- Latest advice on staying safe and minimising the risk of infection
- How to help others safely
- Protecting yourself, your staff and your volunteers
Go to NHS.UK/coronavirus for information about the virus and how to protect yourself.
Guidelines from the Government published on 26 March 2020 – Coronavirus How to Help Safely
You can only provide support to people who are in isolation if you fulfil ALL of the conditions below:
You are well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature and nobody in your household does
You are under 70
You are not pregnant
You do not have any long-term health conditions that make you vulnerable to coronavirus.
Volunteering to help others will be crucial in the response to coronavirus and people have not been stopped from doing this. However, volunteering that requires going out of the house is now only permitted in certain circumstances. If you are well and are not at risk from coronavirus you can undertake essential activities including:
Helping people with their medical needs, such as picking up prescriptions
Providing essential care or to help a vulnerable person or person(s), including through essential public and voluntary services, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions.
Please see our dedicated page to find out how you can volunteer – volunteering in a time of coronavirus (Covid-19).
Number of community venues are allowed to stay open, including:
- care homes
- services providing food or drink to the homeless
- food banks and many other community facilities
If your organisation or group is asking people to go somewhere to volunteer:
- consider if the activity can be completed at home or temporarily stopped
- advise people to stay at least two metres away from others
- hand washing facilities should be provided
- make sure volunteers know they should self-isolate if they, or someone in their household becomes unwell
- make sure volunteers don’t feel pressured to continue if they want to stop volunteering
- consider how volunteers travel to your organisation
Where people require support the first option should always be to rely on friends, family, or neighbours who already know one another. If this is not possible, there are some very simple steps that can be taken to make arrangements with community volunteers as safe as possible. Particular care must be taken where children or vulnerable adults, such as those with dementia or other medical needs, are helped.
For local organisations being spontaneously set up to support people in the local community there are sensible and pragmatic steps that can be taken. The most important thing you can do as a volunteer organiser is to ensure your group considers safeguarding practices. Adopting simple precautions like keeping records of money spent and providing shopping receipts supports you in helping your neighbourhoods whilst protecting vulnerable residents. Vulnerable people still need to be protected, particularly where money is involved in paying for food and medications and systems need to be put in place to protect them.
Volunteers and helpers should all be carrying ID with them, which ought to include the volunteer’s name (photograph if possible), your organisation’s name (and logo if available) and a main contact telephone number for your organisation, if anyone wishes to verify the service. If you need support with stationery or printing please speak to 3VA. Finally, volunteers should not enter people’s home.
Every organisation, even an informal one, should always consider having simple guidance for volunteers, issued to all volunteers and helpers. If you need help with drafting the document please contact us.
Report your concerns if you are worried about a vulnerable adult
As the situation with COVID-19 develops, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) remains committed to keeping vital services running and providing the support everyone needs, especially to the most vulnerable. In response to this unprecedented situation, and in line with Government guidance, safeguarding and protecting the most vulnerable adults in our community remains a priority.
During this difficult time ESCC would like to reassure you that safeguarding concerns will be responded to. Referrals should continue to be made if a person is at risk of, or experiencing, abuse or neglect. Safeguarding is everyone’s business, so it is important that ESCC remains alert to possible abuse or neglect concerns. Now more than ever it is important that we are watchful and alert towards the signs and indicators of abuse and neglect.
ESCC knows that many people have signed up to volunteer and help the most vulnerable. Their role is important, not only in helping people to get the things they need, but also being the extra eyes and ears for those who are at risk of abuse or neglect. During this time there is less likely to be professional face-to-face contact with vulnerable people, so ESCC is more reliant on volunteers and members of the public to report their concerns to it.
If you have a concern about an adult at risk you should:
Contact East Sussex County Council’s Health and Social Care Connect. Due to the high volume of calls they are receiving, people are being advised to email if their call is not answered within 5 minutes: call on 0345 60 80 191 or email HSCC@eastsussex.gov.uk.
If you have a concern about a child at risk you should:
East Sussex County Council’s Single Point of Access (SPoA) Monday to Thursday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm and Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm on 01323 464 222. The can also contact the out of hours team on 01273 335 905 or 01273 335 906 or email SPoA@eastsussex.gov.uk.
