Volunteers at DiAS

DiAS has a team of dedicated volunteers who use their skills and experience to give support in all sorts of ways. Many of our volunteers directly support parents and carers, some support children and young people and others support DiAS staff in the office.

If you’re a parent, carer or young person you might meet a volunteer if you are having support for some of the following.

  • To help you to gather your views and wishes, or your child’s, for a school plan or for an Education Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment, plan or review.
  • To understand reports, assessments and paperwork.
  • When you’re in a meeting with the staff at your child’s nursery, school or college or other professionals. A volunteer may meet you beforehand to help you decide what you want from the meeting and what you want to discuss. They might take notes, help you to ask questions and help you to challenge things too. Afterwards, your DiAS Officer will send you a copy of the notes from the meeting, with information about anything that was agreed.
  • To present your case at a mediation meeting or tribunal, for example if you’re challenging the local authority’s decision about an EHC plan needs assessment.

Some of our volunteers work directly with young people to provide advice and support. Volunteers in this role support young people in the decision-making process, helping them to give their views.

“I just wanted to say a really big thank you to you and to the volunteer, who was absolutely brilliant. The meeting was very different with someone from DIAS being there.”

How are volunteers trained?

Volunteers work under the supervision of DiAS Officers and they follow the same confidentiality and impartiality rules.

All volunteers working with parents and carers, children and young people are trained in special educational needs and disability (SEND). Some of our volunteers choose to do extra training, or have knowledge and expertise in areas like mediation and tribunals.

All of our volunteers are fully Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checked if they’re working with the public. This means a check has been done to make sure they can work with vulnerable groups, such as young people.

We invite all potential volunteers for an interview and ask for references from people who know them in a work, volunteering or personal role.

If you’re thinking about becoming a volunteer

Volunteers join us for all sorts of reasons – you might want to learn and develop new skills, work with new people, boost your CV credentials or make a difference in your own community.

Whatever your reasons, we can support you to get the most out of volunteering with us.  We have a volunteer coordinator who will work with you to find the best role for you, depending on your skills and experience, your training needs and what you would like to do.  We give our volunteers training when they join us and then regularly throughout the year. You’ll also have regular opportunities to talk about how you’re getting on and any support you’ve given parents.

“It was fantastic to have a DiAS volunteer at the meeting. She was great at keeping the meeting on track, helping to make sure everything was covered and that a plan was made……. I know that my son feels very pleased to have someone on his side and is comforted that she is there, as he hasn’t previously been included in the meetings.”

There are lots of ways to get involved, from directly supporting parents to attending networking meetings and representing us at events. Volunteers also support us by doing administration and research in our office or at home.

If you’re directly supporting parents and carers you might be asked to:

  • help prepare for a meeting and then go along and support them at it
  • support them to write letters and complete forms
  • help them understand official documents, reports and letters
  • help them talk about possible choices and make decisions
  • help them tell professionals what they think, and what they want for their child or young person

You’ll need to be a good listener and be able to communicate well when you speak and when you write. You’ll need to be a ‘people person’ too – someone who can relate to others and understand what they may be thinking and feeling. We ask our volunteers to be impartial and keep information confidential, so you’ll need to understand what that means and be able to follow our guidance on it.

If this sounds like you and you’d like to find out more about being a DiAS volunteer, contact Amy at diasvolunteers@devon.gov.uk to arrange a chat or to find out when our next training session is.

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Page last updated: February 2020 Page due for review: May 2020