Volunteers are a vital part of the response to the coronavirus outbreak. You may need more volunteers, have lots of new volunteers, or need to change how existing volunteers support your organisation. The resources below will help you to achieve this.
If you need guidance about running your community group or charity, please look at our comprehensive resources here.
If you are a volunteer looking for advice and guidance, you can find it here.
If you would like to become a member of Community Impact Bucks for free, please visit our Membership page to join and to view the extra benefits offered to members.
Buckinghamshire Volunteer Matching Service
In Spring 2020, more than 1,800 people signed up as volunteers to help our Buckinghamshire communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Buckinghamshire Volunteer Matching Service is run by Community Impact Bucks in partnership with Buckinghamshire Council and The Clare Foundation. If you would like to find out more, visit the Buckinghamshire Volunteer Matching Service page.
How it works
We place volunteers with groups and organisations needing help to support our communities.
Risk assessments should be completed for all volunteer roles/activities, with individual risk assessments for everyone volunteering outside their home where possible. To help volunteers understand the decisions that your organisation makes, it is important to talk to all volunteers about specific risks: this should cover the role or activity, the physical and social environment, as well as their individual circumstances. Before volunteering, volunteers should be given clear, concise, and relevant information about the safety measures you have put in place, and the opportunity to ask questions.
Sample COVID-19 frontline volunteer role/activity risk assessments: please note that these are example risk assessments, and may need to be adapted to suit your specific requirements and brought in line with the latest government guidance:
Whatever your organisation’s size, it’s really important that you’ve got everything in place before recruiting volunteers for the first time, or when refreshing your current approach. Taking some time out to do this can save time, and possibly also confusion, in the long run.
Volunteers want to know that their time is well spent, that tasks are well organised, and that their contribution is well valued.
Sample COVID-19 frontline volunteer role/activity descriptions: please note that these are example descriptions only, and may need to be adapted to suit your specific requirements and brought in line with the latest government guidance:
You can provide your volunteers with our simple Key Information for Volunteers’ Guidance which looks at: who can help, ways to help, information on DBS checks, keeping people and data safe, handling money safely, scam awareness, and contains contact details for key organisations
This 1 hour recorded webinar from NCVO covers good practice in safeguarding volunteers, and tips for volunteer well-being.
Not everyone can cover their expenses when they volunteer. If you’re able to reimburse volunteers for out-of-pocket expenditure e.g. petrol, this will ensure that volunteering is open to more people. This guidance on volunteer expenses (NCVO KNOWHOW) explains what you need to think about.
Insurance for volunteers is not a requirement in UK law, however, it can be useful where there is a risk of harm to volunteers or the public. NCVO KNOWHOW covers key points about insurance, as well as considerations when deciding about insurance.
6 bereavement podcasts have been produced by Health Education England since April 2020 on the training and support of volunteers dealing with the dying or people in bereavement. Recorded by Sally James with Alex James from bereavement.co.uk
Volunteers can also email Alex confidentially for free practical online support and advice on caring for the dying and bereaved: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keyworker definition and furloughing
The keyworker definition applies to people in paid, and unpaid i.e. volunteer, roles. This information(NCVO KNOWHOW) clarifies what these roles are, and links to the Government’s key worker guidance.
At present, many staff from the private, public and voluntary sectors are in furlough. This NCVO blog clearly states that furloughed employees cannot do any work for their organisation, and whilst on furlough, they must not provide services or make money for (or on behalf of) their employer – this includes volunteering. It also provides handy tips on helping furloughed staff from another organisation to volunteer with yours – but remember that fixed furlough swap schemes, where one charity arranges for its furloughed employees to volunteer for another charity and vice-versa, are not allowed.
Keeping people safe
Whether you’re managing volunteers in an informal or formal group, you have a duty of care to ensure that they, and the people they’re helping, are protected, and that they have a good volunteering experience. There are some simple and practical steps that can be taken to ensure this, and these are explored in the resources below:
Enabling Safe & Effective Volunteering During Coronavirus (COVID-19)
This e-learning from the British Red Cross is designed for anyone responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, and takes under 1 hour to complete. It covers key facts about COVID-19, looking after yourself, looking after others, and has FAQs and a quiz.
Anyone with symptoms can get a coronavirus test, whatever their age.
Some volunteers will be classified as being in essential worker roles due to the nature of the services they are providing. Volunteers in essential worker roles are prioritised for coronavirus testing.
It is important to remember that DBS checks are just one tool to keep people safe. It is also a good idea to check photo ID for every volunteer to ensure that they who they say they are, and to take up at least one reference.
Shopping, driving and dog walking
Many volunteers will be supporting vulnerable people by doing their shopping. Our Shopping & Handling Money Guidance sets out the key Do’s and Don’ts, and preferred options for transactions, including using volunteer/regular e-gift cards available from the big supermarkets. Cash should only be used as a last resort as there is the risk of spreading the virus, and other methods of payment are easier to trace and less vulnerable to abuse.
Those volunteering to help their communities during the COVID-19 outbreakdo not need to contact their insurer to update their documents or extend their cover, the ABI has said.
Some volunteers may be involved with walking someone else’s dog if, due to their individual circumstances, they are unable to do so themselves. Following this guidance will help keep everyone safe.
Recognising and reporting scams
COVID-19 has led to an increase in scams and false offers of help. Download this useful poster from Friends Against Scams detailing how volunteers can protect themselves and others.
Supporting volunteers’ mental health
Remember to check in with your volunteers as often as you can. These are unsettling times for everyone, and sometimes a well -timed “How are you?” can make a world of difference.
In addition, Our Frontline offers round-the-clock one-to-one support, by call or text, from trained volunteers, plus resources, tips and ideas to look after the mental health of staff and volunteers involved in frontline health, care, emergency and key worker roles. If this applies to your volunteers’ roles, make sure that they know about this valuable service.
If you’re handling personal information belonging to volunteers and people your organisation is supporting, for example their phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses, there are some simple steps to take to minimise risks, as outlined by NCVO KNOWHOW.
This blog from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is also an excellent summary of what community groups responding to COVID-19 need to know about data protection.