VSS is recruiting support volunteers throughout Scotland
Amanda, a volunteer in Paisley, shares what is unique about her volunteering experience at VSS, the skills she has gained and how her work across court and her local community for VSS has been impacted during the pandemic.
I’m originally from British Columbia in Canada but have been living in the UK for 20 years and work for B&Q in interior design. I’ve also studied psychology at university. I initially volunteered for witness services at Paisley Sheriff Court, but during the pandemic there has been an increased need for community support, and I’ve been involved in both court and community work.
My journey to Victim Support Scotland
I joined VSS two years ago. I was coming to the end of my psychology degree and during my studies I’d developed an interest in trauma assessment and treatment and felt I needed experience in the field to develop my skills in the area. I looked up relevant organisations on LinkedIn and came across VSS there.
I had my first interview at The Wynd in Paisley which is one of the key recruitment venues for new VSS volunteers and my initial training took place at the Bothwell Street offices in Glasgow. Over the course of a week of training we learnt the core topics of the criminal justice system, how to handle any calls with victims of crime, issues around compliance and what to expect as a VSS volunteer.
As I joined VSS during the pandemic, I didn’t get the chance to shadow existing volunteers or support coordinators in person, but everyone was incredibly helpful. There were lots of online resources and the support coordinators were readily available for any queries and provided invaluable support.
How I help victims and witnesses of crime
Domestic abuse cases, antisocial behaviour and families bereaved by murder and culpable homicide are the most common cases I come across. It’s often about helping families through trauma, assisting with their impact statement and how they can best express themselves and their situation to the judge and court.
I’ve worked across both aspects of VSS volunteer work – both in the courts and locally in the community – and feel it’s given me an in depth understanding of the criminal justice system. I now understand what vulnerable witnesses go through and it’s been fascinating in a positive way to make a difference. I’ve also gained a wider understanding of how VSS integrates with different agencies such as Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis to assist victims of crime.
As a result of the pandemic, I think it’s made it more difficult for people to move beyond the crime and the delays are adding to their trauma of the process. Victims of crime are feeling isolated, remote and struggling to adjust following a crime, the impact of which is made worse by a lack of personal or social contact.
What I’ve learnt as a VSS volunteer
In terms of existing skills, I feel my psychology degree and training helps me identify those victims and witnesses who should be referred for further counselling. It also helps me facilitate difficult conversations, understand trauma and its outcomes and adjust my communication style accordingly. I’d also say it helps me understand and accommodate any ‘no go zones’, those areas victims are unwilling to visit, an important aspect of our role as a VSS volunteer.
I’ve gained valuable skills from my role at VSS as well. I’d say I’ve developed a real understanding of criminal justice and the experience of victims of crime and their journey through the system. VSS standards are so uniquely integrated in the Scottish justice system and learning about this, while developing my ability to engage in emotive conversations in a resilient manner has been satisfying if challenging. Finally, I’ve gained an awareness of key VSS stakeholders, such as ASSIST Trauma Care, which has given me a valuable insight into how justice system partnerships operate.
As a VSS volunteer, the satisfaction is incredible
As a VSS volunteer, the satisfaction I feel at the end of the day is second to none. I know I can’t take away the pain people feel but I can make their criminal justice journey easier. Simply put, the satisfaction of helping people is incredibly rewarding.
Finally, not only is the role diverse, satisfying and challenging but it is also highly suited to what I want to do as a future career in terms of trauma assessment and treatment.
Victim Support Scotland is recruiting for support volunteers across the country. To find out more about our volunteering opportunities and application process, visit our volunteering pages.