barclays Bank, concluded: “I feel it has really enhanced our relationship, provided an opportunity for us to look at how we each see things – and to do some fine tuning.” He added that he would definitely recommend the process to other companies, advising them to, “Set time aside and look at it as a learning process. It’s especially good to get that feedback that you’re doing things well.”