Requests for visits will come directly from the Caseworkers. While the majority of applicants are visited on an annual basis there are exceptions, so AVs are asked to arrange a visit only when a Caseworker has been in contact. The Caseworker will send you a briefing note and, if necessary, discuss the application with you over the phone to ensure you understand what is expected and have all the details you need, particularly if this is your first visit. Please do not hesitate to contact the Caseworker at any time if you need any further information or have concerns.

Arranging the visit

The Casework Department will send out a letter to the applicant explaining that you will be in touch to arrange a convenient time to visit. The letter will ask them to make you aware of any other members of their household/family/friends who will be present at the visit, as well as any pets they have and will request that, where possible, any dogs or cats are kept in a separate room during the visit. Please check these points when you contact the applicant.

It is the responsibility of the AV, not the Caseworker, to arrange the date and time of the visit. You will be given the applicant’s phone number only as we strongly advise against making contact via email. Remember to prevent your number from being disclosed by keying in 141 before the applicant’s number if calling from a landline (if calling from a mobile, ask your phone provider how to protect your number). Do not give your phone number or address and do not leave your contact details on an answerphone. Leave a short message to say who you are, when you plan to call again, and if this is not convenient please ask them to contact the Casework Department. If you feel that the applicant is deliberately putting off finalising arrangements for a visit, you should contact the Caseworker to discuss this.

When you call the applicant to arrange your visit, give a rough idea of how long the meeting will be. Please bear in mind that the applicant may be feeling very nervous and anxious about what is involved in the visit and that seeking help from the RMBF may have been a major step for them to take. This is your opportunity to reassure them that you are there to hear about their situation and report back on what they have said to the Casework Department.

It is advisable to visit during daylight hours, where possible. Meeting the applicant in their home environment is a critical part of the visiting process. However, if you really do not feel happy about visiting in the applicant’s home, speak to the Caseworker to see if alternative arrangements can be made. If there are any known concerns about safety issues we will not ask you to visit.

In the event that you are unable to visit an applicant, having made the arrangements, please tell the Caseworker as soon as you can and if appropriate another AV may be asked to step in.

Assessing the risks of home visiting

The RMBF has responsibility for the health and safety of all staff and volunteers and a duty of care to ensure that information and guidance is provided on areas of potential concern. While volunteering for the RMBF your safety is paramount. We need to make sure that both you and the applicant feel comfortable, and that the visit proceeds as smoothly as possible. Home visiting on behalf of the RMBF has traditionally involved little risk, but to ensure that this remains the case, and to protect both the RMBF and yourself, please follow the guidelines included in this section.

Health and Safety Checklist

When preparing for your visit, you should take all sensible precautions to minimise any risk associated with lone visiting, including:

  • Planning all aspects of your journey
  • Familiarising yourself with the applicant’s neighbourhood (it is a good idea to look at the ‘satellite’ and ‘street view’ versions of the address in Google Maps)
  • Being aware of your personal safety during the visit

Before the visit

  • Once you have arranged the visit, it is very important that you inform the RMBF Caseworker and a friend/family member of the time and date of your meeting.
  • If the applicant has or has had mental health problems, you may find it helpful to read MIND’s publication ‘Understanding Mental Illness’ which was sent to you with your induction pack.
  • Be well prepared. Read your briefing note thoroughly before your visit, but leave it behind at home, for data protection reasons.

If you are at all uncomfortable with any aspect of the planned visit, please contact the RMBF Caseworker to discuss the problem before visiting.

On the day of the visit

Please call the applicant before you set off to check they are ready for your visit. This is a good opportunity to check if there will be anyone else there and to remind the applicant about any pets.

Once again, if you are at all concerned about the visit please contact the Caseworker.

