Setting up your own local Good Neighbour scheme
Good neighbours network is a small but structured group of volunteers who offer to do simple tasks for elderly neighbours or others in need.
This might include things such as changing a light bulb, hanging a picture, offering some company, collecting prescriptions, giving someone a lift, help with filling in forms and much more.
Good neighbours networks can foster a feeling of wellbeing not only for the residents who benefit from the help they receive, but also for the volunteers who gain a sense of purpose and a way of giving something back to the community.
We are supporting people to set up networks in their area to help people to be involved and empowered in their own communities.
Volunteers are encouraged to offer their services only for activities that they would feel happy and confident to carry out.
We have produced a useful toolkit/guide which explains what a good neighbours network is, how it works and what needs to be done to make it a reality. It also gives useful information and sample documents to anyone developing a network in their area.
- What is a Good Neighbour Scheme?
- What is the Malvern Hills Good Neighbour Network?
- What help can a scheme provide?
- Setting up a committee
- Start-up costs
- Sourcing of funding
- Vetting procedures (DBS checks)
- Processes and procedures
- Open Meeting
- Helping in an emergency
- Marketing tips
- Newcomers Welcome Pack
- Further support
Good Neighbour schemes are community run initiatives linking people who are in particular need, with community volunteers who are willing to help.
Locally run schemes can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, creating an environment where people feel safe and secure. It’s about local people helping their neighbours to enjoy a better quality of life.
Help is given to those in need free of charge, although a reasonable mileage charge is usually made if there is the provision of transport.
Schemes are coordinated by phone, usually a mobile which can be held in turn by a core group of volunteer ‘Duty Officers’. A duty period is usually one week but can vary based on the time people have to offer.
Anyone who needs help can call the mobile number and speak to the duty officer, who will locate a suitable volunteer available to provide the help requested.
Good Neighbour schemes help to build local connections which can also be useful in an emergency, such as extreme weather events. Volunteers will be aware of residents who may need additional support or reassurance and may also choose to get involved in developing a Neighbourhood Plan.
This toolkit will help you to: build local interest; recruit volunteers; and understand what’s needed to run a successful scheme.
The network aims to connect and bring together the many groups in our district for the mutual benefit of all. It provides a place where ideas, questions and information can be shared, and connections can be made between groups. A dedicated page on Malvern Hills District Council’s website provides a place where residents and their families can find information about your group and its services.
A Good Neighbour scheme is for the benefit of the whole community, although it tends to be older residents who make most use of the help available. Volunteers are encouraged to offer their services only for activities they feel happy and confident to carry out.
This is offered by many schemes, with volunteers giving people occasional lifts in their own car, for example to a hospital or GP appointment. This is the only service for which we recommend a charge be made of up to 45 pence per mile, to compensate the driver for fuel, wear and tear.
In Malvern Hills district there are community transport schemes, and we would encourage people to use these in the first instance. If there isn’t a scheme in your area, you may choose to offer this as part of the Good Neighbour scheme.
Practical help such as shopping; collecting pensions or prescriptions; occasional cooking; and meal delivery are also in demand. Volunteers could also help when someone is temporarily unable to walk their dog.
Help with changing a light bulb; fixing a dripping tap; checking a smoke alarm; minor electrical repairs; moving furniture; or hanging a picture could all be included, if appropriate skills are available.
Schemes can offer a one-off tidy up for a villager who has an overgrown garden and physically unable to manage it themselves.
Befriending on a regular basis is another extremely welcome and worthwhile practice which can benefit older residents, those newly bereaved, and people new to the area.
Letter writing and form filling
These can also be a challenge for people, for many reasons, and help may be appreciated.
As with most projects, a small group is needed to get things started and oversee the running of the scheme. Members of this Committee may also choose to be one of the Duty Officers, responsible for the day to day coordination, or volunteers providing support to those who request it.
The first thing to do is to find out if people are interested in having a scheme in your area. Promoting the idea in local newsletters, speaking to people at events and holding a public meeting are good ways to do this.
We have provided a simple community questionnaire to help identify:
- How many people might benefit and the types of tasks they need help with.
- How many people might volunteer and the types of tasks they can help with.
Questions can also be included as part of a more general community survey, perhaps for a Neighbourhood Plan.
Reassure volunteers that they will only be asked to carry out tasks they feel confident and able to do and that no one will be expected to be available all the time.
