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Volunteer handbook

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Welcome

Welcome to the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) and thank you for giving your time to support our valuable project. Invasive non-native species are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide, so your contribution is supporting essential environmental management. We hope you enjoy spending time volunteering with us, that you have worthwhile and rewarding experiences with SISI and make some great memories along the way.

Our project couldn’t happen without the support of volunteers, so we hope you understand the value you are bringing – we certainly do. We hope that we will be able to support you with training and enthuse and inspire you to keep on managing invasive species, long after our project finishes.

Introduction

About us

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) is a partnership project working with communities and volunteers to control invasive non-native species (INNS) to benefit our native wildlife and freshwater environments.

SISI is led by NatureScot and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with the University of Aberdeen and 10 fishery trusts/boards as partners. The fishery trusts/boards are our delivery partners on the ground and will be hosts to your volunteering with us.

Read our Volunteer Policy.

The volunteer relationship

SISI recognises that as a volunteer you have offered your time freely. There is, however, an element of responsibility on both sides to make our relationship with you work effectively.

Responsibility of volunteers

We ask that, as a volunteer, you;

  • Maintain good relations with other volunteers, project officers and fishery trust staff
  • Be reliable and responsible
  • Give commitment and undertake work to the best of your ability
  • Carry out your role safely, for your own sake and others
  • Respect confidentiality, equal opportunities and health & safety policies
  • Respect and protect our natural landscape
  • Enjoy yourself!

Our responsibilities to you

As a volunteer you can expect;

  • A clear explanation of what you will be doing and why
  • Appropriate training, supervision, support and tools & equipment for your role
  • Safe working conditions
  • Induction training and the opportunity to attend further training
  • To feel your contribution is valued
  • To see and know how your contribution fits into the wider context of SISI

The Essentials

Who can become a volunteer

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We believe that volunteering should be open to all and we welcome anyone who wishes to join in and contribute, based on the suitability of each volunteer to carry out any particular role and in the context of the location and nature of the task.

A passion for working in and conserving Scotland’s countryside and an enthusiasm to get involved is all you need. You don’t need to have any previous experience to volunteer with us - you will receive support, encouragement and training and work alongside SISI project and/or fishery trust staff to help you along.

We welcome people of all abilities and all ages. Our normal minimum volunteering age is 18 years old, however we are happy to talk to anyone under 18 years about how we can work with you.

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Support and supervision

All volunteers will have a designated staff member to use as a point of contact for queries, training requests or problem resolution. This is the person that you have arranged your volunteering with and is identified in your welcome letter.

Your contact will also undertake any induction to your volunteering role, and in addition this handbook includes further information that you may find useful. If you have any questions that aren’t covered, please don’t hesitate to ask your local contact.

The SISI project also employs a Project Manager and a Volunteer & Communications Officer. You may receive communications directly from either of these people and similarly you are welcome to contact them directly about your volunteering role should you wish or if you have an issue which has not been resolved locally. Contact details can be found at the end of this handbook.

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How we communicate with you

Most of the contact you’ll have with the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative will be directly through your local contact (either a SISI project officer or fishery trust staff). This is also the person to talk to first of all about any aspect of your volunteering with us.

You’ll also receive our SISI newsletter by email (but only if you opted in for this). We prefer to issue our newsletter by email, but we can arrange to send you a paper copy of this by post instead - just let your local contact know. The newsletter will have a volunteering section in it where we will celebrate volunteer achievements and look ahead to future opportunities - so please ensure you sign up for it. You can do this on the SISI website.

We’d also encourage you to engage with us through social media and follow our accounts to keep up to date with SISI goings on more widely. We are on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t forget, effective communication is a two-way process so please keep in touch with your local contact and maintain a good dialogue with them. We are always looking for positive stories from volunteers to help paint a complete picture of volunteering with us for our e-newsletters, our website and press releases.

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Training

We want to provide volunteers with the skills and knowledge that they need to be able to undertake practical invasive species management. This will provide a sustainable future for invasive species control, a meaningful legacy to SISI and enable you to grow and develop as a volunteer. We can cover the costs of most training to remove barriers to anyone who is interested in gaining qualifications.

