Volunteers helped into work

Published on: Monday, 01-December-2014

A volunteering programme within Knowsley’s Children’s Centres has seen the overwhelming majority of participants go on to paid employment.

In the last couple of years, 75% of volunteers at Kirkby and Huyton’s Children’s Centres have been helped into work, while in Whiston’s Children’s Centres the number is even higher – 84%.

This success is even more impressive considering that many of the volunteers had never previously worked, and in many cases felt that employment was out of their reach.

Of the 42 volunteers who have worked at the Huyton’s Children’s Centres since April 2011, 31 have now started paid jobs.

One of those volunteers was Joanne Park, who began volunteering at Huyton Children’s Centre in 2011, and says the experience has completely transformed her life.

“I left school with no qualifications, and I didn’t think I was capable of doing anything. I thought I’d be a stay at home mum for the rest of my life,” she said. “But you don’t realise the skills you have got, and what you can do with them.”

After being encouraged to volunteer to help run Stay and Play Sessions for parents at her local children’s centre, Joanne asked to take on more responsibility and took several training courses, earning qualifications and running more sessions for parents. She impressed staff so much that when a paid position in the centre came up, she applied, and got the job.

“I would never have dreamt of being where I am today. My kids look up to me now,” says Joanne. “In 2011, I had no confidence. Now, I’m a totally different person. The Children’s Centres have shown me a different way of life, and I can’t thank them enough for how my life has totally changed.”

You can watch Joanne and another volunteer, Maria Newton, explain more about their experiences of volunteering on Knowsley Council’s YouTube channel.

Cllr Gary See, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, said: “The fact that these volunteers have all secured much-wanted employment is a wonderful success story for the volunteer programme which is run within our children’s centres.

“Volunteering allows people to gain valuable skills which increase their employability, whilst raising their confidence and self-esteem. It’s fantastic that this latest group of volunteers have had such a positive experience and I’m sure the benefits will be felt by their whole family.

“My congratulations to them, and well done to our children’s centres for this fantastic initiative.”

Gerry Allen, Huyton Children’s Centres Manager, said: “While we’re really sad to see these volunteers leave us we’re absolutely delighted for them.

“It has been fantastic seeing how their confidence has increased and how much they’ve enjoyed working alongside us within the centres.

“I know they will not go on to be highly valued employees in their respective new roles.”

Knowsley’s Children’s Centres deliver a range of services to young children and their families. This includes Stay & Play sessions, Baby Massage, parenting courses and specialist outreach support. Volunteers play an integral part – helping to ensure that these popular and successful services are available to as many families in the borough as possible. 

In recent inspections, Ofsted has praised the volunteering programme in the centres. After visiting Huyton Children’s Centres in June, they said: “...the children’s centres are a hub for the community and recognise that these are the places to which most families will go to seek wider advice, guidance and support. The excellent volunteer programme is available to all parents. Volunteers are provided with support and opportunities to train and develop in a range of posts.”

As a result, Knowsley has hosted delegations from a number of other local authorities interested in finding out more about how the volunteering programme has worked so successfully.

For more information about volunteering in Huyton’s Children’s Centres’, contact Jess Aitchison on 443 5226.