For more online information about safeguarding please visit www.eastsussexsab.org.uk or see 3VA’s guide to Supporting Adults Through the Coronavirus Pandemic. Please note that this document may only be used in terms of awareness whilst we are in the Covid-19 emergency and should not be used once this is over as 3VA and East Sussex Training team offer comprehensive safeguarding training for all staff and volunteers who support East Sussex County Council residents.
- Sussex Safeguarding Adults Policy and Procedures
- Guidance on Raising Concerns about Abuse and Neglect
- NCVO Guidance on Safeguarding and Policies and Procedures: Specialist Guides and Policies and Procedures
- Safeguarding policy templates
Normal safeguarding rules apply to any activities; you cannot bypass or fast track the safeguarding process. Those who visit vulnerable people in their homes must be DBS checked. However, most roles for volunteers in the current situation (e.g. delivering food to the door) will not involve them coming into contact with people and for this there is no legal requirement to carry out DBS checks. Some established organisations and charities may have their own strict safeguarding and DBS policies in place and may require volunteers to have DBS checks; please respect this. The Disclosure is working to process any checks as quickly as possible.
The only people who are legally prevented from volunteering with children and vulnerable adults are those who have been barred from doing so by DBS. All community groups and organisations should ask their volunteers if they have been barred. If they have been barred, then you should not allow them to work closely with children or vulnerable adults.
For more information visit Government Advice (published on 25 March 2020) – Safeguarding and DBS Factsheet: FAQs
Organisations and community helpers should consider how to safely handle money. We have created advice using information from the government and national and local charities, with plenty of practical examples and tips.
For more information, see Volunteer Centre East Sussex advice (published 2 April 2020): Coronavirus community response – advice on shopping support and handling money.
Delivering food and other goods safely
It is unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food and/ or packaging by following infection control advice. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, largely spread by infected droplets that are airborne following an infected person coughing or sneezing. There is some evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through hard surfaces including food items and food packaging. By following the advice below which has been approved by East Sussex County Council Public Health, you can minimise the risk of transmitting/ catching the virus.
Food stores are required to have a system in place for managing food safety. This includes guidance on food handling, ensuring staff have a high degree of personal cleanliness and that they wash their hands frequently and especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If you are delivering food to someone who is self-isolating, this is the advice we have received from Public Health and the Food Standard Agency:
- If you are unwell, you should not be delivering food. And if you are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus, or someone else in your household is, you should be following government advice and staying at home.
- Sanitise the trolley/basket handle and your hands before starting to shop.
- Do not touch your face with your hands while shopping.
- Touch only what you are going to buy.
- Sanitise your hands after shopping. If driving, sanitise your hands after touching the steering wheel.
- As the weather warms up, do not keep bags of perishable foods in your car.
- If it is not going to be delivered immediately, make sure you refrigerate perishable food to discourage the growth of bacteria.
- On arrival at the house you should knock on the door and then stand back (to a distance of at least 2 metres) and wait for the person to come to the door and take the parcel.
- There is no need to sanitise goods before they are delivered if you have followed the good practice above.
- If you are concerned that food has become contaminated, you, or the person you are delivering to, can wipe non-porous surfaces with food safe disinfectant or wash with hot soapy water.
- Advise the person you are delivering to that they should unpack the shopping and then wash their hands and any kitchen surfaces that the packaging has come into contact with, and dispose of the packing.
- Advise them that they should wash their hands before and after eating and frequently wipe down surfaces and door handles etc.
Further advice from the Government urges people to try to limit the amount of time spend outside of your home, by picking up essential items for others only when you do your own shopping. Or you could help those who aren’t as familiar with online shopping by placing an order for them or by talking them through the process over the phone.
Given the nature of the situation, it may not always be possible to pack or deliver food boxes in response to particular allergies or dietary requirements. It would, however, be good if your group or organisation has a process in place to advise people what the contents of their packages might contain.
For the shielded group, the Government guidance states that the parcel will comprise a box of household essentials – food (non-perishable goods) and basic supplies. As far as possible, this is a package that is universally suitable, but it cannot cater to all special dietary or religious requirements. The packages will include tinned meat and tinned tuna but as the product is packaged there is no risk of individuals having to touch foodstuffs that are unsuitable. The parcel itself includes a note flagging that those with special requirements should check the ingredients and that if there is a problem with having enough food to meet their needs, they should contact their local authority.
The recent Government advice (26 March 2020) states that you can pick up medicines on someone else’s behalf. People should only request medication that they need, in their usual quantities. Remember to keep a safe distance when leaving any items on the person’s doorstep or drop off area, and make sure that they have collected the medication before leaving.
