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Voluntary work. I feel like something just isn’t quite right.

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orangefresh
orangefresh Community member Posts: 34 Connected
 I am a mature student and my background is 11 years in corporate, I wanted a career change and I am currently studying community, public health and social care degree and in my second year. I have been consistently applying for jobs in the social sector to gain experience and apply my gained knowledge to practice. I have not had much luck due to my lack of experience. However, I found a job advertised in the education sector, I have all the essential skills they listed and alot of the desirable skills. However, no professional experience (this was not listed on the essential skills job description anyway). Also in the part of the application I stated I how gained immense knowledge however just needed someone to give me a chance to gain experience . My ‘lack’ of experience was evident on my application, but I was shortlisted to interview. 

Following the interview, I received an email saying I wasn’t successful but could ask for feedback which I did. The feedback i received was actually lovely. I was shocked at the nice things they had to say but the only thing letting me down was lack of experience, and advised me to consider voluntary work. 

I replied saying that I was going to continue to look for voluntary work but there isn’t anything in this sector available at present. They responded with more praise saying how much my qualities left a lasting impression on them and they would like to offer me a voluntary placement. I agreed this would be fantastic for experience and was invited in shortly after to discuss the role. 

I went in the following Friday, and was immediately asked what days I am available, I told them the days I am at university and what days I am not. They asked me what time I can start and finish, then took it upon themselves to put me in the diary for all the days they were open and that I wasn’t at university, sent me home with some forms to fill in and told me I could start Monday. 

I returned Monday with the forms and was thrown right in to the deep end, no training, no mentor, I was doing the same jobs as the other people who did the role I applied for, minus paperwork (and there is not much of that from what I have seen). It is in SEN and disability education, and the role I applied for was support staff, in class with individuals with learning difficulties, disabilities and severe needs and on Monday morning that was exactly what I would be doing, the role I had applied for but was refused a paid position. The first day I started I walked into the room and introduced myself to the member of staff in charge, they had no idea I was coming, but was welcoming and grateful for the help, I had not been told what I was doing prior, if I was shadowing, watching, helping, I had no idea. The staff member in charge just said to me, help them and make sure they are listening. I just had to guess what i had to do, I used my initiative and picked it up quickly and also fit in very quickly. I am really enjoying it but what is bugging me is that, if I was too inexperienced to be employed, why am I experienced enough to do it for free. Maybe I’m over thinking it. I don’t know. 

There has been times when I have been in a classroom alone with 6-7 adults with special needs, no training, no induction, nothing. Some of these individuals have seizures, and some can be very hands on and will pull you about and stuff. I have had no training at all on first aid buthave been left alone with individuals who have such frequent seizures they have to wear a head guard constantly, I have not seen any persons care plan and I do not know their needs. I’m just having to guess my way around things and speak to the service users to find out more. 

I know myself I have the capability to deal with certain things and have developed knowledge in the sector. However, they seem to think I’m too inexperienced to do the job but will allow me to do it for free.

I can’t help but feel slightly exploited.

Comments

  • AndrewHall
    AndrewHall Community member Posts: 276 Pioneering
    edited December 2023
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    Your instinct is right, unfortunately. You are being exploited.  I would suggest you raised your concern with the management. You simply cannot be left alone on your own.
    Never allow DWP assertions to define you. They never have evidence of your true circumstances.
  • orangefresh
    orangefresh Community member Posts: 34 Connected
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    Your instinct is right, unfortunately. You are being exploited.  I would suggest you raised your concern with the management. You simply cannot be left alone on your own.
    By my second day I was being left alone. Luckily I have a son with special education needs so do have some experience, but not the the level I require to be left alone. They are extremely short staffed and I feel like they are using me to save funds but cover staff shortages I didn’t know if I was just over thinking it. 
  • woodbine
    woodbine Community member Posts: 11,928 Disability Gamechanger
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    I would agree that they do appear to be using you which is so unfair having turned you down for paid work, personally I would walk away and look for other voluntary work in the sector.
    2024 The year of the general election...the time for change is coming 💡

