The Kibble Centre in Paisley is one of Scotland’s largest and most thriving social enterprises, blending a strong social mission with best business practice. It strives towards strengthening community roots and involvement and works with young people who have a complex mix of social, emotional, educational and behavioural problems. It aims to deliver high quality and sustainable services which include: community outreach programmes, residential care, social welfare, full secondary education, through care and aftercare, intensive fostering and secure care. Kibble’s roots go back to 1859 to a charitable bequest from a wealthy Paisley textile heiress Miss Elizabeth Kibble.
One of the ways in which Kibble engages with the local community is by recruiting and supporting volunteers. A full-time volunteer co-ordinator works to match volunteers’ skills and interests with the interests of the young people and with opportunities across many services and activities. A level of maturity is an important requirement in volunteers, with the result that most of them, although not all, are over 40. Volunteers are given support and training opportunities. One older tradesman has shared his experience with a group of 18 – 24 year olds who benefit from his knowledge and interest. This is an model Kibble plans to build on. Other opportunities are one-to-one – for instance, helping someone build bikes.
A number of volunteers work for the Intensive Fostering Service. This is a typical example of opportunities that can be tailored to individual volunteers. They join in activities during the week, drop the boys off with their foster parents, or support foster carers by taking young people on outings.
Volunteers also work with the Family Support and Intervention Service which works in partnership with young people and their families, supporting them through difficulties and helping build on their strengths. Volunteers gravitate to the tasks they feel comfortable with. They might collect families, ensure tthey are welcomed, comfortable and relaxed and furnished with refreshments. One volunteer, who began by undertaking simple administrative tasks, is now helping to facilitate a group. This service is continuing to develop.
One of the challenges in recruiting volunteers, and particularly older volunteers, is the number of myths and misconceptions about Kibble’s work. Sometimes this can be off-putting. On the other hand, some younger volunteers can underestimate the challenges.
Kibble is working towards the Investing in Volunteers award, and aims to meet the national occupational standards in the management of volunteering. However, unlike most volunteer engaging agencies, Kibble also has to work to key standards, including those of the Care Commission and HMIE. Kibble is keen to be a ‘good neighbour’. Therefore, introducing volunteers helps in its efforts to make Kibble’s work ‘transparent’ and also to bring the community inside.
Older people enjoy passing on their skills to a receptive audience and help to channel the energy of the young people in a positive direction thus, improving their life chances.