The Role of the Helpline Volunteer
The helpline receives a wide range of calls from calls that are purely information-seeking requests to calls from people in significant emotional distress. The following are examples of the types of calls that the help-line receives:
- Sexual health calls
- Struggles with coming out and with sexual or gender identity
- Relationship difficulties
- Scene + social opportunities information
- Information about LGBTQ groups and services
- People in emotional distress
- Enquiries about other Switchboard services
- Silent, nuisance, regular or misuse of the service calls.
- Drugs and alcohol issues
- Physical and mental health issues
Given this wide range of calls it is therefore a varied role requiring the volunteer to have a range of skills and qualities to enable them to respond appropriately to all calls. At Switchboard we believe the helpline volunteer needs to have the following skills, qualities and abilities in order to fulfil the role:
- An understanding of the LGBTQ community and the issues that affect LGBTQ people. This can be gained personally or professionally and volunteers need to demonstrate their knowledge of this understanding on the application form, at interview and during their mentored shifts as well as in their continued volunteering work.
- Be able to listen and refrain from giving advice, so as to support callers by providing a listening ear and enabling them to find their own solutions using a range of strategies.
- Be non-judgemental and able to suspend one’s own judgement so that every caller is listened to and respected regardless of one’s own beliefs, values etc that may be different from the caller’s.
- Be committed to developing your knowledge base of local venues, services and issues, and be able to make use of a wide range of resources, both paper and Internet based.
- Have an understanding of the need to maintain professional boundaries with all service users, and be able to maintain professional boundaries at all times.
- Be committed to consistently fulfil the 6 hours per month requirement, and to attend all mandatory training and support group meetings.
- Be willing to attend other in-house training events in order to gain knowledge and sustain and develop good practise.
- Be willing and able to work within the organisation’s policies and procedures.
Switchboard provides a training programme to all help-line volunteers which will enhance the skills of volunteers to respond to a wide range of calls. All volunteers must be able to commit to this compulsory training. More information will be provided about the training stages at interview stage, or sooner if requested.