From events management to VSS, one volunteer’s story

17 June, 2021

Joyce, a volunteer in Dumbarton, tells us about her experience of events and how this has helped her adapt to her community and court volunteer role at VSS

I retired in early 2019 having worked as a senior PA at Chief Executive/Managing Director level and as an Events Coordinator at a housing association, which could include anything from community tor corporate events.

On retiring I always planned to volunteer and I made an appointment with the voluntary service at my local authority. VSS immediately sprang out to me given the invaluable service it offers to victims and witnesses, so I put in my application straight away.

Supporting people in the courts and community

At VSS I work across court and community projects, mainly in Dumbarton, but have covered Paisley when help was required, however because of Covid-19 I’ve withdrawn from court work until I get my second vaccine.

I work on victim fund applications, helping Locality Managers by gathering additional information they may need to assess the applications. The applications can come from several sources, for example a VSS support coordinator, the Police, a family member – we quite often have mothers referring daughters – or even self-referrals.

I joined in February / March 2020 just ahead of the first lockdown and a lot of what I do is talking to people. Even if they don’t want to open up about the crime itself due to trauma around the incident, sometimes a victim of crime benefits from talking about everyday activities like school, music, movies and dancing, which can help with the trauma around a crime.

Helping victims of crime

Domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour and scamming are the most common crimes I come across. Some people prey on the vulnerable, in particular the elderly, by impersonating tradespersons and resulting in theft – this is a major issue in the community I come across.

They often also often have harrowing experiences with neighbours and lack family and friend support groups to help them through the trauma of a crime. This is where the services VSS offer are so valuable when victims don’t have anyone they can turn to. It’s made me appreciate my family and friends more and not take them for granted.

The criminal justice system under lockdown

Given I joined during lockdown I was only able to do a couple of shadowing sessions in Paisley but that gave me the confidence I needed moving forward. They have a lot of online training modules which are easy to follow. There is always help available to you, so you’re never stuck or feel alone.

My experience at VSS has given me an increased knowledge of the criminal justice system which I didn’t really understand before but I can see some of the gaps and pitfalls involved.

I work across both community and court work, most recently focussing on community work due to the pandemic. However, I’m looking forward to getting back to the Courts soon too.

The pandemic delays have been very distressing for victims and witnesses and sometimes I think there is a lack of understanding of the impact the delays have on people’s health and wellbeing. It’s a very traumatic ordeal for people giving evidence and this has a serious effect on their mental health.

Becoming part of the VSS volunteer family

Making a difference to someone is incredibly satisfying. It may seem a small difference to make to people’s lives but it really is a great help to them during a traumatic time. It’s very rewarding when a victim says to you, ‘thank you, I feel so much better just talking to you or thanks for being there’. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

I’m good at organising and planning which helps with the large volume of community support calls I get involved in and this helps bring focus to the tasks at hand. However, I think I listen more now. I’ve learnt a lot about the criminal justice system, which made me want to help even more, for example helping people connect with their local MSP on issues and contacting support agencies. I’m more socially aware and active.

It’s an incredibly worthwhile cause. I wanted to help others but it goes above and beyond other charitable work such as fundraising. It will also challenge you and make you use your brain as you are constantly putting yourself in the position of different service users, thinking how you would react in their place and how best to reassure them. You really do have a duty of care and a responsibility, in particular when making referrals.

The role is rewarding, satisfying and challenging. I worked in private industry for over forty years and wanted to give something back to my community through volunteering. I also love the opportunity to meet new people. The support coordinators are always easy to contact and never too busy to help while the whole recruitment process and beyond just made me feel welcome.

I feel part of the VSS family not just a volunteer.