  • orangefresh
    orangefresh Community member Posts: 34 Connected
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    woodbine said:
    I would agree that they do appear to be using you which is so unfair having turned you down for paid work, personally I would walk away and look for other voluntary work in the sector.
    Thank you for your response. I needed these opinions, I didn’t know if I was just really over thinking. I think my gut is right. 
  • orangefresh
    orangefresh Community member Posts: 34 Connected
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    woodbine said:
    I would agree that they do appear to be using you which is so unfair having turned you down for paid work, personally I would walk away and look for other voluntary work in the sector.
    Thank you for your response. I needed these opinions, I didn’t know if I was just really over thinking. I think my gut is right. 
    Not over thinking it at all, whilst it may have been seen as a great opportunity to gain experience, there is no question in my mind that they are just using you, and in a manner that leaves you…and them in a precarious legal situation should something happen or God forbid an allegation is made.
    I understand that experience is the only thing you are lacking but i would be looking elsewhere and be telling them thanks but no thanks.
    Thanks for your response. Putting it all into context and reflecting upon it, I am actually disappointed in myself for even staying for the short time I have. 
  • orangefresh
    orangefresh Community member Posts: 34 Connected
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    woodbine said:
    I would agree that they do appear to be using you which is so unfair having turned you down for paid work, personally I would walk away and look for other voluntary work in the sector.
    Thank you for your response. I needed these opinions, I didn’t know if I was just really over thinking. I think my gut is right. 
    Not over thinking it at all, whilst it may have been seen as a great opportunity to gain experience, there is no question in my mind that they are just using you, and in a manner that leaves you…and them in a precarious legal situation should something happen or God forbid an allegation is made.
    I understand that experience is the only thing you are lacking but i would be looking elsewhere and be telling them thanks but no thanks.
    Thanks for your response. Putting it all into context and reflecting upon it, I am actually disappointed in myself for even staying for the short time I have. 
    I wouldn’t feel disappointed in yourself, you took the role believing that it would benefit both parties, unfortunately it seems to only be benefitting the other side and you are leaving yourself wide open. At the very least you should never have been thrown into the deep end on day one. Everything is always fine until something goes wrong. You also have to realise that those individuals you are supporting have parents and loved ones who likely would not be best pleased if they found out that you were supervising and unqualified, I certainly wouldn’t be.

    Yes I completely agree with you, I have actually made a similar statement myself to one of my peers at uni. I know what rights these students have and they are being failed in my eyes, and that is we’re I feel my usual integrity has slipped and I that is why I feel disappointed in myself. I did say the first couple of days I was volunteering, ‘I’m not allowed to be left alone with the students’ on numerous occasions but somehow no one seemed bothered enough to acknowledge that and enforce it. They are just too short staffed. I should be advocating for these students and express they need to right support. I feel annoyed with myself for not voicing my concerns to management sooner.   
  • THE_DUDE
    THE_DUDE Community member Posts: 222 Pioneering
    edited December 2023
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    But wouldn't this help when you apply for a similar job somewhere else?

     They didn't accept you because of experience, of which you are getting now. This could greatly improve you getting  a job next time. It's not like you'll be there forever. 


    I wish you well.

  • Hannah_Alumni
    Hannah_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,912 Disability Gamechanger
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    Hello @orangefresh

    I am so sorry to read that you have been left in uncomfortable caring situations with no training. I do agree with many of the comments above that they may be leaning on you too much for a voluntary role. Can I ask, are you in England or Wales? 

    Scope has an excellent Employment Support Service that may be able to help. I would also reach out to your local MP or council, as I am concerned they may advertise for another volunteer with little training again. 
    Hannah - She / Her

    Online Community Coordinator @ Scope

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  • orangefresh
    orangefresh Community member Posts: 34 Connected
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    Hello @orangefresh

    I am so sorry to read that you have been left in uncomfortable caring situations with no training. I do agree with many of the comments above that they may be leaning on you too much for a voluntary role. Can I ask, are you in England or Wales? 

    Scope has an excellent Employment Support Service that may be able to help. I would also reach out to your local MP or council, as I am concerned they may advertise for another volunteer with little training again. 
    Hi Hannah, 

    I am in England. 

    I agree with everything you have said, and it is a very uncomfortable situation to be in. I know what’s right and I should be speaking up, it makes it slightly more complicated that it is also my place of education. I don’t want to be the person going in and upsetting senior members of staff by calling out their incompetent practice when I have to continue to attend there for my own education. 

  • orangefresh
    orangefresh Community member Posts: 34 Connected
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    THE_DUDE said:
    But wouldn't this help when you apply for a similar job somewhere else?

     They didn't accept you because of experience, of which you are getting now. This could greatly improve you getting  a job next time. It's not like you'll be there forever. 


    I wish you well.

    Yes I accepted the voluntary work because it will help my future applications and give me that hands on experience I am lacking. However, I was under the impression volunteers should be mentored and guided. Not thrown in to do the work with the same responsibilities as someone who is getting paid to do the role which they said I was too inexperienced to do. They are still allowing me to do it anyway, with no training or mentoring. In the job description it highlighted experience was not essential as training would be delivered. But they have put me in as a volunteer with none of that but still with all the responsibilities, whilst also potentially putting the students or myself in danger due to my lack of training in specific areas. 


