Set up an established volunteer group


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Volunteering is a great way to:

  • Meet new people
  • Improve your fitness levels
  • Develop new skills
  • Be part of a team
  • Support your wider community

We encourage volunteers to work with the Council to help us continue to improve the borough's open spaces.

There are a number of volunteer groups already operating in South Tyneside. To find out about local groups in your area please contact the Community Engagement Officer.

If there isn't an established volunteer group in your area, you may wish to create a new group.

To become an established group you will need to apply to set up a new volunteer group.

Benefits of being an established group

Becoming an established group and working in partnership with South Tyneside Council brings many benefits, including:

  • Allowing groups to carry out work and operate on Council land
  • A one-off £2,000 grant from the Council to help with set-up and administration
  • Support in writing bids for external funding
  • Support in applying for Community Area Forum (CAF) funding
  • Health and safety advice including risk assessments and method statements
  • Support from the Green Space Forum
  • Advice and support on operational issues
  • The opportunity to occupy Council owned premises through licence or lease arrangements

Apply to set up a new group

If there isn't an established volunteer group in your area, you may wish to create a new group.

Please contact the Community Engagement Officer as soon as possible if you wish to do this. They will be able to tell you if a group already exists in your area, doing similar work that you propose to do.

There are 2 stages you will need to complete to become an established volunteer group.

The Community Engagement Officer will help you through the process.

Stage 1 application process

For the stage 1 applications process, you will need to provide:

  • The group name
  • The name of the area that the group will work in
  • Whether you are a constituted group
  • The aims and objectives of the group and how they match with the Council's aims and objectives
  • Membership, roles and responsibilities
  • How regularly the group will meet up to work
  • How regularly you will be holding meetings
  • Any other information that supports the application process

You can apply for stage 1 online at:

Apply online

You will know within 30 days if your application has been approved.

If your application has been approved, the Council will contact you and tell you about stage 2.

If your application has not been approved, you will be contacted and told why.

If you have any questions about the application process, or would like a paper copy of the form, please contact the Community Engagement Officer.

Help with completing the form

Constituted groups

You must let us know if you are a constituted group.

A constituted group means your group has a formal structure and a constitution. A constitution sets out a list of rules and explains what the group will do and how it will operate.

For more information on constituted groups and constitutions, see My Community: Choosing the right organisational structure for your group.

Memberships, roles and responsibilities of the group

For your group to become a constituted group, you must have a committee. However, you can decide who is on that committee and how to organise the committee.

Roles may include but not limited to Chair, Treasurer, Secretary.

A Chairman may be responsible for leading the group. Their duties may include organising / leading meetings with their committee. They also often act as a spokesman and representative for their group.

A Treasurer may be responsible for dealing with the finances of the group. This role involves managing financial budgets and producing the end of year accounts.

A Secretary may be responsible for recording minutes during a meeting in order to share the notes to the rest of the group. A Secretary often helps with effective internal communication and they are often the primary contact for the group.

Think about the groups aims

You must give information on how the group's aims and objectives support the Council's aims and objectives.

View the South Tyneside Council Strategy

An example could be:

As a group, we aim to keep our local park clean and tidy to make it a nice place for residents to visit. To do this, we will host events such as regular litter picks. Providing people with a clean and green place will encourage more people to visit the park, for example to exercise. This links to the Council's aim of improving the health and wellbeing of the population.

Stage 2 application process

Stage 2 of the application process is to develop a group constitution.

This must include the following:

  • Aims of the group - including why the group was formed
  • Objectives of the group - setting out how the group intends to achieve their aims
  • Group powers - setting out what the group has the authority to undertake
  • Membership - including who the group is open to, how people can become a member and how people can leave the group
  • Processes for changing the constitution and / or disbanding the group
  • Management committee - including election of individuals of the committee
  • Meetings - including frequency, location, attendees, how decisions will be made etc.
  • Finances - including name of bank, signatories and financial status

Please submit the completed draft agreement to the Community Engagement Officer.

Final approval of the constitution will be made at Council Cabinet.

The Community Engagement Officer will let you know the next Council Cabinet date.

