Hello! I am the Volunteer Coordinator for Leicester Life Links and I have had the pleasure of running OCN courses over the last two years. During the COVID 19 situation I have been reviewing the existing course to improve it for upcoming learners and to make it more efficient for trainers to run. I have also created online workbooks for trainers to deliver the course virtually!
What is the OCN course?
It is designed to provide and enhance skills, knowledge and information to support volunteers/peer mentors in their role. The course is accredited by the Open College Network (Level 2) and includes the main unit: Volunteer/Peer mentor Pathway. This unit covers:
- Understanding the volunteer role and Recovery Focus
- Developing essential skills with a focus on communication
- Building relationships and understanding boundaries & bias’s
- Understanding the Recovery model of support
- Volunteers will reflect on their own skills and development
How has it added value to your service?
It really has made such a difference to our service. Volunteers gain invaluable experiences from attending the course: they learn more about their roles and the service they are giving their time to, increasing their confidence. They gain a deeper insight into how we support people: applying person centred and recovery focused approaches. What I have also found, is when people attend this course they develop rapport with one another and provide peer support throughout their volunteer journeys with each other. It has increased everyone’s team work skills. It is evident in the work volunteers undertake; the OCN course aids them in their roles.
Does it take much time to run?
It may be an accredited course but as long as you prepare thoroughly it does not take much time to run. There is guidance and some ‘top tips’ on the intranet to help you. All workbooks, presentations and any additional resources are organised to make it easier and more time efficient for you to run. Having two people train is advisable, especially if you have limited time. You could consider asking a previously trained volunteer to assist you!
What advice do you have for other services thinking about running a course for their volunteers?
If you are thinking about running this course, I would suggest you do it! Not only do you also learn more about the volunteer’s roles, skills and development but it enhances your local volunteering programs.
2 Richmond Fellowship Recovery Workers started out as Volunteers and believe their experience of attending the course has made a positive difference to their ways of working.
‘I wanted to do the OCN course to increase my knowledge, gain valuable employment skills and enhance my performance as a volunteer. I really enjoyed the group discussion part of the course as it allowed me to listen to the knowledge and experience of others and this helped to solidify my learning. Through this, I was able to develop effective communication skills, understanding of healthy boundaries and how to be a facilitator when supporting others. This course was fundamental in my progression in to full time employment with Richmond Fellowship as a Recovery Worker and allowed me to progress in my role quickly as it gave me a foundation to build from. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and found it was helpful in gaining skills that can be used for both my personal and professional life’ Leah Hood, Recovery Worker and former Volunteer at Leicester Life Links.
“I applied for the OCN training provided by Richmond Fellowship in October 2019 during my first week volunteering for the organisation. In my view and through looking at the training prospectus, I thought the training would be extremely beneficial to me, especially as I was new and this training would allow me to reach my full volunteering potential which I knew I could achieve. Furthermore, I applied for the training as I wanted to meet other volunteers from the organisation and use their experiences to guide me in my volunteering journey. Through the training I was able to develop my skills in non-verbal and verbal communication, how to build an effective rapport, safe guarding, facilitating a peer support group and also how to deal with members of the public who may be difficult or aggressive, all of which is SUPER important in working and volunteering in mental health. For instance, after my OCN training I gained confidence to answer the phone to take referrals, indeed it took me 3 weeks of which is by far better than the average and I was able to deliver top standard psychoeducational workshops through communication training. Finally, I was able to develop, blossom and facilitate my own peer support group using all that gained from my training to aid my role. I enjoyed the training greatly, with my favourite parts being the session where we shared our own recovery stories. That session opened me up to people’s difficulties more and made me understand everyone experiences mental ill health sometime in their lives, encouraging me more to give 110% in volunteering. Moreover, the sessions were straightforward and engaging, meaning I had little difficulty and stress when working through the sessions. Although, at the beginning I did struggle with the group activities, I have always been a bit timid and group work normally gives me great anxiety, however the training soon helped me overcome those anxieties and challenges. Therefore, while I did find the group work element challenging, the support received from my teachers and fellow training members reduced this challenge and has helped me grow as an individual. The OCN has also helped me a lot outside volunteering. I am interested in working within mental health, with a dream of becoming a clinical psychologist. The OCN training has firstly helped me confirm this was the area I wanted to have a career in, secondly, all of what I have learnt within the training I have transferred into my job applications and interviews. For instance, at one interview I was asked to say what I would do in a certain situation as a recovery worker. I used what I learnt in the OCN i.e. communication skills, safeguarding and applied it to that scenario. As a result, I got the job and now I am excited to further my journey to being a clinical psychologist and I have the OCN to partly thank for that. I would 100% recommend the OCN to everyone interested in volunteering. It is beneficial to you as a person confidence and knowledge wise, but also is beneficial to those wanting to volunteer to their best ability and have a later career in mental health.” Anna Gilbert- Recovery Worker,
Lincoln Crisis Service (Boston) former Volunteer at Leicester Life Links.