Five clinical commissioning group areas across England are participating in a new programme to promote volunteering in care homes.
About 400 residents will initially benefit from the £540,000 scheme, funded by the Department of Health’s innovation programme.
The Government hopes lessons learned from the project will be used to shape and promote good practice for volunteering in the care home sector.
The scheme - launched this month by umbrella group the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) - sees volunteers recruited to support older people in both residential and nursing care homes.
They will undertake activities with residents through a partnership between the care home and a nearby volunteer centre run by a local charity acting as a recruitment agency.
Volunteers can complement the work of paid staff and bring a richness and diversity of experience that can greatly enhance the lives of residents, according to Justin Davis Smith, the NCVO’s executive director of volunteering and development.
He said “expert volunteer centres” will be sharing their experience to establish good practice and give care homes “the skills they need to recruit and support volunteers effectively themselves”.
The project was set up in the wake of the 2012 care and support white paper, Caring For Our Future, which identified the need for closer integration of residential care homes with their communities and emphasised the benefits of promoting volunteering in care homes.
It said the centres would recruit volunteers to carry out personalised activities including befriending, IT skills, music and games.
Tasks may also include taking residents to churches or cinemas or helping them write letters, according to to the white paper, which recommended that support be given to those homes who expressed interest in supporting their residents to volunteer, for example by sharing their personal histories in local schools.
The government said Skills for Care will work to develop the required training programmes to support volunteers and staff while NCVO’s Institute for Volunteering Research will develop and conduct an evaluation of the scheme.
The programme will run until March 2016.