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Volunteers handbook

Group of people in green t-shirts in front of Plymouth Hoe bowling club

Thank you from our Chief Executive

Dear Volunteer,

I would like to extend a warm welcome to you and hope that you find volunteering with Plymouth City Council both rewarding and enjoyable.

Your time, energy and commitment contribute enormously to supporting the work we do towards helping people within our communities live happier and healthier lives.

Our aim is to make sure you, as a volunteer, feel valued, supported and proud to be part of our wonderful team of volunteers.

This handbook provides everything you need to know about volunteering with us. We hope you find it useful. If you do have further questions or would like more detailed information, then please get in touch with your volunteering contact, who will be more than happy to help.

Once again, thank you for making a difference to people’s lives. We are extremely grateful to have you on board.

Yours sincerely

Tracey Lee
Chief Executive
Plymouth City Council

About us

Volunteers are an important part of Plymouth City Council and we appreciate the time you give to the community through us. We want you to feel valued and hope that you will find your volunteering experience enjoyable and rewarding.

In order to fully realise the potential of volunteers, both for the benefit of individual volunteers and of the communities they help, the Council recognises the need for upfront investment in volunteering and dedicated management of volunteers.

Therefore, in order to build on the community energy and neighbourliness seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Council has launched a new Community Empowerment programme, which values the contribution that people and communities can make and seeks to harness that potential in order to work together for a fairer, greener and healthier city in which everyone does their bit.

Volunteering is one of the five key themes of this Community Empowerment programme, recognising the great opportunity for volunteers to enhance skills, gain experiences and also a sense of satisfaction and wellbeing through their valuable contributions.

Why get involved?

People volunteer for many reasons. You may be looking to gain new skills and experience in preparation for a new career or perhaps you’re looking for a rewarding way in which to use your spare time. Whatever your reasons for volunteering we want to ensure that you enjoy your role with us, that you feel that your time is well spent and that you feel valued and supported.

Above all, you will be making a positive difference to people’s lives, your community and our environment.

Whether you’re looking to volunteer on a regular basis or at one off events, there is something for everyone.

Our current volunteer roles

Here are some of the ways in which you can volunteer with us:

Good Neighbour Support Volunteers

As a Good Neighbour Support Volunteer you would be matched with a local resident whom you’d visit each week to get their shopping for them and to stop for a friendly chat. A couple of hours of your time on the same weekday each week.

Library Service Volunteers

Our libraries offer a range of volunteering opportunities across the city including:

  • Delivering books to housebound residents
  • General library helpers
  • Summer Reading Challenge

Nature Plymouth Volunteers (including Poole Farm)

Volunteers play a vital role in looking after the wildlife and enhancing the landscape through conservation activities. Get involved with caring for your local park or nature reserve or join Poole Farm (see below) to volunteer at Plymouth’s city farm.

Poole Farm Volunteers

Poole Farm is looking for dedicated volunteers who share a passion towards conserving nature, environmental education and caring for animals. No experience is necessary.

Youth Justice Service - Restorative Panel Volunteers

Following the making of a Referral Order at the Magistrates Court, volunteers sit on referral panels to help young people to formulate a plan for how they will go forward, supporting them to make different choices and move away from offending behaviour.

Youth Service Volunteers

As a volunteer Youth Worker you’ll support young people in group settings through conversations and activities such as sport, arts and craft, music, cooking, gardening and the like. You don’t need formal qualifications, but you will need to be a good communicator, an excellent listener and have an absolute passion for helping young people participate, belong, contribute and thrive.

Sports Development Unit, Breeze Rides Leader Volunteers

The Let’s Ride programme delivers a number of Breeze (Women only), Bike and Baby, Social Rides. These are delivered by suitably qualified volunteers.

Plymouth Information, Advice and Support (PIAS) for SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Volunteers

Supporting PIAS to deliver Information, advice and support about SEND to parents/carers of children and young people. Volunteers will Support the PIAS parenting team to deliver evidence based parenting programmes and workshops.

Ocean City Event Volunteers

Event Volunteers are the first to hear about new and exciting volunteering opportunities at various events, large and small, in Plymouth.

Family and Community Solutions

As a Family and Community Solutions Advocate you meet children, often one-to-one, in a neutral venue where they feel able to talk freely, such as their school or a local café or community venue or even at home.

Climate Ambassador Volunteers

Volunteer Climate Ambassadors act as advocates in their communities for positive action across all neighbourhoods of the city. They engage with communities, their neighbourhood, workplace or interest group where they raise awareness of climate
change issues and encourage others to act.

National Marine Park

Coastal ranger volunteers are passionate about Plymouth Sound, helping to restore and enhance our ocean through practical conservation and inspiring behaviour change.

The Box and Elizabethan House

Volunteers welcome visitors and help guide them on their journey through The Box and/or the Elizabethan House.

For further details of the above roles visit the volunteering page or email

How we support you

Let’s start with a conversation

It’s good to talk! We’ll always aim to have an initial conversation with you to answer any questions and to help you consider whether the role is the right one for you.

