Volunteers responding to coronavirus

When crisis hits, people step up – and we’re seeing lots of that right now. So I’d like to say thanks to all those people volunteering their time and everyone managing and coordinating volunteer efforts. It’s great to see volunteers recognised as key roles in health and social care in today’s government announcement.   

I also want to share some information which we hope will be useful. This’ll let you know what’s happening behind the scenes in the response to the coronavirus.  

Help out in communities 

There’ll be more information on the best ways to volunteer in the coming days. For now, we’ve developed a page for people who want to help – including the best way to do this and how to stay safe.  

The simplest thing everyone can do right now is to look out for their neighbours. Such as offering help with shopping and other errands if people cannot get out of the house. It’s not just about neighbours whore self-isolating. Others who might also appreciate an offer of help are: 

  • stretched medical staff and volunteers 
  • staff and volunteers in key worker roles
  • supermarket staff  
  • delivery drivers.  

Sign up to volunteer

That said, people are still keen to sign up to volunteer – which is great!  

Charitiesgovernment, health organisations and local authorities are working on ways for people to get involved. We’re sure you are too and so are we –  here are some things to start you off: 

  • This is a marathon not a sprint. We’re not at the peak and your help will be even more crucial in a few weeks’ time. So find ways to collect details of potential volunteers to call when you need them.
  • Some of your volunteers might need to stop. This is particularly true for volunteers who’re aged over 70 and those with underlying medical conditions. Please make sure your volunteers know current government advice, which volunteers might need to stop, and how this might impact your services.
  • Some of your volunteers could give time elsewhere. Some organisations have taken the decision to slow down or close as part of the virus response. If that’s you, maybe you want to partner with a charity that’s increasing their efforts and needs more volunteers.  

Can anyone set themselves up as a support group? 

Anyone can set up a group and it’s great people have a natural impulse to do so. Once you start to form an organisation you encounter more legal responsibilities by default. This includes how you’re managing safeguarding and a common part of doing that is criminal record checks along with references. We’ve made all our KnowHow guidance free for everyone to access any further information you may need.  

Particularly, people have been asking about volunteer safety. Two places you might want to look first are: 

The laws around this can be quite complicated. That’s part of why the best advice for now is to check on your neighbours – if everyone does this we’ll be doing really well.  

We’re doing what we can to support groups that are setting up to make sure they’re safe and effective. If you need support, keep an eye on our website for further guidance coming soon.  

Does volunteering at times like this put vulnerable people at risk?  

99.9% of people absolutely want to do the right thing – but the sad reality is there are always a handful of people who’ll exploit any situation. If people are just looking out for their neighbours, the risk is relatively small – especially if they follow our steps. Often, the risk of not looking out for each other are worse. 

People also need to be careful about the situations they’re putting themselves in. It’s not just about protecting potentially vulnerable people but also avoiding a situation where they could being accused of wrongdoing. I’d be especially wary of handling people’s money, or going into people’s home alone, for example. 

That’s the reason why charities have procedures in place like criminal records checks and references. These are to prevent people from being able to take advantage.  

Keep in touch

This is a fast-moving situation. NCVO has set up communication channels to link up: 

  • National volunteering infrastructure and the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership  
  • Government and health volunteering schemes 
  • Volunteer Centres, CVS’s (via NAVCA) and other regional/local infrastructure 
  • Brokers (for example, Do-it)
  • Business 

We’ll keep you up to date on the latest developments. You can follow updates on the NCVO website@NCVOVolunteers and through networks which you’re members of.  

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Shaun Delaney Shaun is volunteering development manager at NCVO, overseeing strategy for volunteer management and good practice. Previously, he was head of volunteering at Samaritans and is currently a volunteer trustee of Greater London Volunteering.

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