Collecting surveys by hand helps ensure the best response rate so it is best to have a couple of volunteers already willing to help.
The estimated start-up costs for a Good Neighbours Scheme are:
Mobile phone package -
Monthly contract: £5
Phone purchase: £10
Individual security vetting -
Checks (DBS) 8 volunteers @ £30: £240
Stationery / publicity: £50
Promotional materials: £150
There are several potential sources of funding to help set up a scheme.
- Contact your local district councillor to see if there is any Ward Budget available
- Contact Worcestershire Community Foundation to see if the group is eligible for any funding available.
- Apply for a small grant through National Lottery Awards for All England, set up to fund small projects that involve people in their community.
Once a scheme has started it needs to be self-sustaining. Local fundraising events such as a bring-and-buy sale or coffee mornings can raise sufficient funds to cover the ongoing costs of insurance, mobile phone, and DBS checks for new volunteers.
We recommend that all volunteers, including Duty Officers and the Committee, complete a DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service).
Although not all activities carried out by Good Neighbour volunteers can be defined as ‘regulated’ some are (such as driving someone to a doctor’s appointment, or shopping on their behalf) and checks are a legal requirement. Many insurers also require these checks to be undertaken.
DBS checks can be a sensitive issue and some may feel such checks are “over the top” for a small scheme where volunteers are offering their services out of the goodness of their hearts. But volunteers may be going into vulnerable people’s homes as strangers, perhaps handling shopping money. Having a check builds confidence in the scheme and in the volunteers themselves.
Your Good Neighbour Scheme committee will need to be set up with an agreed constitution, chair, secretary and treasurer before you can request DBS checks on potential volunteers. We can advise where to have the check procedures carried out.
The time taken to prepare a DBS check is usually around three weeks but could take longer if a volunteer has moved home a number of times within the past five years.
In the case of a trouble-free check this will simply state that there is ‘nothing recorded’ in terms of criminal offences.
If the person has a criminal record the offence(s) may be shown if recent or significant. Minor offences committed a long time ago may not show up (e.g. an arrest for being drunk as a teenager 50 years previously)
The DBS check is returned to the volunteer applicant and then all that is required is to have sight of the DBS check statement. The volunteer can then register online using their reference number so they can use the check with other volunteering work that they might undertake.
Public liability insurance is essential for a Good Neighbour Scheme since it guards against a claim for accidental damage or personal injury caused by a volunteer.
Each scheme is free to source insurance from wherever it chooses but we recommend you obtain several quotes and compare the cover and costs before making a decision.
You may also want to consider Group Personal Accident insurance, which covers volunteers against the risk of injury in the course of volunteering for around £25 a year.
Possible insurance providers:
Setting up a community bank account is quite straight forward and is essential to help keep the scheme’s books in order. A bank account of this type will usually offer free banking.
It is normal practice for cheques to require two signatories from the committee. All appointed signatories need to provide identification when opening the account.
The Co-op Bank can be recommended as a community-minded bank that usually has a branch in or close to wherever a large store is located.
Another possibility is the Post Office banking service administered by Alliance and Leicester. Even if your village doesn’t have a Post Office, there may be one in a village nearby which could be more convenient than travelling to a town for banking services.
If you would prefer to bank with a familiar name then any of the High Street banks should be able to set up a community bank account that will suit your needs, but check that there will be no banking charges.
It’s important from the outset to have appropriate processes and procedures in place, to ensure the smooth running of the scheme and protect everyone involved. We can provide template documents to help.
For example, each Good Neighbour Scheme will collect personal information about volunteers and individuals requesting help; it’s important that this information is kept securely. Consider the following:
- Equal Opportunities
- Confidentiality and Data Protection
- Health and safety
It’s a good idea to include details of these in a Volunteer Information Pack, as well as practical information about how the scheme operates and other useful local information.
Following your initial survey, assess the level of need demonstrated, and note if there are sufficient volunteers for each type of service.
Invite everyone who responded, plus other stakeholders (local councillors, community groups, sheltered accommodation and GP surgery staff etc.) to an open meeting to discuss how the scheme will work.
It’s important to get across that no volunteer will be expected to do everything or be available all the time. The backbone of many Good Neighbour Schemes are the newly retired, available during the day when most older / vulnerable people may need help. However, be flexible so as to encourage anyone to offer what time they have to give.