And also of course to start to get to know each other.

Preparing for your role

Before you start volunteering you’ll have an induction session which acts as a two-way opportunity for you and for us to be happy that it’s the right role for you and to ensure that you know what’s expected of you in the role.

We may also ask you to attend a training session depending on the role you’ve applied for.

Induction and training sessions will be face to face if appropriate or held remotely via a platform such as Zoom where necessary. Or they may take the form of self-led e-learning. Wherever possible, sessions will be in a group format, offering an opportunity for you to start to get to know other volunteers.

A trial session may be available to help you feel sure the role is the one for you. And in any event, volunteering is, by definition, voluntary! There’s no contractual commitment on either part. You are free to stop volunteering at any stage.

Keep the conversation going…

A designated member of staff, your volunteering contact, will be available to support you and to listen to any feedback, concerns or suggestions you may have.

Your volunteering contact will arrange informal catch ups to make sure you’re happy in your role. We’ll also let you know of any further training or development sessions available aimed at increasing your knowledge and skills. You may for
example wish to try something new or, where appropriate, develop your role.

Key information

Induction and training

For the benefit of all concerned, volunteers are expected to attend an induction session and any required training.

At your induction you’ll be told who will be supporting you and the extent and limit of your responsibilities. You should be clear about what is expected of you. It is important you are aware of the boundaries of your role.

Equality and diversity

We want volunteering to be accessible and welcoming to everyone, everywhere, so that the benefits of volunteering - to individuals and communities - are equally distributed.

No volunteer will be treated any differently on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, sex, age, gender reassignment, marital status, disability or sexual orientation. If you have any concerns, please speak to your volunteering contact or
the Volunteer Services Manager.

PCC is committed to promoting and celebrating equality, diversity and community cohesion so that our volunteers, staff and those involved with or benefiting from our activities can experience an environment that is free from discrimination,
harassment and bullying. We are committed to treating everyone with respect and dignity. We expect and require all our volunteers to uphold these standards.

As a volunteer you must not discriminate against someone on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, sex, age, gender reassignment, marital status, disability or sexual orientation.

Any discriminatory behaviour by a volunteer would be treated as a serious breach of our expectations of our volunteers and may result in our bringing that volunteer’s role to an end.

Health and safety - your wellbeing and safety as a volunteer

All our volunteer activities have been fully risk assessed and volunteers are covered by Plymouth City Council’s public liability and employer’s insurance policies while volunteering with us.

Your safety as a volunteer is of the utmost importance to us and matters relating to your safety will be covered in your induction. Where appropriate, relevant additional training will be provided. You are required to comply at all times with instructions
given around health and safety matters. If you have any concerns around your own health and safety or that of your fellow volunteers then please raise this with your volunteering contact or with the Volunteer Services Manager if you would prefer.

You may be asked to fill in a personal details form covering health issues and next of kin details which are used in case of emergency. These details will not be shared with any third party except in an medical emergency


Whilst volunteering you can expect to have your reasonable travel and other appropriate expenses reimbursed. No volunteer is expected to be out of pocket as a result of their volunteering.

Please ensure you keep receipts and ask your volunteering contact for the electronic expenses form for you to complete and return to them. Expenses are usually paid directly into your bank account.

Unable to attend

If you’re unable to attend a pre-arranged volunteering appointment or expect to be late please let us know as soon as you can. Similarly, please give us as much notice as possible if you arrange a holiday and are unable to attend.

Accident and incident reporting

In the event of any accident or incident whilst you’re volunteering please let us know as soon as you possibly can, whether or not injury or damage is suffered. You can do this by reporting the matter to your volunteering contact who may then ask you to complete a report form.

Confidentiality and data protection

We have a duty to protect the confidentiality of our volunteers and our service users. We will collect and retain your personal information only insofar as it is relevant to your volunteering role. Personal information about volunteers is kept secure in accordance with relevant legislation and no personal information will be shared with other organisations or individuals without your consent, unless we are legally obliged to do so.

As a volunteer you may find yourself in possession of confidential, personal or sensitive information. Volunteers are required to keep all such information confidential. Any failure to do so would be considered a serious breach of our expectations of a volunteer.

Dealing with your concerns

If you have concerns about the way you are treated during your volunteering with us, please raise these concerns with your volunteering contact who supports you or with the Volunteer Services Manager. If the issue cannot be resolved in an informal manner then we shall signpost you to the relevant next step.

Dealing with our concerns

We will discuss any concerns with you on an informal basis and where appropriate will offer to support you in overcoming any issues, for example by way of additional training or ‘buddy’ support or in considering a more suitable volunteer role for you.

If we have significant ongoing concerns then we may need to consider bringing your
volunteering with us to an end.


We are committed to the safety and wellbeing of all our volunteers, staff and those involved with or benefitting from our activities.

All volunteers and staff have a responsibility to maintain appropriate standards of behaviour, to observe the boundaries of their role and to report concerns or lapses in these standards by others.

