Volunteering during the pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenging and new experience for everyone. It has meant that many charities have had to change their ways of working, including how they are supported by volunteers, as well as some volunteers being unable to help in the same way due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Volunteers are a vital part of the response to the pandemic. You may need more volunteers, have lots of new volunteers, or need to change how exsisting volunteers support your organisation.

If you are an organisation looking for volunteers or if you are an individual wanting to volunteer, please do have a look the Volunteer Matching Service which matches registered volunteers to roles where they are most needed in Buckinghamshire. If you are looking for volunteers and would would like to talk through the options first or don’t know where to start, contact Lew Headley lew@communityimpactbucks.org.uk/or call 0300 111 1250.

To support your volunteering journey during the pandemic we have also curated a number of key resources below.

Resources for Organisations - Recruiting and Supporting Volunteers

Whatever the size of your organisation, it’s really important that you’ve got the necessary procedures 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 misunderstanding, in the long run. Volunteers want to know that their time is well spent, that tasks are well organised, and that their contribution is valued.

It is also important to be aware of the Government’s latest guidance on volunteering during COVID-19. For instance, the Government’s rules on self-isolation have changed. If a volunteer is fully vaccinated or under 18 and 6 months they’re not required to self-isolate if they’ve had close contact with someone with COVID-19. Organisations and volunteers can find more information about self-isolation on the government website.

Government guidance for people previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) states that they will not be advised to shield again. People who were previously identified as CEV are advised to continue to follow the guidance contained in Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread. Individuals should consider advice from their health professional on whether additional precautions are right for them. Further information about who can volunteer during the pandemic can be found on the government’s website.

Getting volunteers onboard effectively

  • This short training video sets out what you need to think about before recruiting volunteers.
  • The NCVO also has information on engaging and supporting volunteers.

Volunteer role/activity descriptions

Risk Assessments

  • Should be completed for all volunteer roles/activities, with individual risk assessments (in line with current government guidance latest government guidance) 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.
  • Look at the HSE guidance and their example risk assessments.

Expenses

  • 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 explains what you need to think about.

Insurance

Other resources

Resources for Organisations - Keeping your volunteers 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)

  • Look at the current Government guidance for volunteer-involving organisations and groups.
  • This 1 hour recorded webinar from NCVO covers good practice in safeguarding volunteers, and tips for volunteer well-being.
  • 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.

 Safeguarding

  • This short training video provides essential safeguarding information, what signs might indicate that a vulnerable individual is at risk, and how to report your concerns.
  • This Safeguarding young people during the COVID-19 pandemic guide offers advice to navigate the main risks, issues and considerations in safeguarding practice. It aimed at designated safeguarding leads in voluntary youth organisations.

 DBS

  • You may also find these DBS & Coronavirus FAQs helpful, as well as these COVID-19: ID checking and  guidelines.
  • 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.

 Volunteers and handling money

  • 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.

 Data Protection

  • 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.

Resources for Organisations - Supporting your volunteers wellbeing

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.

Resources for Volunteers - Keeping safe

If you are a volunteer or you are looking to volunteer and help your community, it is essential that you do this safely. For the latest information on Coronavirus Restrictions, check the GOV.UK guide Volunteering during Covid-19.

If you’re at high risk from COVID-19 (clinically extremely vulnerable), you should follow the same Government guidance as everyone else. This means that you can volunteer outside your home. However, you may want to take extra steps to protect yourself. For example, you could reduce your social interactions and the time you spend in places that are crowded and do not have good ventilation.

Resources for Volunteers Looking after your mental wellbeing

Latest government guidance

On entering Step 4 in the Government’s Roadmap to Recovery on 19th July 2021, the guidance on volunteering has been updated:

  • If you are an organisation or community group and you are planning on or are already involving volunteers within your activities, please refer to the Government guidance on Enabling safe and effective volunteering during coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to do this as safely as possible.
  • If you are currently volunteering or are planning to volunteer, please refer to the government guidance on Volunteering during coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • The Charity Retail Association has also produced guidance on easing of restrictions within charity retail. The guidance includes advice on face masks, social distancing, ventilation, risk assessments, and fitting rooms. To view the guidance, visit Charity Retail Association.
Image courtesy of Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway