Coronavirus (Covid-19) advice for volunteers

16 December 2021

We've provided practical guidance and advice for individuals preparing volunteer during 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

 

If you are resuming volunteer activity with an organisation, please consider the following advice:

1. Does the organisation have a Business Continuity Plan or a Covid-19 policy?

This is the starting point for practical advice that will apply to volunteering. Read it and digest it. If volunteering is not included, advocate to leadership that information on volunteers be added asap.

2. Can you, as a volunteer, clearly communicate your needs?

Check that there is a clear system in place for getting in touch with your organisation (e.g. when cancelling a shift). If you're unsure of what this is, ask. Also, make sure that your emergency contact details are up to date.  It's important that you can discuss honestly your situation and that managers / organisations exercise their duty of care towards you. 

3. Remember volunteering is a choice, freely made.

If you decide not to volunteer for any reason your organisation will support your decision, including and up to a decision to temporarily suspend your own volunteering at this time. Please take all necessary precautions if you are immunocompromised or live with/care for someone who is immunocompromised. 

4. Does your volunteering 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.

5. Be clear on when to self-isolate.

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms you should self-isolate immediately and take a PCR test. If you do not have symptoms, you can order rapid lateral flow tests for regular testing at home. More information available here.

6. Be clear on what to do if you become unwell whilst volunteering?

This advice is based on that provided by NHS inform. If you develop any of the COVID-19 symptoms, please inform your volunteer manager or another manager immediately and go home to self-isolate or if you are seriously unwell, call NHS 111 or dial 999. Please:

  • Keep at least 2 meters away from others
  • Avoid touching anything
  • Advise your volunteer manager (or other manager) of any areas you’ve been to or surfaces you may have touched in the office
  • Advise of anyone you’ve been in close contact with since feeling unwell
  • If you are able to drive home, you should do so. If you have arrived by public transport or car share, you should arrange a taxi or a driver to take you home.
  • If you are seriously unwell and require medical attention, we advise you be isolated while you wait for advice or an ambulance.

Your organisation should arrange for an office deep clean after any affected volunteer has left the building.

7. Follow best practice to prevent catching or spreading Coronavirus.

This advice is based on that provided by NHS inform. This was current at time of publish, as follows:  

  • wash your hands more often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser
  • wear a face covering if you use public transport, use school transport (children aged 5 and over), visit a care home or hospital, or go to a shop, library, museum, bank or church
  • work from home if you can – your employer should support you to do this
  • use phone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services
  • keep rooms well ventilated when meeting other households indoors, if possible consider opening windows or a door

Should you be given Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to carry out your volunteering? If you are volunteering with beneficiaries, or you yourself are, at higher threat of serious complications, take all recommended precautions. This includes use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as and when guided by your organisation.

8. Get involved in planning around volunteering.

Volunteers should be included in decision-making around plans and policies affecting them. Having volunteers at the table will ensure that concerns are heard and addressed.

Organisations should ask their volunteers about their availability to continue volunteering. For those with high availability, they should be asked if they would be willing to increase their volunteering temporarily to help fill gaps. Organisations should track responses and keep a database/spreadsheet of volunteers who anticipate availability in certain situations.

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

9. Consider if and how you can work remotely.

You may need to volunteer from home. Your organisation should determine what considerations need to be made around infrastructure, equipment and processes required to allow you to volunteer remotely and the ongoing support you need.

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