Following an initial update from the Office for Civil Society in early November, the government has issued new and detailed guidance on safe and effective volunteering in England during the coronavirus pandemic.
The guidance, from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, is aimed at VCSE organisations and groups that work with volunteers. It covers different volunteering scenarios and precautions, including the rules around group volunteering, coronavirus testing, and volunteering from home.
Please read the guidance fully to be aware of best practice. Here are the main points we've summarised:
- Volunteers should work from home if possible. They can volunteer outside the home, including in a workplace, if they are unable to do so from home, they do not need to self-isolate, they are not Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV), and they follow social distancing guidance. They must not volunteer outside the home if they, or somebody they live with, show coronavirus symptoms or test positive for coronavirus. If volunteering in a workplace, they must follow COVID-secure workplace guidance, and that workplace must not have been ordered to close.
- Volunteers can meet in groups of any size, indoors and outdoors, whilst volunteering. They must obey social distancing guidelines and the 'HANDS, FACE, SPACE' government advice.
- Face coverings must be worn by volunteers, unless they are medically exempt, in: an enclosed public space, a situation where social distancing of 1 metre plus isn't possible, and a place where they come into contact with people they do not usually meet. Volunteering in retail, hospitality and leisure industries also involves wearing a face covering.
- Volunteers in key work or essential worker roles will be prioritised for coronavirus testing. As mentioned previously, people should not volunteer outside the home if they or someone in their household display coronavirus symptoms, or test positive for coronavirus.
- Volunteers can travel to volunteer or during their volunteering session, but they are advised to walk or cycle where possible, avoid busy times and routes on public transport, and plan their journey.
- Organisations and groups using volunteers must make sure they follow the HSE guidance on COVID-secure workplaces. Once they are clear on the guidance, they should sign, date and display the downloadable notice in their workplace.
- Organisations and groups need to carry out risk assessments to make sure volunteers are safe and supported. The guidelines have links to relevant information, including changes to DBS checks, and safeguarding advice.
Safeguarding volunteers, staff and the public remains vital, especially during a pandemic. We would urge all volunteer managers and group coordinators, whether you're part of a neighbourhood mutual aid group or an established organisation, to follow government guidance.
However, well-intentioned it may be, volunteering without considering the health, wellbeing and safety of others (people in the community, staff and fellow volunteers) could do more harm than good.
If you are unsure about anything in the government guidance and how it applies to your group or organisation, please contact the Voscur development team by filling out this online form, or by calling 0117 909 9949.