Becoming a Good Neighbour Scheme
How to get a Good Neighbour Scheme up and running?
To get started a Good Neighbour Scheme (GNS) needs approximately 3-4 committed volunteers to get the group going and form a management committee. Their prime role is to set out, organise and oversee the safe and sustainable activity of their Scheme and to recruit and co-ordinate its volunteers. They also need to consider if they need to raise funds and how they would maintain that.
When the group starts running, the dedicated phoneline would be managed by a group of volunteers who take it in turns to answer calls and find a volunteer to help. These are backed up by a larger team of volunteers, who support the Scheme in one or more ways depending on what the Scheme offers.
The contact details for the Scheme are shared throughout the community and residents are encouraged to call to access help, advice or assistance.
Each call is matched to an appropriate volunteer who is available on the date required and who has any necessary skills for the task. The volunteer then arrives at an agreed time and day to assist the resident as requested.
How does a GNS Work?
The neighbour contacts the Scheme via the dedicated phone line, and speaks to the Duty Co-ordinator, explaining what they need help with and when.
The Duty Co-ordinator takes all the details, identifies a volunteer and contacts them with details of the task. They then get back to the neighbour and confirm who will be visiting them and when.
The volunteer visits the resident and completes the task. Whilst doing this they are also chatting to each other and building positive relationships and therefore being better connected as neighbours.
The volunteer confirms with the Duty Co-ordinator that the task has been completed and also updates them with any other information that might be relevant. The co-ordinator updates their records accordingly.
All the Schemes’ services are free, unless expenses from petrol or parking have been incurred. Donations for running costs are often welcomed, and some Schemes will actively fundraise to help support the work they do.
Why set up a formal group?
When we speak to communities the first thing we tend to hear is “Why do we need to set up a formal group? This already happens in our neighbourhood without us having to be official”.
At Community Action Norfolk we are passionate about communities supporting each other and being a positive influence for change in the County. The fact that there are already neighbourhoods out there supporting each other is fantastic. However, for us these more formal, organised Schemes are a great way of showing our county and district councils, as well as our statutory services what wonderful work is being done by volunteers at a truly grass routes level.
As well as this, by developing formal groups a network of groups with like-minded people, can provide peer support and share good ideas. Volunteers involved in a Scheme can feel like they are part of something bigger, can get recognised for their efforts and can access assistance and help from other groups and the team at Community Action Norfolk.
What is the best way to set up a group?
The key aim of a Good Neighbour Scheme is the simple ethos of being neighbourly – helping out people in need, making people feel part of the community and being a positive influence on someone’s day.
An effective community group will do this by working together as a team to make decisions, having some structure and boundaries to work within and communicating well between volunteers. They will also be aware of the risks involved with running the group and address them accordingly. The team needs to be formed in the early stages of setting up a Scheme, and it can easily take up to six months to do the preparation before your launch date.
We offer two ways of setting up a Good Neighbour Scheme;
- Constituted Good Neighbour Scheme
- Good Neighbour Connect Scheme
Traditionally all GNSs are required to be set up by a full committee (including Chair, Treasurer and Secretary), with a constitution, bank account and insurance before they start supporting their community. This set up is good for a group that wants and sees the organisational benefits of a formal set up, and can fulfil the officer roles. It is also a way of ensuring the longevity of the group as there is a responsibility to always make sure there are volunteers in place to provide support for the community. Groups with a constitution would also be able to access wider funding opportunities.
During the covid-19 pandemic, however, the need for support was immediate so we adapted how Schemes could be set up so neighbourhoods could start helping people, pretty much straight away.
This route is a Good Neighbour Connect Scheme, and involves inviting volunteers to sign up for your Scheme by registering with us at Community Action Norfolk. This means they are covered under our public and employers liability insurance, and we will then able to help to complete a screening process and Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) checks, and provide a set of simple procedures to cover safeguarding, health & safety and data protection. We can also hold any funds the group raise in our bank account, to avoid you having to create your own.
This route may be a good option to help bridge the gap between launching and getting a constitution etc together, however it would not be a viable long term solution.
Regardless of which route you choose, we would expect all Good Neighbour Schemes to have a form of the following;
- A management team
- Safeguarding Procedures
- Health & Safety Policy
- Some form of volunteer management
- Dedicated phone line/contact details
These elements are important to ensure there is a confidence in the Scheme from, the neighbours that may use the service, your volunteers, your Parish Council, but also other organisations that could be a useful partner to the GNS such as your local surgery, other charities, local churches. These groups may wish to signpost people to your scheme and they need to be confident that the group is well organised and all those involved will be safe.
A more structured approach will also allow you to access further funding should you need it.
What can we do to help?
With both routes CAN are able to offer FREE support to help you get your group up and running. Should you need any help with funding the fundamentals such as a phone, phone credit, insurance we can support you with that too. We are also able to provide DBS checks for those volunteers who require one (subject to funding).
We have a huge number of template documents available that will help you develop your Scheme to what you want it to be. This includes policies, procedures and guidelines as well as forms and registers. All of our templates have been created with the support of subject experts in consultation with the relevant governing bodies.
We have also created a Committee Handbook which covers all the steps you need to consider as well as a Volunteer Handbook, and can provide you and your volunteers with a basic induction training package.
The team at CAN are here to support you every step of the way, to help you create a Scheme that works for you and your community. Once you are up and running, we are can be an ongoing support to help with recruitment, marketing, further planning or to help you investigate new opportunities.
All we ask is that groups continue to communicate with us by keeping us updated with what is happening within your group, how many requests you are dealing with and making us aware of any issues that you have so we can help you and support you throughout. We do this through a simple monthly reporting plan.
The Next Step ……
If you think a Good Neighbour Scheme would benefit your community – what’s stopping you?
If you have a group of like minded individuals prepared to commit a bit of time and energy to make it a reality, just get in touch with us and we can help you get your Scheme up and running.