Formal training and qualifications will usually take the form of pesticide application (PA1/6) and outdoor first aid qualifications. These will be delivered by external providers and will be organised in locations to meet local demand from our volunteers - usually fed through to us by our project staff and fishery trust staff who will understand the requirements of the volunteers they are working with.

Informal training will be provided by our SISI project staff and fishery trust staff, which will primarily take place in the field during task days, as well as through a selection of organised days. This could include skills such as species identification and field survey techniques.

We can also support volunteers who wish to undertake the John Muir Award with us or as part of another group’s programme. For example, we can help with your planning and proposal forms for this and confirm completion of relevant tasks and activities.

If you would like to put your name forward for training, please notify your local contact.

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Representing the project

Please remember that as a volunteer you may be in a position where you are informally representing the SISI project to the public. Please answer any queries to the best of your ability and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know! If you are asked about any sensitive issues or feel uncomfortable answering anything, please always refer these queries to a member of staff.

Please refer any enquiries from members of the press to the Volunteer & Communications Officer who deals with this for the whole project.

We welcome promotion of the project on social media, however we expect you to remain respectful of SISI in your comments. Please tag us into posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As a volunteer you may become party to information of a confidential nature and your discretion is essential to ensure it remains that way.

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Recognition & reward

As well as providing access to training and qualifications, we want you to have fun and feel that your contribution to SISI is appreciated and valued by us.

We will acknowledge the hard work of our volunteers, say thank you and show our appreciation for a job well done. We’ll do this by holding social events to celebrate our achievements and training events, you will get the opportunity to attend and meet other volunteers and supporters of our work.

We will use our newsletter, website, social media and press to acknowledge and highlight the work of our volunteers. You can help feed into this by writing a short article or giving a quote on how you’ve found your volunteering experience or enjoyed a specific activity.

Volunteering can enhance your CV and employability, if you’d like a summary of your volunteer record we’d be happy to provide this for you. Based on your voluntary work, you may also
request a reference, which should be done through your local contact.

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Feedback

We welcome feedback from you about your experiences volunteering with SISI and we will use this constructively to improve and enhance the volunteering experience we provide.

At intervals throughout the project we will set up specific mechanisms to collect feedback from across our volunteer network, such as sending out surveys or conducting interviews, and we would encourage you to actively participate in these.

We are also happy to hear feedback from our volunteers at any time. You can email any comments or observations to your local contact or to our Volunteer & Communications Officer. We are always willing to listen!

Expenses

We would hope that you can get to your place of volunteering at your own expense, as we don’t have the resources within our project to reimburse all our volunteers for their travel expenses.

However, some specific projects have small budgets for expenses and we may be able to support volunteering expenses in certain cases, for example, for individuals where costs are a genuine barrier to involvement or groups who can demonstrate a real need for additional support.

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Legal Details

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Your safety

We take our responsibility for your health, safety and wellbeing seriously. By law, everyone is responsible for looking after their own safety and that of their colleagues (including volunteers) at all times. You must read or listen to and follow any health and safety guidance you are given by activity leaders and must ask for clarification of anything that you are unsure about.

At the beginning of each activity you will be given clear instruction on how to perform the task safely, (including a tools talk if relevant) and any relevant site information. If at any time you are uncertain of the task and how it should be undertaken, then please ask for clarification – it’s our job to help you help us. All our staff are first aid trained and will have a first aid kit on site.

If you have any safety concerns, please report these immediately to the on-site staff. If you are uncomfortable doing so, then please let our Volunteer & Communications Officer or Project Manager know. We will investigate promptly, treat all reports seriously, and let you know what we have found and done in response to your concerns.

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Risk assessments

All activities and sites are risk assessed before the activity. This careful planning provides a safe environment for you to volunteer in.

The contents of this will be communicated to you via a Health & Safety briefing and/or tools talk before the activity commences.

