Asking the Experts

We have more assumptions to test.  We need to know what volunteer organisations think of our idea and if they will work with us.  Ami will be a web based tool for connecting volunteers with elderly people who need help.  Volunteer organisations have been doing this for a very long time and are the experts in this area.  Would Ami be a useful tool for their work?  Would they put their volunteers onto our website?  Will they work in partnership with us to manage on-going volunteers?

Key Assumptions

The Volunteer Organisations

Many different volunteer organisations operate befriending schemes or Good Neighbour Schemes.  The national charities working in this field include the Age UK,  Royal Voluntary Service, and Independent Age.  They offer befriending in person as well as telephone based befriending services such as Call in Time

There are also lots of smaller local voluntary groups offering a befriending service in their communities.  In Oxfordshire, Volunteer Link Up offer befriending and practical help to older people.   We went to meet with them to find out more about what they do.

VLU website

What we learnt about Volunteer Link Up (VLU)

The Numbers

VLU currently supports 113 people being befriended in West Oxfordshire and they have 160 volunteers on their books.  In Oxfordshire as a whole, there are over 3,000 volunteers supporting over 4,500 older people, as part of 61 Good Neighbour Schemes.  The recent John Lewis Christmas advert prompted 30 more people to enquire about being a volunteer.

How does the Matching Process work?

A potential volunteer approaches VLU.  They complete a simple application form, giving name, address, phone, special skills or interests, availability and the names of 2 referees.  VLU checks the references and invites them in for a chat, (during which VLU also sees some ID documents such as passport, drivers licence in order to complete the DBS check)  Potential volunteers are told  that befriending is quite a big commitment, and can mean an hour long visit, once or twice  a week.

If the volunteer is happy to continue, VLU will then match them to a client and set up an initial meeting.  VLU accompanies the volunteer to meet the client.  At this first meeting they will agree all the ground rules.  Afterwards, VLU calls both parties to see if they are happy with the arrangement and will follow up with more phone calls after a month, 3 months and 6 months.  Some matches they have made have continued for 20 years, becoming very strong friendships.


How could Ami add value?

VLU currently stores all their data in a card index system, so making a match can take quite a long time.  Ami could make this much easier.  Having an anonymous pen portrait of the volunteers and the clients on-line would be useful.  Ami has the potential to attract more volunteers.  Most of VLU current volunteers are retired.  Ami could help to attract younger volunteers who haven’t got spare time in the working week to set this up, but who could volunteer at weekends.   Ami could also help with record keeping and making notes on ongoing visits.

Thank you VLU

Thank you to the staff at VLU for spending some time with us.  It was really useful and we hope to come back and talk to you again soon.


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