Coronavirus (Covid-19) advice for voluntary organisations

16 December 2021

We've provided practical guidance and advice for organisations preparing to restart their volunteer programmes post Covid-19 restrictions.

Evidence shows that the new, highly transmissible Omicron strain of COVID-19 can infect those who have been vaccinated, or previously infected.

New guidance has been introduced by the Scottish Government to stem the flow of transmission, keep businesses and services open, and protect against pressure on health services. 

To stay safe you should:


Key changes to Scottish Governmenr guidance include:

  • limit the number of contacts you have and gather in small groups of no more than 3 households - it would be sensible to postpone work Christmas parties
  • avoid crowded places – shop at quieter times where possible and follow the enhanced precautions in shops and hospitality venues, which may include controlled entrances and exits to limit customer numbers, and signs and floor markings to help people keep a safe distance from others
  • work from home if you can
  • you will need proof of a negative LFD test to visit someone in hospital or a care home or to accompany someone to medical appointments

 

As we know, volunteering happens in a wide range of settings from traditional office spaces to community centres, so it is important that everyone continues to follow the Scottish Government guidance. This compliance self-assessment tool from the Scottish Government will help you assess the effectiveness of COVID-19 control measures within your workplace.

Read more about ‘Safer Premises’ including information on ‘Risk assessments and control’, ‘Physical distancing, hygiene and PPE’, ‘Charity Shops’ plus more here in the SCVO Coronavirus Info Hub.

Scottish Government have also provided sector specific covid-19 guidance (including business, health, education, and housing), view here

 

Things to consider:

1. Provide clear guidance to volunteers around health-related matters. 

This includes when to self-isolate, what do I do if they become unwell whilst volunteering and otherwise following best practice to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus. Follow the latest advice provided by NHS inform in this regard.

2. Do you have a Business Continuity Plan or a Covid-19 policy?

This should be the main source of practical advice for the organisation (including volunteering). If volunteering is not included, relevant information should be added, asap. 

3. Consider if and how volunteers can work remotely. 

Volunteers may still need to work from home at this time. 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. 

4. 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. For volunteers who have high availability, ask if they would be willing to increase their volunteering temporarily to help fill gaps. 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 (especially if there is a significant decrease in availability).

5. 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 off work, may be afraid of missing work through volunteering etc.

6. 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. 

7. 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.