An informal meeting at this stage is an opportunity to discuss what it means to be a volunteer, complete Volunteer Forms, provide Volunteer Information Packs and answer any questions people might have.
Good Neighbours Schemes help to build better connected communities where residents who may be most at risk in an emergency are known about and can be better supported. Schemes can utilise their existing volunteer network and knowledge of the community to help prepare and respond.
Volunteers will be aware of residents who may need additional support or reassurance, and some schemes have already drawn up plans to check on isolated people in bad weather and deliver hot food, shopping etc.
Often it is the Parish Council who lead on a Neighbourhood Plan, which sets out what local people can do in an emergency to help each other and the emergency services. In areas where there is also a Good Neighbour Scheme it makes sense to work together.
A Good Neighbour Scheme could also:
- Ensure each Volunteer has a working torch, a battery-powered / wind-up radio, some method of heating food and boiling water, a thermos flask, plus some standby tinned or dried food.
- Encourage clients to be prepared and plan for what they would do in an emergency.
- Work with other local groups, for example to receive live-saving training from Heartstart Malvern or make plans for the village hall or church to be used as a ‘Place of Safety’ if needed.
- Consider how you would communicate in the event of a power failure of if phone lines are down.
There are a number of ways you can promote your Good Neighbour Scheme to potential volunteers and clients which don’t require lots of time or money. The key to effective communications is to use all of the tools as often as you can.
Your primary audience is the local community. Consider all the different ways people already access local information such as: the parish / church newsletter; community website; social media group/page, posters and leaflets on notice boards, and in the village hall, shop, pub, church etc.
By linking in with existing communications, you don’t have to work as hard to reach people, and they’re more likely to trust and take notice of your message.
Ask local groups if you can speak briefly at their next meeting, to introduce the scheme and hand out leaflets. Consider having a stand at the next Summer / Christmas Fair and at community coffee mornings and other events.
Getting an article in a local newspaper can be a very effective way of raising awareness.
Try to make the most of key milestones to give your story a ’hook’ e.g. your launch; one year anniversary; recruitment of new volunteers.
Website and Social Media
A website can be a great online ‘shop window’ for your scheme. Whether setting up your own website or having a page on an existing community / parish website, consider how you will keep information up to date.
Creating a Facebook or Twitter account is free and takes just a few minutes. Facebook often has more of a personal and community audience so may be better suited to Good Neighbour Schemes. Link with other local social media to help spread the message and encourage your volunteers to like and share your posts with their friends and followers too, generating further free publicity.
Whether you’re preparing a poster, leaflet, press article, display stand or presentation remember:
- The 5 ‘W’s: Who, What, Where, When, Why
- ‘KISS’ - Keep It Short & Simple
- Include contact details for more information
- Include a photo and the Malvern Hills Good Neighbour Network logo for extra impact
- Check for accuracy and spelling.
Having a simple consistent message means everyone who sees it is more likely to take it in and to share it with others. ‘Word of mouth’ is one of the most effective communication tools.
When newcomers move into a village they can sometimes feel isolated and may have little idea about the availability of local services, clubs and societies.
A Good Neighbour Scheme can help to welcome people when they move in, encouraging them to become more involved in community activities, perhaps even volunteering for the Scheme.
First check that your Parish Council or WI don’t already produce a welcome pack. (If they do, ensure details of the Good Neighbours Scheme is included)
A welcome pack for new newcomers to the village could include:
- A letter of welcome
- General information about the village
- A directory of useful phone numbers and local services / clubs
- A copy of your Good Neighbours Scheme survey asking if they need help or would volunteer to help others.
- Information on local businesses, doctors and hospitals
- Information on local transport system
- A copy of the local newspaper and parish / village magazine
- Details and copies of any email newsletter (if applicable)
- Regional tourist information
- District Council details
- Details of upcoming events
- A map of the parish / district
- Sign up to the Good Neighbours Network to receive access to free guidance and training
- Help with initial meetings and template documents to get things started.
- Guidance for volunteers
- Provide a link between Good Neighbour Schemes and statutory bodies or other voluntary organisations.
- Links with other Good Neighbour Schemes in the district, establishing a network with forums for volunteers to attend, share ideas, and discuss solutions to common problems and best practice.
- Links to appropriate training courses.
- Provide ongoing support as required and represent Good Neighbour Schemes across the district.