From lending a hand within your neighbourhood, to supporting local charities and setting up your own support group, there are many ways to get involved to help out during COVID-19.
We’ve set out some practical guidance for those who would like to volunteer during the coronavirus outbreak, including how you can volunteer, where to volunteer and how to stay safe.
We have also provided useful information for those looking to set up a voluntary group in response to the outbreak, including advice on safeguarding and arranging insurance for your volunteers.
What can I do to volunteer?
If you are fit and healthy –
You can volunteer by helping with shopping and running errands for those who are self-isolating, or driving people to/from health appointments or other essential appointments. You can help to organise food deliveries from food banks and/or supermarkets and help to spread awareness about coronavirus.
If you have work or family duties –
Keeping an eye out for neighbours and family members is the simplest way you can help out if you are still working or have family duties. Daily check-ins can really help to reduce the feeling of isolation.
If you are deemed a high risk –
If you are deemed high risk (you are aged over 70, pregnant or have underlying health issues), there are volunteering opportunities that you can do by phone or computer from home. For example, you can register as a ‘virtual volunteer’ and sign up to an online befriending network.
How do I stay safe whilst supporting others?
If your volunteering activities mean that you need to leave the house, this should be done following government advice.
According to Shaun Delaney of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), “people can go out to volunteer if they are providing help to vulnerable people, or if their volunteering cannot be done from home.”
We have listed some best practice to prevent catching or spreading Coronavirus below:
- Be sensible and vigilant. Keep up to date with government advice and stick to the official guidance.
- Remember physical distancing rules. If you are helping out neighbours, try to communicate by phone or text; do not enter houses and always stay at least two metres away.
- Look after yourself. Do not run errands for a neighbour, friend or relative if you are ill or self-isolating.
- Wash your hands regularly. Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds will help to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Who can I volunteer for?
There are plenty of ways to get involved during these uncertain times. We have listed some opportunities below:
- NHS Volunteer Responders – this is to support the 1.5m people in England most at risk from the virus.
- The Trussell Trust food bank network – they have set up their own online scheme to match volunteers with food banks.
- Local volunteer centres – these are local organisations that provide support and expertise within the local community. You can find a local Volunteer Centre here.
- Volunteering Matters – they can link you up with charities that are close to where you live.
- Do-it.org – this is a database of UK volunteering opportunities. You can search more than 1 million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location.
- Reach Volunteering – they will match people with specialist professional skills, such as IT expertise, to charities who need their help.
- COVID-19 Mutual Aid – this group was set up to co-ordinate “good neighbour” initiatives and has lists of local groups in your area.
Can I volunteer if I have been furloughed?
You can volunteer, but not for the organisation you normally work for. Furloughing is an ‘all or nothing’ decision. While on furlough, employees must not provide services or make money for (or on behalf of) their employer.
There’s a useful blog from NCVO on the details of this here.
I cannot commit to volunteering, are there other ways to help?
Charities of all sizes have been impacted by the sudden drop in income, caused by the cancellation or postponement of fundraising events, ranging from small village fetes and coffee mornings to the London Marathon. UK charities estimate they will lose over £4bn over the next few weeks. Without a steady stream of cash, thousands of charities will be forced to reduce services, or in some cases even close down.
2. Support your local food bank
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has made it much more difficult for many communities to financially or physically access food
- Find your local food bank – you can search for local food banks using Trussell Trust Foodbanks or Independent Food Aid Network. This list is not comprehensive as some foodbanks may be independent.
- Find out what they need – they will usually share the essential resources they need online, or they will share contact details for you to enquire.
- Donate to your local food bank online – If you are based in London, Coventry, Brighton or Gateshead, you can donate to your local foodbank remotely. Bankuet is a system set up to enable direct giving between supermarkets and foodbanks online.
3. Donate blood
The NHS Blood Donation have stated that their centres are open, and blood donation is still taking place. The Government recognises that blood donation is essential travel, so it is ok to leave your house to give blood if you are fit and well.
Can I set up my own support group?
Yes, anyone can set up a group. This does not have to be for your whole district, it can just be for your neighbourhood or for the street you live on. It is recommended to set up a communication platform like a Whatsapp group or a Facebook group so that you can communicate with your volunteers.
If you do not have the resources to set up your own group, you might find that there’s already a group set up close to your location. Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK are continually updating their website with new and emerging groups, you can find a group local to you here.
Safeguarding and DBS Checking
According to government guidelines, there is no legal requirement to carry out DBS checks on volunteers. Many of the roles that volunteers will carry out in their local communities do not raise safeguarding issues and do not need a DBS check.
Adopting simple precautions like keeping records of money spent and providing shopping receipts supports you in helping your neighbourhoods whilst protecting vulnerable residents.
For further information, consider reading through this useful guide to safeguarding for support groups.
Do not pass on personal data from volunteers and those requesting help to anyone, especially other organisations or institutions. This includes making sure you do not pass on information to your local council or government body. Your council can support your group without needing to know specifics of who you are supporting directly.
A basic guide to data protection for support groups can be found here.
Insurance for Volunteers
When you are setting up a group, you should consider the types of insurance cover needed to protect your volunteers. Without the correct cover in place, your group or your volunteers could be found legally liable if something goes wrong.
When purchasing insurance to cover volunteers, it is important to bear in mind that volunteers are not ‘employees’ and may not be automatically considered as a ‘third party’ under your Public Liability Insurance. If you’ve taken out employers’ liability insurance, your volunteers should also be covered under this policy, although you should always double-check under the Employers’ Liability section of your insurance policy.
The types of insurance available to protect volunteers include:
- Employers’ liability insurance – this provides cover for the group if a member of staff or volunteer is harmed whilst carrying out their duties.
- Public liability insurance – this covers the group and the volunteers against any accidental injuries or any damage that is caused to the public or their property.
- Cyber insurance – this covers your volunteers if they accidentally share confidential data. It also covers data breaches and hacking.
Other useful information
Coronavirus: How to help safely – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-how-to-help-safely–2/coronavirus-how-to-help-safely
Want to volunteer and help communities respond to coronavirus? – https://volunteeringmatters.org.uk/want-to-volunteer-and-help-communities-respond-to-coronavirus/
COVID-19/Coronavirus support for charities – https://valonline.org.uk/covid-19-coronavirus-support-for-charities/
National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA) – https://navca.org.uk/
About BHIB Charities Insurance
BHIB Charities Insurance specialise in providing tailored cover for community groups, clubs, societies, voluntary organisations and hobby or special interest groups. We offer more than just insurance and we are passionate about supporting local communities.
Any views or opinions expressed above are for guidance only and are expressed in generic terms. They are not intended as a substitute for readers taking appropriate professional advice relevant to individual circumstances. We would always encourage readers to seek professional advice.