You will know within 10 days of Council Cabinet if your application has been approved.

If your application has not been approved, you will be contacted and told why.

What happens after you create a new group

Once your group is formally established, you will receive a one-off £2,000 grant from the Council to help with set-up and administration.

You will need to submit records of your yearly accounts to the Council.

Any income made by the group needs to be put back into the area you operate in.

Holding events and activities

You must submit the following before doing any works or holding an event:

  • Work plan
  • Health and safety information
  • Risk assessments 
  • Insurance 
  • Event notification form
  • Disclosure and Barring Check (DBS)

Work plan - general maintenance

Groups must provide a work plan, setting out the activities they are planning to do. You can choose how often you want to develop the plan (monthly, annually etc.).

This work plan must be agreed with the Community Engagement Officer before any works can take place. Groups must tell the officer of any important changes to their work plan.

For one-off or recurring requests, these can be submitted using the Simple Notification Form. For more information, please contact the Community Engagement Officer.

Health and safety

The group must make sure that group members and members of the public are safe during the activity; this includes leaving the site safe after the activity.

Every group must:

  • Consider the location of your proposed activity
    For example, is it near a slippery bank or heavy traffic? It may be dangerous for volunteers to work in some areas and in certain weather conditions (for example, works taking place on a steep slope in the rain). In some cases, there may be certain areas that groups are unable to access.
  • Complete relevant risk assessments
  • Decide what tools are needed to carry out works
    Will group members need training before the works start? It is the responsibility of the group to organise training for the group and make sure all relevant group members are fully trained.
  • Use the correct personal protective equipment for the works
    For example boots, gloves, safety glasses and visibility vests.
  • Make sure each volunteer has been given the appropriate instructions or training
    Proof of this may be required (depending on the activity). If required, proof should be submitted to the Community Engagement Officer.
  • Have accident reporting procedures in place
    Make sure all members of the group are aware of these.

Risk assessments

Groups will need to carry out risk assessments and method statements. These must be submitted in advance to the Community Engagement Officer.

A risk assessment template is available from the Community Engagement Officer, who will also provide support and training if you need this.

The risk assessment should show the risks of the activities and list what measures will be put in place to prevent accidents.

Any accidents must be correctly recorded and reported to the group and the Council.

For more information on risk assessments, method statements and accident reporting, see the HSE website.


Groups will need appropriate insurances, usually public liability insurance, to cover all practical tasks and events.

There will be some circumstances where the Council's own public liability insurance policy will cover volunteers. However, this depends on Council policies and following this guidance. These include:

  • Groups helping the Council with a Council activity
  • A Council employee is present to supervise the particular activity

For tasks which fall outside of this, the group will be required to find their own insurance. Examples where insurance will be required include (but not limited to):

  • Litter picking
  • Edging on footpaths
  • Shrub pruning
  • Shrub and rose bed maintenance
  • Leaf clearing
  • Self-sown sapling removal
  • Creating woodland path ways
  • Creating wildflower areas

It may be helpful to get independent advice to make sure you have the correct insurance.

Event notification form

You will need to provide an event notification form for any event you want to hold.

Application forms should be returned three months before the event for small scale events, and six months for large scale events.

Events should not be held without written agreement from the Council.

It is illegal to display any advertising or directional signage on the highway or Council land without getting consent from the Council first. You may need to get advertising consent the Council's planning department for some of these.

For more information, see organising an event in South Tyneside.

Disclosure and Barring Check (DBS)

One or all members of the group may need to get full Disclosure and Barring Check (DBS) clearances if you want to do works in a location that has children or vulnerable groups (for example, a school, sheltered accommodation, etc.)

The Community Engagement Officer can advise if necessary.

Aims and objectives for the area

It is important that all groups follow the Council's aims, objectives and priorities. These can be found in the South Tyneside Council Strategy.

There can only be one group in each geographical area.

The Council will work across different groups to help them communicate with each other when necessary.

Code of conduct

Groups working in partnership with the Council will be required to follow the Council's Code of Conduct. This is included within the partnership agreement:

  • Treat all your group members with respect and courtesy.
  • Communicate with the group through attending your group meetings upon request or when convenient.
  • Listen to your ideas and support them where feasible.
  • Respond to verbal or written enquiries within ten working days.
  • Respond to health and safety hazards or obscene graffiti within forty-eight hours.
  • Not discriminate against any person on the grounds of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation.
  • Speak positively to others about the work of the group.

Groups should also:

  • Make sure all works, events or activities have been agreed with the Council before taking place.
  • Make sure the safety and wellbeing of fellow group members, general public and staff.
  • Make sure all works undertaken compliment the physical integrity and biodiversity of the site.
  • Share all relevant information with the Council including roles, responsibilities, aims etc.
  • Respect and be considerate to all group members, members of the public, South Tyneside Council representatives and contractors.
  • Make sure any action undertaken does not result in financial burden for South Tyneside Council.
  • Make sure group aims and objectives are not politically motivated and do not promote extremist political views.
  • Work with integrity and professionalism, value each other and respect each individual role.
  • Follow to the Council's rules, regulations and policies about health and safety, equality and diversity, and park specific covenants. Groups should follow all documents relating to this. New and existing information will be shared with each group, if and when required.
  • Recognise, listen and follow decisions made by South Tyneside Council and its partners. This includes decisions to refuse certain works or requiring changes to the group's plans. The reasons for these decisions will be discussed with the groups.
  • Work in partnership and act as an ambassador of the Council. This means not discussing group or other grievances about the Council, Officers or Members with residents, other groups, other stakeholders and the media. Any concerns should be raised with the Community Engagement Officer.
  • Inform South Tyneside Council within a reasonable time frame of any proposed works or events.
  • Respect and understand the need for confidentiality and data protection.

Support from the Council

We encourage you to use the #LoveSouthTyneside social media platforms to share and celebrate the work of your group.

Community engagement officer

The Council have a dedicated Community Engagement Officer to help and support volunteer groups working in partnership with the Council.

The Community Engagement Officer will have regular contact and meetings with the group, providing advice, guidance and support where needed.

Annual meeting

The Council holds an annual meeting with representatives from all groups.

This meeting provides an opportunity to:

  • Thank groups and volunteers for their work in our communities
  • Make sure groups are receiving appropriate support
  • Discuss future plans and priorities of the Council and of groups
  • Establish connections with other groups for potential joint working, where necessary
  • Share good practice
  • Discuss financials including any reinvestment back into the group

All groups will need to send at least one representative to the annual meeting.

Green Space Forum

The Green Space Forum is a meeting you can attend, which takes place twice a month.

Groundwork chair the meeting.

Representatives from volunteer groups and South Tyneside Council officers attend the meeting.

The meetings are informal and friendly.

They provide groups and the Council the opportunity to:

  • share ideas and advice
  • receive support
  • discuss priorities and objectives
  • stay in touch with each other

For more information, please contact the Community Engagement Officer.

Disbanding a group

Some groups may only wish to operate for a specific period of time. The group must decide how and when they will disband.

The Council will regularly check that groups are following the volunteering guidance, code of conduct and Council policies.

Groups will be told if they are not following the above and they will need to address this urgently.

In some rare cases, the Council may decide that a group is no longer eligible to work with the Council or that an individual group member needs to be disqualified. This may be due to:

  • not following the code of conduct
  • example of poor conduct

Groups should address any concerns as soon as they are identified.

However, the Council may decide it is necessary to stop a partnership with a group. This decision will override any rules outlined within the group's own constitution or code of conduct.

The group or individual will be informed of this decision in writing by South Tyneside Council's Legal Services.

Appeals or complaints

If you are not successful in either stage 1 or stage 2 of the application process, the Community Engagement Officer will tell you the reason for this.

Groups can formally appeal any decision as part of the application process.

Any appeals must be sent to the Council in writing and within 28 days from the original decision date.

The appeal will be heard by an independent panel of Elected Members and officers and a decision will be made within 28 days of the appeal being made.

The Council has a formal complaints procedure, which should be followed for any complaints related to the application process or volunteering in general.

For more information see complaints.

Key contacts

Privacy notice

View the privacy notice for volunteer groups.