Volunteering Safely during Covid

Tips on staying safe while volunteering during Covid

Volunteering Safely during Covid

This guidance provides information on the process and tips on staying safe while volunteering during covid. Please read this in conjunction with any guidance provided by the organisation where you volunteer.

Thank you for registering with Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets to volunteer in Tower Hamlets during the COVID-19 pandemic/recovery phase.

Applying for a volunteer role advertised by Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets (VCTH)

If you have registered on the VCTH website, we will normally alert you weekly by email to tell you about new volunteer roles. You can also check our website at any time to see what other roles are available.

Please read the adverts carefully and only apply for roles where you meet the eligibility criteria and are available at the times required. This helps us to ensure that volunteers with the right skills and availability are deployed quickly where they are needed.

  • Once you have expressed interest in a role we have advertised, your details will be passed on to the recruiting organisation – either a local charity or public sector body. They will be in touch with you if they wish to take up your offer to volunteer with them. Sometimes, we will ask you to contact them.
  • Occasionally the organisation you have chosen to support will receive more volunteer offers than it can take up. If you do not hear from them within 2 weeks, feel free to email us at info@vcth.org.uk to let us know and we will try to help.
  • Some roles have selection processes, such as application forms or informal interviews. If you are not selected, or you don’t meet the criteria for the roles we have advertised so far, please don’t be discouraged. There are new roles advertised every week, so watch out for our email alerts and apply for something else. You are very welcome to volunteer for more than one role. View all our volunteer roles.
  • Some adverts for volunteer roles might only be visible for a short time. As soon as we have received enough expressions of interest, we will take down adverts. You may see a message that says; “This volunteering role is now closed”. Please be patient and wait for alerts about similar roles or take a look on our website to see what else you could do.
  • Most of the volunteer roles we advertise do NOT require you to have a DBS check (criminal record check). If a role states that you must ALREADY have a clear DBS check this means that you should have an existing DBS certificate from a previous employer or volunteer role. Never apply for a Basic level DBS check yourself, as there is a cost involved (£23) and you may not be selected to be a volunteer by the organisation. Please do NOT send a copy of your DBS certificate to Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets. It should only be sent to the organisation that you are volunteering for, if and when they ask to see it.

Your own health / transmitting the virus to others

You must follow the latest government guidelines and legal requirements to stay safe and prevent the spread. Recent and upcoming changes can be found here.

COVID-19 infection and hospitalisation rates continue to remain high in Tower Hamlets and there is still a risk you could catch or pass on the virus, even if you are fully vaccinated. Therefore, we advise volunteers to continue to be very cautious and take precautions to keep themselves and others safe, such as:

  • Volunteer outdoors if possible
  • If volunteering indoors, try to maintain social distancing, increase ventilation where possible, and wear face coverings in enclosed and crowded areas, unless you are exempt
  • When travelling, follow the guidance on travelling safely. Plan your journey, try to walk or cycle, avoid busy peak times when using public transport, and wear a face covering unless you are exempt (this is currently mandatory due to the Omicron variant)
    Avoid sharing a car journey with anyone outside your household or support bubble.
  • Wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after volunteering, and where possible during the activity. Use hand sanitiser when soap and water is not available. Avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid entering other people’s homes, especially clinically vulnerable people or people who believe they may be infected and are self-isolating. If you are delivering food or medication, ring the bell, place the items on the doorstep, stand back at least 1 metre, then wait for the door to be answered.
  • Test yourself regularly using rapid lateral flow tests even if you don’t have symptoms. Test kits are available free of charge online or from selected local pharmacies and community venues.
  • Take up the offer of COVID-19 vaccination when it is offered, and get both doses and the booster for increased protection
  • If you develop COVID-19 symptoms (a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss of taste/smell), you and everyone you live with will need to self-isolate and get a PCR test online or book an appointment at a test centre. You must then follow the government requirements on when to self-isolate.

The organisation where you are volunteering should be following government guidance on involving volunteers safely including carrying out a health and safety risk assessment.

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable (at high risk from coronavirus) you should follow the government guidance on protecting yourself, thinking particularly carefully about taking precautions when meeting others you do not usually meet. For example, you could reduce your social interactions and the time you spend in places that are crowded and do not have good ventilation. You may want to look out for volunteer roles that can be carried out from home or outdoors. We often advertise roles you can do from home such as telephone befriending, mentoring, helplines, administration, tutoring workshops and more. There may also be some outdoor roles, particularly during the summer months. You should tell the organisation you’re volunteering with that you are at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. They may be able to give you extra support to maintain social distancing and minimise contact with others.

If volunteering in a role outside of your home, you should not attend volunteering if:

  • You have coronavirus symptoms or if you have tested positive for coronavirus
  • You’ve been told to self-isolate by NHS test and trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
  • You are self-isolating/quarantining after travelling abroad

Contact your Volunteer Co-ordinator immediately to say that you cannot currently volunteer and explain why. Volunteering should not start again until the end of the isolation period.

Your safety and safety of others

  • Make sure someone knows your whereabouts at all times - ideally a friend or family member. Ask them to contact the organisation where you are volunteering if they have any concerns about your safety. Do not place yourself in positions where you may feel unsafe, for instance helping late at night.
  • Keep people’s personal information and circumstances confidential so as not to compromise their safety or privacy. Do not share other people’s details with friends and family, or on social media. Do not take along a child, partner or other family member when volunteering, as this would be disclosing the address of the client. If you want to volunteer with someone in your household or support bubble, this is sometimes possible (eg driver and driver’s mate to make deliveries), but you will both have to sign up as volunteers.
  • Do not offer any advice unless you are trained to do so. Sometimes well-meaning advice can lead to negative consequences.
  • If someone offers you a gift, politely decline it, informing them that you have been instructed to do so by the organisation you are volunteering with.
  • Some (but not all) organisations may issue you with a letter of authorisation or volunteer ID card. If they do, please carry it while volunteering.
  • Don’t take on too much - it's better not to offer at all than to let someone down. You can always apply later for more volunteer roles.

Delivering Shopping, Food and Medication

  • If you are delivering shopping/food or collecting prescriptions for someone, please follow the points in the sections above on ‘your own health / transmitting the virus to others’ and ‘your safety’.
  • If at all possible, the person you are helping should telephone the shop/pharmacy to pay for goods and services over the phone, or use a Click and Collect service.
  • If you purchase items for someone, make sure you get a receipt which you can give to the person you are helping. Take a photo on your phone of the receipt as evidence and keep this.
    If you are worried about handling money from those who are self-isolating, consider contactless payment methods such as Paypal.
  • If you are handling cash, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser.
  • Always carry photo ID when you are collecting prescriptions. Understand and follow any procedures set by the pharmacy. Ensure that the medication is sealed by the pharmacy and ask the person you are helping to confirm that they have received a sealed package. Never leave prescription medication unattended in a car.

Telephone befriending

Further information