FAQ for Torch Trust Volunteers

General notes

Welcome! Thank you for considering becoming a Torch volunteer. We value all our volunteers tremendously, knowing that without them our work with blind and partially sighted people would grind to a halt. Our volunteers hugely outnumber our staff. Recognising how important they are to us, we consider them co-workers and they participate fully in Torch life. They are warmly welcomed and encouraged to participate in staff events such as daily chapel times at Torch House and the annual Day of Prayer. Volunteers quickly become friends.

We welcome people with disabilities to become volunteers and commit to enabling their full participation as much as possible. If volunteers need to be accompanied by carers, we welcome them too. We are happy to have volunteers who are short-term as well as long-term.

Below you will find specific FAQ sections covering volunteering for Torch Trust in four ways:

FAQ for VOLUNTEERS at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre

Q: What kinds of roles are there for volunteers at Torch HRC?

There’s a wide range of opportunities for volunteering at Torch Trust’s Holiday & Retreat Centre, in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex.

We often need volunteers to give support on a daily one-to-one basis to blind and partially sighted people who come for a break or holiday. We also have an ongoing need for volunteers who can do gardening in the extensive grounds, maintenance on the building, housekeeping work, kitchen work, or office support work such as answering telephone enquiries and making bookings. We also need drivers. If you are licensed to drive a minibus, you could volunteer to take groups on outings in the Sussex area. Or if you are a car driver, you could volunteer to collect guests from their homes anywhere in the UK when they find it challenging to use public transport.

For all volunteer roles based at Torch HRC, a specific role description can be supplied, together with a volunteer handbook.

Q: What skills do I need?

A criminal record disclosure check (DBS) is required for almost all volunteer roles at Torch HRC, since most involve contact with our guests. Full training and ongoing support will be given wherever needed.

Q: How much time will be involved?

Varying amounts of time from a half day a week are useful for different roles. Volunteers supporting guests with sight loss are needed for weekends and for five- and seven-day holidays.

Q: Can I receive expenses?

We are grateful that most of our volunteers give their time to us freely. But drivers can be reimbursed for petrol used at cost. Volunteers who stay at Torch HRC specifically to support a blind or partially sighted guest (eg a friend or relative) for a holiday or break are charged half price for the holiday. Those who volunteer as a General Holiday Assistant – helping with housekeeping, kitchen duties, supporting guests, assisting the manager with activities – receive free board and lodging and can claim travel expenses if needed.

Q: If I drive for Torch, do I need special insurance cover?

Special insurance is not needed, but you do need to let your insurers know that you are doing volunteer driving. This should not cost any more, but do let us know if this is a problem for you.

Q: If I drive for Torch, do I need a 5-door vehicle?

Not necessarily. But sometimes it may be necessary to carry a guide dog – normally in the footwell – so having an old rug or blanket available may be a good idea.

FAQ for VOLUNTEERS at Torch House

Q: What kinds of roles are there for volunteers at Torch House?

There are many roles for volunteers at Torch House. Here’s a list of areas where we may have vacancies, though it’s not exhaustive:

Gardener; cleaner; Production volunteer (helping with printing/ braille embossing/ audio recording); Logistics volunteer (helping with unpacking/ posting out Torch Library items); hospitality (providing refreshments or lunches for guests or for special events); Client Services volunteer (answering telephone queries); audio recording (of Torch Library books or audio magazines); maintenance worker (general repairs and painting)

For all volunteer roles based at Torch House, a specific role description can be supplied, together with a volunteer handbook.

All current volunteer needs are here shown on our Volunteer Roles webpage: volunteer-roles

Q: What skills do I need?

Full training and ongoing support will be given wherever needed, with supervision on site.

For those involved in kitchen/ housekeeping work, a Food Hygiene Certificate is useful. The certificate can be easily completed online.

A criminal record disclosure check (DBS) is required for all client-facing roles at Torch House.

A cheerful manner, a servant heart and willingness to help out where needed are the most vital skills.

Q: How much time will be involved?

Any amount of time will be considered: a half day a week, a day a month, a week.

Q: Can I receive expenses?

We are grateful that most of our volunteers give to us freely. But drivers can be reimbursed for petrol used if needed.

Q: Is there a dress code?

Please dress appropriately to the role. Smart casual is expected for any volunteers in the office.

Q: Can I use staff facilities at Torch House?

Volunteers can use the kitchen facilities at Torch House on the same basis as staff. There is no staff canteen; a microwave is available along with hot drinks. A mobile sandwich man calls most working days.

FAQ for VOLUNTEERS with Torch Fellowship Groups

Q: What kinds of roles are there for volunteers with Torch Fellowship Groups?

Torch has over 100 Torch Fellowship Groups (TFGs) around the UK. Each group runs autonomously, with its own leader or leadership team, with support from the Regional Leader at Torch House. TFGs general meet monthly, often (but not always) on a Saturday afternoon. They rely solely on a team of committed volunteers. Typical roles include drivers (collecting blind and partially sighted people from their homes); caterers (providing tea, sandwiches, cakes and biscuits); programme organisers (which may include booking speakers or organising activities); friends (whose role is to facilitate friendships between people and help to integrate newcomers).

Q: What skills do I need?

A criminal record disclosure check (DBS) is required for some volunteer roles with Torch TFGs. A cheerful manner, servant heart and willingness to help out where needed are the most vital skills.

Q: How much time will be involved?

For most of the team, little time is involved apart from the meeting afternoon, once a month. But organisers may need to spend a couple of hours during the month in preparation; and those who are friends to the TFG are encouraged to phone contacts between meetings. Often those on the team combine various roles – for example someone who is a volunteer driver may also be serving refreshments at the meetings.

Q: Can I receive expenses?

TFGs are independent charities with limited funds. We are grateful that most of our volunteers contribute freely. If you feel you need reimbursement, this is a matter for discussion with the local organisers.

Q: If I drive for Torch, do I need special insurance cover?

Special insurance is not needed, but you do need to let your insurers know you are doing volunteer driving. This should not cost any more, but do let us know if this is a problem for you.

Q: If I drive for Torch, do I need a 5-door vehicle?

Not necessarily. But sometimes it may be necessary to carry a guide dog – normally in the footwell – so having an old rug or blanket available may be a good idea.

FAQ for VOLUNTEERS with Torch Trust working from home

Q: What kinds of roles are there for volunteers working from home?

One of the most valuable roles for volunteers working from home with Torch Trust is that of Regional Coordinators. They play a key role in awareness-raising locally, often representing Torch Trust at exhibitions, conferences and other events, and networking with local churches and secular organisations. Also they promote/support local groups and initiate new groups wherever possible.

There are also some volunteers who work from home proofreading books in braille or giant print for the Torch Library. And others work from home recording audio versions of books for the Torch Library.

Q: What skills do I need?

Full training and ongoing support will be given wherever needed.

Q: How much time will be involved?

This is entirely flexible for those doing audio recording or proofreading at home, though it’s hoped there would be some kind of regular commitment so that projects are not delayed. Regional Coordinators need to give a minimum of a day a month and it could be quite a bit more, to make the role more effective.

Q: Can I receive expenses?

We are grateful that most of our volunteers give their time to us generously. If you feel you need reimbursement for travel costs, this can be discussed with staff at Torch House.

31 August 2016