Personal Protective Equipment

It is the project’s responsibility to provide you with any essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that you may need for a specific task. PPE may be issued for the day or for the duration of your volunteering. Training will be provided on its correct use - it is your responsibility to use PPE as instructed.

A volunteer who does not use or misuses required PPE may be asked to leave a work area or even terminate their volunteering with us.

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Incident reporting

If you experience an accident, incident or “near miss” while volunteering (no matter how minor), you must report it at the time. Please report all incidents to your local contact, who will record it in line with the project and fishery trust procedures.

Depending on the incident we may need to follow up with, for example, an accident investigation or a report to the Health & Safety Executive.

Your health

It is up to you to inform us of any relevant medical conditions and provide emergency contact details as requested on the volunteer registration form. You should let us know if these details change.

It is recommended that all volunteers working outdoors ensure that they are covered by an up to date tetanus vaccination.

Your responsibilities;

  • By law, everyone is responsible for looking after their own safety and that of their colleagues.
  • If you see any unsafe working practices, please speak out to ensure these do not continue.
  • Listen to the Health & Safety briefing / tools talk at the beginning of any activity – these are important parts of the day. Please ask for clarification of any points which you don’t understand.
  • Ensure you have completed a Volunteer Registration form, have identified an emergency contact person and informed us of any relevant medical conditions.
  • Inform the activity leader of any accidents, incidents or near-misses.
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Insurance

All registered volunteers (having completed and returned a volunteer registration form) are insured by the relevant host fishery trust / board while volunteering under the supervision of a Project Officer and/or fishery trust staff - as long as you are undertaking activities as agreed and have followed policies and procedures and any instructions or guidance given.

Important points to note;
Your personal equipment and belongings are not insured.

If you are using your own vehicle for volunteering activities, it is your responsibility to decide if you need to inform your insurance company of this and, if necessary, arrange for ‘business use’ or any additional cover required to be added.

If you are undertaking volunteering activities that are not under the supervision of a Project Officer and/or fishery trust staff, including monitoring a mink raft or trap, these are at your own risk and not covered by the organisations insurance.

Confidentiality and data protection

The SISI project and the relevant fishery trust/board hold volunteer details and volunteering records in order to document the contribution made by volunteers, for; insurance, health & safety and project reporting purposes. You can read more about why and how we hold your data in our Privacy Notice.

If your personal or contact details change, it is important that you inform your local contact of these changes.

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Working with children, young people & vulnerable adults

Any member of staff or volunteer who may be in a position of responsibility when working with children, young people (under the age of 18) or with vulnerable adults must complete an ‘enhanced disclosure check’ through the Scottish Disclosure Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

Volunteers will not have this responsibility or be left unsupervised while working with young or vulnerable people unless their PVG status has been received and confirmed.

We anticipate that such situations will be very rare within SISI as children, young people and vulnerable adults will most likely be accompanied and supervised by parents/guardians or staff from either their own organisation or SISI or fishery trust staff.

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Equal opportunities

Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is committed to the principle of equal opportunities for all, in respect of both paid staff and volunteers. All volunteers will be treated fairly with respect to opportunities to volunteer, attend training, or the type of work allocated or offered to them.

We aim to integrate diversity and equal opportunity into all of our activities. We do not tolerate discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, disability, age, religion and belief, sexual orientation or any other condition unrelated to employment criteria.

All paid staff and volunteers will be expected to have an understanding of, and commitment to, the equal opportunities position of SISI.

What you can do;

  • Focus on what others can do, rather than what they can’t
  • Ensure that no other volunteer or member of staff is being excluded or isolated from the task
  • Don’t stereotype or generalise about groups of people
  • Listen to and respect everyone’s views regardless of their background experience
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If there is a problem

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Don’t panic – we are here to help!

If you have concerns about your own safety, wellbeing or that of any child or at-risk adult, please talk to any member of staff immediately. This can be your local contact, the Volunteer & Communications Officer or the Project Manager. Contact details are on the staff page.

