Are volunteers on lockdown?

For our latest guidance on volunteering and covid-19, please visit our coronavirus pages on NCVO Knowhow.

A question on many people’s lips is ‘can people still volunteer under the lockdown?’ We’ve spoken to the government and looked at the guidance. Here’s what we know.

Are people still allowed to volunteer?

The announcement from the government on 23 March 2020 made it clear. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home. If people are volunteering from home, great – carry on.

However, if volunteering means people need to leave the house, this should be done following government advice. This includes exceptions to the ‘stay at home’ instruction for people providing care to others and needing to travel. In other words, people can go out to volunteer if they’re providing help to vulnerable people or if their volunteering cannot be done from home.

Can people still support vulnerable neighbours?

If these neighbours need care or help, then yes. But:

  • make sure you minimise the time you’re spending outside
  • only do it if you’re feeling well, aren’t in an especially high-risk group and haven’t been advised to self-isolate
  • only provide support where it’s essential for the health or well-being of a vulnerable person.

Here are some top tips for staying safe when looking out for neighbours.

Can I still ask people to come to my organisation’s premises to volunteer?

The government has said people can still go to workplaces if they cannot work from home. This includes if you need to go somewhere to volunteer. However, this should only be the case if you cannot volunteer from home.

Many organisations have been told to close to help combat the coronavirus. But many community venues will be able to stay open, including:

  • care homes
  • services providing food or drink to the homeless
  • food banks and many other community facilities.

If you’re asking people to go somewhere to volunteer:

  • consider if the activity can be completed at home or temporarily stopped
  • advise people to stay at least two metres – about three steps – away from others
  • hand washing facilities should be provided
  • make sure volunteers know they should self-isolate if they, or someone in their household becomes unwell
  • make sure volunteers don’t feel pressured to continue if they want to stop volunteering
  • consider how volunteers travel to your organisation

Are volunteers considered key workers?

Key worker guidance is different to the guidance asking people to stay at home. It’s about whether you can send your children to school. The guidance lists activities key workers do and applies to people in paid and unpaid roles.

If you’re volunteering in a key worker role, you’re allowed to send your children to school. If you’re not volunteering in a key worker role, you can’t send your children to school, but you may still be allowed to leave the house to volunteer.

Keep an eye on the latest guidance

The UK government, NHS England and Public Health England are regularly updating their advice on the above points. We recommend looking at the latest guidance when making decisions on volunteering.

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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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