Coronavirus (Covid-19) advice for voluntary organisations

20 March 2020

We've provided practical guidance for organisations managing volunteers during Coronavirus (Covid-19).

advice vio covidThis article has a specific volunteering management focus. If you're looking for information about how volunteering will impact your organisation more directly, please refer to the Coronavirus Third Sector Information Hub

Updated: 24/03/20

As of 23 March 2020 the government introduced 3 new measures:  

  1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Every citizen must comply with these measures effective immediately. 

What does this mean for volunteering?

Only services which are essential should be provided in communities. Volunteers should be encouraged to look out for their neighbours. Please ensure you heed all relevant advice around staying safe and keeping others around you safe. 

 

1. Provide clear guidance to volunteers on health-related issues. This includes when to self-isolate, what do I do if you become unwell whilst volunteering and otherwise following best practice to prevent catching or spreading Coronavirus.

Follow the latest advice provided by Health Protection Scotland and NHS inform in this regard. See this related article also. 

2. Assess the impact on your volunteering programme and make changes. The nature of volunteering has changed and you may decide to suspend your existing volunteering programme at this time. You could also consider if/how to flip from volunteering that relies largely on social connection and face-to-face, to volunteering that operates remotely and uses virtual technology. See this advice from Befriending Networks.

3. Postpone large-scale volunteer events or training in the next few months. Social distancing by avoiding crowds and events helps “flatten the curve” of the virus and helps keep cases within the capacity of our NHS.

4. Consider if and how volunteers can work remotely. Volunteers may need to work from home particularly if impacted by school closures and caring responsibilities. As well as thinking about the work volunteers can complete for your organisation remotely you should determine what considerations have been made around infrastructure, equipment and processes required to allow volunteers to work remotely and the ongoing support they need. 

5. Involve volunteers in planning around volunteering. Include volunteers in decision-making around plans and policies affecting them. Having volunteers at the table will ensure that their concerns are heard and addressed. Ask volunteers about their availability to continue volunteering 1) currently, 2) if schools were to close, 3) if self isolated (only if remote volunteering is possible). For volunteers who have high availability, ask if they would be willing to increase their volunteering temporarily to help fill gaps (given that they are healthy). Track responses and keep a database/spreadsheet of volunteers who anticipate availability in certain situations.

Work with other community stakeholders and TSIs to prioritize programming/services delivered by volunteers and determine where volunteering services should be focused if there is a significant decrease in availability.

6. The ways you can get involved / help are changing. You and your volunteers can still get help. There are resources available and ways to provide support at this time.

For those organisations that have capacity to help (and can do so safely):

For those that need help, you can register with the Community Assistance Directory: Help needed

This is a time to think about the needs of your volunteers:

7. Review your Business Continuity Plan or Covid-19 policy provide advice for your volunteers? Your volunteers will look to you for this practical advice that will apply to their  volunteering at this time.  

8. Can your volunteers still clearly communicate their needs? Check that there is a clear system in place for getting in touch with volunteers / the organisation (e.g. when cancelling a shift). Also, make sure that your emergency contact details are up-to-date. Be open to discuss honestly the situation with volunteers and exercise your duty of care towards them. At a minimum, this should be about encouraging volunteers to be cautious and to take care of themselves.

Volunteers just as for other members of society may be experiencing heightened anxiety - understand that COVID-19 and the response needed, affects each of us differently. Volunteers who are elderly or immunocompromised are at increased threat for serious complications. Volunteers living in poverty are less equipped financially to prepare for self-isolation. Those who have limited sick time or can't afford a period of time off work, may be afraid of missing work through volunteering etc.

9. Remember volunteering is a choice, freely made. If your volunteer decides for any reason not to volunteer support their decision, including and up to a decision to temporarily suspend their volunteering during this uncertain time. Please advise they take all necessary precautions if they're immunocompromised, or live with/care for someone who is immunocompromised. 

10. Ensure your volunteering roles meet the tests set by the Volunteer Charter. Specifically, the Volunteer Charter states that 'Volunteers and paid workers should be able to carry out their duties in safe, secure and healthy environments'. Whilst the charter helps safeguard jobs (making clear the distinction between volunteering and paid work) it should not be interpreted as preventing a volunteering effort which is clearly welcomed by all parties, at this time.   

Please get in touch if you have any other questions or comments via hello@volunteerscotland.org.uk