Resolving conflict

We appreciate that disagreements and difficult situations sometimes can and do happen, and we would encourage you to raise these at the earliest opportunity, rather than allowing them to develop into something potentially more serious.

If you have a problem concerning any aspect of your voluntary work, we ask that you take this up directly in the first instance with your local contact. Your views will always be heard and given full consideration. If this does not result in a mutually acceptable resolution, further advice should be sought from the Volunteer & Communications Officer and/or the Project Manager.

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Complaints

We will try to deal quickly, objectively and sensitively with any complaints that arise from, or about, our volunteers or activities, and always in complete confidence.

In all cases a written record of complaints, discussions and outcomes will be made and retained confidentially along with copies of any proceedings, statements and other records. We will retain all material for the duration of the SISI project.

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If you have a complaint;

  • Step 1 - Local Discussion. Speak to your local contact and try and resolve the matter objectively and amicably through discussion with them.
    (If the complaint is about this person speak to the Volunteer & Communications Officer).

If you are unable to resolve the matter or remain unsatisfied with the resolution proposed, you can make a formal complaint to us in writing.

  • Step 2 - Written Complaint. Write to the Volunteer & Communications Officer and/or the Project Manager (ideally by email) within two weeks of the oral complaint being raised.

They will investigate the matter and seek to bring the matter to an agreeable resolution. They will contact you to advise you of the findings of their investigations and of any action or decision taken.

  • Step 3 - Opportunity to appeal. If you wish to appeal against the outcome of your written complaint you may do so by taking the matter to the lead partner of the SISI project, NatureScot, within two weeks of being notified of any findings of your written complaint. Their decision will be final.
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If a complaint is made against you, as a volunteer;

  • Minor indiscretions. 
    Action - local meeting.

     
    • If a minor complaint is made against you this will be raised and discussed directly with you by your local contact.
    • This is an opportunity to hear about the complaint and to air your side of the story.
    • The discussion will aim to identify an appropriate solution to the matter raised and put in place any actions required and appropriate.
    • If necessary, the discussion may also involve the Volunteer & Communications Officer and similarly you would be given the option to be accompanied to a meeting by a person of your choice

If the issue cannot be resolved by discussion you may be issued with a written warning in respect of your conduct, and/or the matter will be escalated to the Volunteer & Communications Officer and/or the Project Manager to investigate more formally.

  • Repeated, unresolved or more serious matters.
    Action - formal investigation.

     
    • The Volunteer & Communications Officer and/or the Project Manager will be responsible for carrying out further investigations.
    • This may involve interviewing all parties concerned with the incident.
    • You will be given the opportunity to meet with them and to state your case - you may be accompanied to this meeting by a person of your choice.
    • Having considered the views presented, they will inform you of the outcome of the investigation in writing.

Depending on the nature of the complaint, your volunteering with SISI may be continue with boundaries set or support or help offered, or ultimately you may be asked to leave the project if the matter cannot be resolved.

  • Right to appeal.
    • You will have the right to appeal against the outcome of the formal investigation, which you may do so by taking the matter to the lead partner of the SISI project, NatureScot, within two weeks of being notified of the outcome of the above formal investigation.
      Their decision is final.
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Discontinuance of activity

Anyone who behaves in a way to commit serious misconduct e.g. violence, theft, being under the influence of drink or drugs, non-compliance with safety plan, harassment, etc. will be removed from the activity immediately.

We reserve the right to report such incidents to other relevant authorities including Police Scotland.

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Contact Details

Project Manager - Callum Sinclair

Volunteer & Communications Officer - Vicky Hilton

For contact details visit our staff page

 

And finally,...thanks

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Even if our local contact has not thanked you personally after every activity or task you undertake with us (though they should do, and we are sure they will!), please remember that the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative does thank you for your volunteer interest, commitment and hours - whenever and wherever you give them.

The success of the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is built on our partnership with you, our volunteers, and our work together to manage invasive species across northern Scotland and provide a secure future for our native wildlife.

The commitment, willing and enthusiasm you bring is hugely appreciated
- thank you!

the SISI team