A picture of the needles, on the Isle of Wight

For volunteering FAQ’s see below. For more general information, for becoming a volunteer see our How to Volunteer page.

Q. Who can volunteer?

A. We welcome applications from anyone who is interested in supporting others to help maintain their independence. SFW is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for everyone who wants to volunteer with us. Our volunteers include students, service users, job seekers, retired workers and full and part-time employees. All SFW staff and volunteers are expected to be committed to SFW’s charitable objectives, policies and good practice.

Q. Do you offer training to volunteers?

A. Yes we do. Volunteers will receive induction training before commencement of the role. This will be followed up at a later date with practical sighted guide training. All other training is ongoing and facilitated where appropriate.

Q. What will I get out of volunteering?

A. Volunteering is a two way process with many benefits for both service users and volunteers. Volunteering with SFW will mean that you are having a positive impact on people’s lives. You could also benefit from using your existing skills, learning new ones and being with other people. If you are looking for work or a change of career, you will gain valuable experience for your CV.

Q. How much time do I have to give as a volunteer?

A. As much as you want. We will tell you what we are looking for and you can tell us what you can do and when you can do it. Some people volunteer for a couple of hours a week in a specific role, others volunteer several hours a week in various roles, others help out at ‘one off’ events and students volunteer in out of term holidays.

Q. What skills do I need to volunteer?

A. We want every volunteer to develop to their full potential, and whilst we try to match the volunteering role to the volunteer’s skills, we will do our best to offer further, relevant training and development opportunities. However, enthusiasm and the ability to smile and encourage are the most important skills required.

Q. Will I be supported in my volunteer role?

A. You will be supported by the Community Development Officer from the commencement of your volunteer role. Induction, together with appropriate training, is ongoing and any additional support or concerns you may have may be referred to the CDO as above. Our aim is to support you to fulfil your volunteer role with confidence at all times.

Q. Will volunteering affect my benefits?

A. Many people are concerned that volunteering might affect their benefits and with the move to a new benefits system called Universal Credit, there is bound to be some uncertainty. We suggest speaking to your benefits advisor if you have any questions, and please let us know if you have any concerns and we will endeavour to help. Information about Universal Credit can be found on the following website: www.gov.uk/universal-credit You can receive out-of-pocket expenses without affecting your benefits.

Q. I am a refugee/asylum seeker, can I volunteer?

A. Asylum seekers, people who have refugee status or who have exceptional leave to remain in the UK, are eligible to volunteer. SFW may be able to involve you as a volunteer, as long as you have your own accommodation in the UK and fulfil our screening criteria necessary for the volunteering opportunity, including screening checks (Disclosure and Barring Service) as required.

Q. I live overseas, but will be visiting the UK for a while; while I’m in the UK, can I volunteer with SFW?

A. If you are able to fulfil the screening procedure necessary for the volunteering role, including police checks, we may be able to find a volunteering role for you, but we are unable to provide accommodation or living expenses. We also need to be satisfied that your visa or entry clearance conditions allow you to volunteer – we may request to see your visa or passport to check this. If you are in any doubt about whether you are allowed to volunteer, please contact the UK Border Agency. If you become resident in the UK, but have lived overseas for three months or more in the last five years, we will need to get police checks done in the country/countries where you were resident.

Q. I am under 16, can I still volunteer?

A. With regret, in general, we are unable to accept voluntary placements to those under 16. Occasional exceptions may be made, working in partnership with schools and colleges.

Q. I have a conviction. Can I still volunteer?

A. As an organisation working with vulnerable people, SFW is required by law to carry out clearance checks (Disclosure and Barring Service) on volunteers, referred to as screening. Screening is the process of carrying out checks to find out if a volunteer is suitable to work with vulnerable people. This process includes interviewing, taking references and carrying out clearance checks (Disclosure and Barring Service). Most convictions won’t stop you from volunteering, but we need to be told of any convictions you have if you will be volunteering in regulated work with children or vulnerable adults.

Q. Do I need to supply references?

A. Checks on all prospective volunteers will include taking up two references, at least one of which should be from someone who knows you from an educational or employment situation. If you are not currently working, a reference must be requested from your last employer, regardless of any lapse in time. If you don’t have previous employment experience, we will talk to you about appropriate references and agree a solution. We cannot accept references from family members.

Q. Will I be insured in my volunteer role with SFW?

A. SFW Public Liability Insurance extends to all volunteers whilst representing SFW and undertaking business and services on behalf of Sight for Wight.