Preparing for the journey

Take your RMBF personal alarm with you if you have one. If you do not have a personal alarm but would like one please contact the VPM. Some other key points to follow in preparation include:

  • Checking that you know where you are going and have full directions. Allow time for travel both ways and get in touch with the applicant if delayed
  • Taking along the applicant’s address and telephone number, as well as those of the Caseworker and the RMBF office, and make sure you bring them home with you as these are confidential personal details
  • Taking a fully charged and topped up mobile phone, and ensuring you know how to call emergency services in the unlikely event it is necessary
  • Always taking your RMBF ID card with you to show on arrival
  • Not wearing your best clothes or jewellery

If travelling by car, take all necessary precautions to ensure that your car is road-worthy and that you minimise risk to yourself and others by:

  • Having a valid driving licence, tax disc, and insurance
  • Having an up to date MOT (for cars over 3 years old), suitable breakdown cover, and sufficient petrol. Please remember to inform your insurance company that you are using your car for voluntary work
  • Never driving under the influence of drink, drugs or any medication that might impair your judgement and invalidate insurance
  • Taking regular breaks if the drive is long
  • Locking the doors while travelling
  • Keeping change ready for emergency pay phone calls and/or parking
  • Parking a short walk away from the applicant’s address, allowing plenty of space to leave quickly if necessary
  • Ensuring no articles of value are visible in the car when parked
  • Parking in a well-lit area, as close to the premises you are visiting as possible, if an evening visit is the only option

On arrival

Please note: If you feel at all uncomfortable about entering the premises make an excuse, leave and contact the RMBF office immediately. Your safety and well-being comes first.

Stand back from the door and show your ID card. Be prepared to wait as the applicant may have limited mobility. Introduce yourself and wait to be invited in. Check your exit routes as you go in, noting if there is any furniture in the way, and keep a clear path to the door. Tell the applicant what time you expect to leave.  An initial visit can take time, but on subsequent visits try not to stay longer than an hour. If visiting in a tower block suggest the applicant meets you at the main entrance.

During the visit

Key points to note:

  • If possible, sit nearer to the door than the person being visited, and if you begin to encounter difficulties at any point, then calmly excuse yourself and leave the premises
  • Breaking the ice can be extremely difficult, especially on a first visit, and it can take time to build trust. Listen and observe carefully and ask ‘open questions’ as much as possible using ‘supportive listening’ techniques (see Part 3: Communication skills)
  • AVs are strongly encouraged to take notes during the visit, but check with the applicant first that they are comfortable with this
  • Please be aware that applicants can sometimes use a visit from an AV to exaggerate their predicament. Other applicants are the exact opposite and are very reluctant to talk about their needs
  • Please do not discuss the applicant’s financial situation or their RMBF awards with them, and do not encourage the applicant to make a wish list or ask them what you should write in your report
  • Also remember you are there as a representative of the RMBF and, for those of you who are trained medical professionals, please leave your ‘doctor’s hat’ at home!

Ending the visit

  • Keep a discreet eye on the time and when you need to leave, close by saying, “Is there anything else you wish to discuss before I leave?”
  • Sum up what has been discussed briefly, so you are clear that you have the correct information and everything has been covered. This gives the applicant an opportunity to add anything they might have forgotten or to clarify a complex issue
  • Please do not offer for the applicant to see your report before it goes to the Case Committee. However, if they do ask to see a copy, please say they need to contact the Caseworker directly.
  • Before you leave explain that the Caseworker will be in touch, but do not give any timeframes and never make any promises of financial help. The Case Committee always makes the final decision.

After the visit

Aim to write up and send in your report as soon as possible so the visit remains fresh in your mind.

Please contact the Caseworker to discuss any of the following issues:

  • Report any incident or concerns you may have about an applicant immediately, however trivial. Not reporting it could place them or a future AV at risk
  • If an applicant makes a request for additional support or you identify a need during your visit, the Caseworker can advise on how to include this in your report if appropriate
  • If you feel that an applicant would appreciate more frequent visits, the RMBF provides a telephone befriending scheme which may be appropriate in some cases. Please contact the Caseworker, who can forward the information to the Volunteer Programme Manager if appropriate.

If any problems or queries arise, the VPM or the Casework staff will be pleased to help.

Forward to Part 3: Communication skills

Area Visitor Handbook index