Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Being a volunteer!

As many of you aware I am a volunteer driver for the local Home Living Support Service (HLSS) operating under the control of the local council. I have done this for many years and (usually) entails transporting elderly local residents to and from medical appointments throughout our rural regional area - we have no frequent daily public transport and my average trips are around 150klms.

From bush properties:

And Headquarters and town dwellings:

To the city:

And to various destinations:
The Canberra Eye Hospital, and,

The Canberra Hospital campus and Pathology Department

HLSS has three vehicles, all automatics, a family size station wagon and two medium size sedans. There is an option to use your own transport and be paid a very reasonable mileage allowance, however, I prefer to use the HLSS vehicles. I do this for two reasons – firstly, if we don’t use the HLSS vehicles, which are purchased for the HLSS on government contract, we will lose them. Secondly, I don’t like the idea of running my own car for the sake of a few dollars and I believe that on a cost/return basis you lose out in the long run. (Besides, a third reason is that some of the clients are not 100% on their hygiene!)

A HLSS sedan at The Canberra Eye Hospital

I frequently do the longer ‘drives’ as many of the volunteers do not like doing those and prefer the local ‘drives’. I also do many of the ‘out-of-hours’ drives such as 6am pick ups for 7am Day Surgery in Canberra or Goulburn (twice I’ve done longer drives – one to Wollongong and the other to Sydney, but they are rare and really not what the HLSS like to become involved in), or, late afternoon drives that will involve my returning after-hours, sometimes as late as 8pm.

Having a key to the car compound means I can collect and return vehicles outside of normal working hours. I merely need to pick up the car keys and the ‘running sheet’ beforehand. For wintertime early drives I will often pick up the car the evening before and park it in my own garage – saves de-icing it and warming up a frozen vehicle at 5.30am!

Yesterday I did an afternoon drive to Young, leaving Yass at 1.00pm, driving 100klms to Young and arriving at 2.10pm, waiting until 3.20pm to drive back to Yass. I had to wait while my elderly lady passenger sought some ‘trip relief’ and she was also hungry and wanted something to eat, so a stop at “The Golden Arches” for 15 minutes was called for. We arrived back in Yass at 5.00pm during a rainstorm and by the time I dropped her off and took the car back to headquarters, opened p the compound to put the car away and finished all my paperwork it was 5.30pm – and I was out $10 because my client needed change for her car fee and also wringing wet into the bargain!

Oh well! – I got my$10 back, today, from the HLSS

Up until recently all we needed to do to be a volunteer driver was to undergo a police personal integrity check, supply our motor vehicle licence details (those who drive their own vehicles need to also supply vehicle registration and comprehensive insurance details) and attend a two hour induction. Lately that has all started to change.

We are now required to wear a uniform top (supplied free) with the HLSS Logo and HLSS name on it and specifying what type of volunteer we all are – eg. “Volunteer Driver” and wear a supplied name badge with the service name and logo, our own name and our volunteer status. We are now also being required to undertake a full First Aid Training course through a recognised trainer – eg the Royal Life Saving Society , or, St John Ambulance First Aid. I’ve just completed my multi-paged pre-practical written assessment and I undertake the full day practical assessment next Monday. Yesterday I also received a covering letter on receiving gifts and gratuities. This came with a copy of Council’s Policy Statement on gifts and gratuities and a Procedure Statement as to what we are to do if one is given any gifts and gratuities. I also had to fill in a declaration revealing if I had ever received a gifts and gratuity in excess of $1.00 since I worked as a volunteer. No problems there for me.

Risk Management and Civil Liability issues are changing the face of volunteer work and the co-ordinator told me yesterday that more people are dropping out, especially those who prefer to use their own vehicles as insurance and road worthiness requirements were becoming an issue for many of the latter.

I can only see that in the future this type of volunteer work will become more and more burdened with bureaucracy and volunteers will become harder to obtain. The local Area Health Service converted from volunteers to paid employees and I am constantly told by their clientele of their short-comings. They tell me its just not the same happy, obliging service and its all run by the ‘numbers”.

1 comment:

Gill - That British Woman said...

I have a friend who is a volunteer driver for the Red Cross over here, it is a very valuable service for folks who have no way of getting to hospital appointments.

Well done for volunteering.