  • orangefresh
    orangefresh Community member Posts: 34 Connected
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    woodbine said:
    I would agree that they do appear to be using you which is so unfair having turned you down for paid work, personally I would walk away and look for other voluntary work in the sector.
    Thank you for your response. I needed these opinions, I didn’t know if I was just really over thinking. I think my gut is right. 
    Not over thinking it at all, whilst it may have been seen as a great opportunity to gain experience, there is no question in my mind that they are just using you, and in a manner that leaves you…and them in a precarious legal situation should something happen or God forbid an allegation is made.
    I understand that experience is the only thing you are lacking but i would be looking elsewhere and be telling them thanks but no thanks.
    Thanks for your response. Putting it all into context and reflecting upon it, I am actually disappointed in myself for even staying for the short time I have. 
    I wouldn’t feel disappointed in yourself, you took the role believing that it would benefit both parties, unfortunately it seems to only be benefitting the other side and you are leaving yourself wide open. At the very least you should never have been thrown into the deep end on day one. Everything is always fine until something goes wrong. You also have to realise that those individuals you are supporting have parents and loved ones who likely would not be best pleased if they found out that you were supervising and unqualified, I certainly wouldn’t be.

    Yes I completely agree with you, I have actually made a similar statement myself to one of my peers at uni. I know what rights these students have and they are being failed in my eyes, and that is we’re I feel my usual integrity has slipped and I that is why I feel disappointed in myself. I did say the first couple of days I was volunteering, ‘I’m not allowed to be left alone with the students’ on numerous occasions but somehow no one seemed bothered enough to acknowledge that and enforce it. They are just too short staffed. I should be advocating for these students and express they need to right support. I feel annoyed with myself for not voicing my concerns to management sooner.   
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I am sure we have all been in situations where on reflection we might have done things differently. Sometimes though things can get thrust in our way and often we unexpectedly find ourselves going along with it and being swept up in the moment. Sometimes that can become the norm very quickly though until you just accept it despite knowing that it’s not right. 

    You seem like a very thoughtful and caring person and I am sorry that the placement isn’t everything you had hoped for. In an ideal world they would not be short staffed and you would have had a proper induction and know fully what was expected of you whilst getting training appropriate to that role, support staff or not ,but that is their failing, not yours. You should feel proud that your character is what it is and that you care so much doing something that you obviously enjoy and want to get involved in and they should be happy too have you on board and wanting to get stuck in.

    Do I think they are exploiting your good will….yes I do, but I realise that it’s not as easy as that as you hope to use this as a stepping stone as part of your evidence of work experience.

    I would ask for a meeting, explain your concerns and if you are not happy with their answers or if nothing changes immediately despite any reassurances you might get, then you will know where you stand. Whether permanent or support, they have an obligation to look after you whilst keeping themselves legally secure. If you are still unsure then you can walk away and chalk it up to a learning experience.

    I do hope that you get a resolution and you continue to want to work in this field as you come across as someone who already has the necessary character traits that an employer should actively be looking for.

    Scott

    Hi Scott, 

    Thank you for your kind words, I am gutted it’s not worked out as I had hoped on this occasion. I am going to attend tomorrow and go in as normal and see if they have decided to start to give me some guidance and will also not tolerate being left alone with students. 

    If when I go in tomorrow it starts off how it has been, I think I will be going to see the person in charge. Considering I aren’t qualified and they are, I know they are breeching legislation, so they should know that too! 

    Thank you 
  • Jimm_Scope
    Jimm_Scope Posts: 3,191 Scope online community team
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    This all sounds rather concerning. Have you considered contacting the Care Quality Commission about your experiences so far? They could offer you guidance... and perhaps the facility as well, as they seem to need it.
    They/Them, however they are no wrong pronouns with me so whatever you feel most comfortable with
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  • MW123
    MW123 Scope Member Posts: 564 Pioneering
    edited December 2023
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    @orangefresh

    Express your concerns about the lack of training and information regarding the individuals you're working with. Highlight your willingness to contribute effectively but stress the need for proper orientation and support. If the situation doesn't improve, consider reassessing your commitment to the voluntary placement for your own well-being. Out of curiosity,  have you had the opportunity to meet the person who actually secured the  employment you initially applied for?

    Due to the circumstances you have described make sure you confirm their liability insurance covers volunteers.
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