Your safeguarding briefing or induction before you begin volunteering will identify the processes which all our volunteers are expected to follow.

Vehicle insurance

If you are using your own vehicle for volunteering purposes (other than simply to reach your place of volunteering) then please ensure that your vehicle insurance covers your volunteering activities (for example, if you’re using your car or motorbike to deliver someone’s shopping or medication). Please speak to your insurer to check your cover is adequate. From time to time we may need to ask you for evidence of your vehicle insurance cover.

Responsibility for personal belongings

Your personal belongings are your own responsibility and we cannot accept any responsibility for any loss or damage to them.

Volunteering and benefits

Volunteering should not affect your right to claim benefits, as long as any money you claim from us is simply by way of reimbursement for your volunteer expenses (eg travel costs while volunteering).

Please discuss your choice of voluntary role with your benefits advisor prior to starting as it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet the conditions of your benefits whilst volunteering.

We cannot offer advice regarding volunteering and benefits and shall not be liable for individuals who do not meet their benefit conditions.

DBS checks

If your volunteer role requires a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check then it will be carried out at no cost to you, the volunteer, and we shall guide you through the process.

If at any stage before or during your volunteering you are aware of any reason why it may not be appropriate for you to volunteer with us then you should let us know without delay.

Depending on the level of safeguarding required and nature of your role, the DBS renewal time frame may be anywhere between twelve months to three years.

Accepting thank you gifts

You may accept modest gifts (but not money or the equivalent) by way of a token of appreciation for your volunteering but please be sure to let your volunteering contact know of any you are given. Volunteers are not permitted to receive any money or other form of payment for their volunteering, except by way of reimbursement of expenses incurred.


We ask you please not to smoke or vape whilst you’re volunteering with us.

Further opportunities

From time to time we may share information with you around further training, personal development or new volunteering opportunities.

If you wish to stop volunteering

Whilst we’d be sorry to see you go, you are of course free to stop volunteering at any time. Please just let your volunteering contact know, giving advance notice if possible.

ID cards

Where appropriate to your role, you will be issued with a Volunteer ID card. We ask you either to wear your card or to keep it to hand during your volunteering (as appropriate to your role). If your ID card is lost or stolen please let us know immediately.

What to wear

There is no uniform for volunteers and volunteers are welcome to reflect their different backgrounds, cultures, ages and tastes. When volunteering you are representing Plymouth City Council and so we ask that you give consideration to what is appropriate for your role and do not wear anything that could be offensive.

Thank you

Thank you for your interest in volunteering with us. We hugely appreciate the time you give to provide an extra layer of varied support to our communities, local people and our environment.

Please read on for our Volunteering Charter and Agreement.

Volunteer charter

Volunteers are a valued part of the Plymouth City Council (PCC). We want you to feel valued and to find your volunteering experience enjoyable and rewarding.

This Charter describes what all PCC volunteers can expect from us and, in turn, what PCC asks of its volunteers.

As a PCC volunteer you can expect to:

  • Complete fair and comprehensive recruitment, induction and training which will introduce you to your role so that you feel confident and capable
  • Have ongoing support from PCC with opportunities to share your volunteer experiences and access further training to further your knowledge and interests
  • Volunteer free from discrimination on any grounds: age, disability, race, gender, class, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, parental choices, religion or belief. We aim always to listen to your needs and meet them where we reasonably can
  • Have reasonable expenses reimbursed when you travel to and from your place of volunteering, with prior agreement of the PCC volunteer team
  • Feel valued and respected. We aim always to listen to your feedback
  • Have the opportunity to socialise with other volunteers
  • Be protected by adequate insurance cover in accordance with our Health and Safety Policy
  • Have a voice and be heard. We will always try to resolve fairly any problems, grievances or challenges you may have while volunteering with us
  • Receive a fair and reasonable explanation should the need arise to bring your volunteering journey to an end.

PCC asks that you, the volunteer:

  • Carry out your volunteer tasks to the best of your ability and as outlined in the volunteer role profile, induction and any subsequent guidelines or discussion
  • Attend, wherever possible, volunteer training and catch ups with the PCC volunteer team to continue to manage the expectations outlined in this handbook
  • Be mindful of other volunteers, staff and those benefitting from and around you in your volunteer role, treating them with courtesy and respect and free from discrimination of any kind, in particular with regard to the reference to discrimination elsewhere in this handbook.
  • Follow any procedures and standards notified to you, including those around safeguarding, health and safety, equality and diversity and confidentiality in relation to those around you during your volunteering
  • Be mindful of your other commitments and, where possible, give advance warning if you’re unable to attend a pre-arranged volunteering appointment or if you wish to stop volunteering
  • Let us know of any relevant change in your personal circumstances which could affect your voluntary role. This includes, for example, matters relating to health or criminal record.
People spelling the word people in front of the war memorial on Plymouth Hoe
People (Plymouth) by Low Profile. Drone photography Jay Stone