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UK - Supporting People with Special Needs

Enjoy fun activities with people with special needs such as excursions, classes, arts and crafts, bingo, beauty treatments, karaoke, quizzes, and live music, and much more! Make a real difference with people by joining this project team in the UK that has been giving back to the community for the last 50 years.



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectSeveral locations in England
Project LengthMin 1 month – Max 6 months
Arrival AirportDepends on exact placement
Volunteer WorkAssisting people with a variety of disabilities
Number of Participants10 - 30 international volunteers
Age18 - 80
Visas You must apply for this program 2 months in advance in order to have enough time to get your visa processed (unless you have an EU passport).

What's Included

AccommodationShared rooms at centers
Food3 meals a day
TrainingAll necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival
SupportLocal in-country team and 24hr emergency support
Travel Insurance Comprehensive travel & health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration

What's Not Included

Flights, airport transfers, transportation to centers, personal expenses, visa (if required)
* As you will be working with vulnerable adults the local team requires 2 positive references. You will also need a police clearance, Certificate of good conduct, or any similar documentation from a national body such as criminal courts or police.


Volunteers joining this project can volunteer in one of three centers across the UK:

Southampton (central south England): This center in the South Coast is set in beautiful landscaped gardens overlooking Southampton Water. From here volunteers and guests can explore the rich maritime tradition and many attractions of this historic region.

Essex, Chigwell (Just north of London): This center is located in leafy Chigwell, close to Epping Forest. It is the perfect base to explore the numerous world-class attractions of London, as well the many pretty towns and lively seaside resorts of the South East.

Southport (North west England): This center is set by the seaside in serene Southport, with its splendid Victorian promenades and arcades. From here you can explore the best of the North West, from vibrant Liverpool to the spectacular Lake District.

We accept location requests from volunteers, however, we cannot always guarantee your first choice - it will depend on the duration and time of year of your participation.


About the Project 

The team at this project believes that people with special needs should be entitled to proper holidays just like everyone else, and they have been delivering on this belief for five decades by offering special holidays for them.

This project would not exist if it weren't for the volunteers who help out. Volunteers play a vital part in giving the guests in the centers a joyful experience, by helping them to make the very most of the their time at the centers. Volunteers offer that all-important human contact – simple companionship, a helping hand, a friend to talk to. Socializing is a very important aspect of volunteering and the interaction you will have with guests is key to the benefits gained for all concerned.

Experience is not required - we only ask that volunteers arrive with a willingness to get involved, learn, and work hard. However, the team at the centers will be happy to let you utilize your knowledge if you do have previous experience in care-giving.

Each week at the project is different and the needs of individual guests vary as well. Much of your time will be spent enjoying the holiday with guests – going out on day trips, having meals and drinks, enjoying entertainment and watching TV, sometimes with little actual physical work.

** As you will be working with vulnerable adults the local team requires 2 positive references -  professional or character are fine. Your references must have known you for more than 2 years and they cannot be relatives or personal friends. You will also need a police clearance, certificate of good conduct, or any similar documentation from a national body such are criminal courts or police.


Volunteer Work and Contribution

Your first day at the center:

The activity usually starts on Saturdays, which are quite hectic – not surprising considering around 50 guests and volunteers are leaving and 70 more arriving. Once most of the new volunteers have arrived there is a formal welcome and a thorough introduction, where you will be introduced to the staff, have a guided tour of the center, and be given various instructions and guidance from staff. This will include the following and more:

  • An overview of the organization, its mission and values
  • Expectations and boundaries
  • Outline of the actual work and responsibilities.
  • Health and safety policies and procedures, including fire and emergency evacuation procedures

Volunteers in their first two weeks will typically work from 7:45 am - 9:00 pm. The majority of the work only includes spending time with the guests. Depending on the events of the day this could include watching movies in the afternoon and being around for evening entertainment. The type of work is not labor intensive and only involves being around to socialize with our guests.

After the first two weeks volunteers will begin their training in personal care and the work hours reduce to 7:45 am - 5:30 pm. There are also some evening shifts from 3:30 pm - 11 pm or earlier if the guests have gone to bed.

A typical day of a volunteer in the center:

  • 7.30 am - waking up.
  • 7.45 am - a member of the care team runs through who needs extra help and where, along with any other things on the care side that we need to know for the day. Then I take a cup of coffee to my guest Bill, pour another cup for myself and run the bath for his morning soak.
  • 9.00 am - breakfast. All the volunteers and guests eat together. After breakfast - help the guests get ready to go out, making sure they’ve got all their stuff and have used the bathroom if needed.
  • 11.00 am -  and we’re on the coaches. Some volunteers stay behind with the few guests who want a quiet day at the Centre or to wander around the local neighbourhood. The narrowboat trip is excellent, largely due to the fact it manages not to rain. I spend the day learning all there is to know about Tranmere Rovers from a guest called Dave, helping him out along the way by helping him eat his lunch as he has little use of his hands.
  • 5.00 pm - back at the centre and it’s straight into helping guests settle back in.
  • 6.00 pm - dinner.
  • 7 pm and 9 pm - off duty. Use the time to have a bath and bit of time to yourself in the volunteer block.
  • 9.00 pm -  people are moving in and out of the bar and are well plugged into the evening’s entertainment. Every now and then a buzzer sounds and a volunteer or member of staff shoots off to see what’s up – it’s part of the call system all over the centre, which the guests use to call for assistance.

*this schedule can change 

Personal Care Roles

Below is a breakdown of the personal care roles volunteers will do. Anyone with previous care-giving experience, or volunteers staying for more then 4 weeks, will be able to help out in more intimate duties, such as assisting with dressing/undressing, cleaning teeth for guests unable to do so, assisting with manual handling for guests known to be at risk from falls, and more.

Those not interested in the more intimate side of care are more than welcome to stay at whatever their comfort level is. Social support is the most valuable thing volunteers do. The staff in place is able to provide all personal care without volunteers though they do not have the ability to deliver individual social engagement with all of our guests.  

Volunteer roles:

  • The basic care of skin, hair and nails (with the exception of nail care provided by a chiropodist or podiatrist)
  • Applying/removing make up, jewelry, etc.
  • Assisting with outer clothes – socks, shoes, jackets, etc.
  • Assisting guests to clean own teeth
  • Assisting with eating and drinking, except for guests with complex needs
  • Washing hands/face
  • Applying basic creams/lotions to face, hands, etc.
  • Assisting with mobility (pushing wheelchairs etc) within the centre or on excursions
  • Provision of social support – companionship, assisting with activities, etc.
  • Providing support/reassurance while care is given by others
  • Shaving using electric razor
  • Informing staff of any requests for support


Living Arrangements

Accommodations: volunteers stay in shared bunk rooms with between two and four volunteers per room. You will have simple cooking facilities and refrigeration 24 hours a day.

Food: all meals are included in the program.

Laundry: volunteer have access to laundry machines within the centres at no charge.

Internet: volunteer have access to WiFi within the centres at no charge.


Minimum Requirements

  • Min. age 18
  • Good level of English is a must
  • 2 positive references (not from relatives of personal friends)
  • Background check


Important Notes

You need to apply to this project at least 2 months before your chosen start dates unless you hold an EU passport.  Obtaining a visa for entry into the UK is a lengthy process and can take up to 2 months.

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