Shielded Group patients should, in the first instance, ask friends, relatives, and neighbours to collect medicines for them. For other people the NHS advice is also for patients to ask a trusted family member or friend to pick up prescriptions from community pharmacies. This should meet the needs of the vast majority of people.
If that is not possible for either group, then safe local solutions should be followed (e.g. use DBS checked volunteers, volunteers from the NHS Volunteer Responders programme or another solution agreed between the patient and the pharmacy).
If this is not possible then the pharmacy may be able to deliver themselves, or ask another local pharmacy to deliver on their behalf. Pharmacy services differ, but they should all be trying to find a solution with the patient directly, but they may need the support of Community Hubs to arrange a volunteer.
For more information, please see Healthwatch’s leaflet Collecting a prescription for someone else?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment is not considered necessary for any of the volunteer roles currently being carried out during the pandemic.
Washing hands thoroughly and, where soap and water are unavailable, using sanitiser on your hands should be sufficient to protect yourself and others for all volunteer roles. Where a volunteer does decide to wear gloves, they should be advised that the possibility of cross-contamination still exists unless the gloves are discarded each time they come into contact with something that is potentially contaminated.
On 8th August, the UK government extended the mask mandate to include all indoor communal spaces as well as public transport. This includes community centres and social clubs. There are exemptions for those who are unable to wear a mask due to a physical or mental condition, employees, children under 11, and for those who wearing or removing a mask would cause extreme distress. The full guidance can be found on the page Face Coverings:when to wear one and how to make your own.
Currently there are no national plans or directives for CCGs or other organisations to issue unpaid carers with PPE. The current national system for PPE distribution is for Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered providers and those organisations that would usually access supplies via the NHS supply chain.
- Government Guidance for food bussinesses on coronavirus (COVID-19) incl Food Hygiene Guidance, published 25/03/2020
- Update on COVID-19 Pandemic Medicines Delivery Service (7/04/2020)
- How to do care safely – QueerCare
- How long does Coronavirus live on different surfaces? – Guardian Article, 26/03/2020
- COVID-19: infection prevention and control – GOV.UK
- Video on supporting volunteers in informal setting – VODA
- Telephone befriending advice – VODA
- Informal volunteering guidance – VODA
Posters and leaflets
Below are resources such as leaflets, posters, guides and resource packs for all campaigns that you can share.
If you are considering distributing any leaflets to households, please think whether this is an essential way of communicating and if you could reach people by other means. We are not aware, as yet, of any government advice on this. If you decide to distribute leaflets, follow safety guidelines to ensure that you are not exposing people to the virus and putting anyone at more harm.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Campaign Resources – Public Health England
- Coronavirus – easy read documents for people with learning disabilities – Photosymbol
When so many people around us are in need, it’s easy to forget that we are also responsible for taking care of our own health and wellbeing, as well as that of the staff and volunteers who are out there supporting others. It’s important to make sure that volunteers feel that they are looked after – some practical things you can try include setting up a WhatsApp group for the volunteers so they can support each other, providing gloves and hand sanitiser if they want them and making sure you keep in touch with volunteers regularly and check that they are ok and not feeling overloaded. Check out some advice from NCVO on supervising and supporting volunteers for some additional information and ideas.
NCVO has also created information on protecting and supporting the people working or volunteering in your charity or voluntary organisation, and those who use your services during the coronavirus outbreak. There are also additional resources out there to help you manage your mental health and wellbeing, physical activity, safety and more.
Mental health and wellbeing
You might be worried about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it could affect your life, incluing being asked to stay at home and avoiding other people. This might feel difficult or stressful. But there are lots of things you can try that could help your wellbeing.
- Guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19) – GOV.UK
- Public Health England’s new campaign to support people to manage their mental wellbeing during this difficult time, using Every Mind Matters self-care resources
- How to look after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak – Mental Health Foundation
- Mental health support in East Sussex – Southdown
- Mental health support for parents, carers, children and families – Holding Space Eastbourne
- Supporting Your Wellbeing – Wellbody Wellmind Wellbeing
- Coronavirus and your wellbeing – Mind
- Coronavirus: temporary changes to the Mental Health Act
Sport England has compiled some of the useful tips on how you can get active when at home, if you’re well enough.
- How to stay active while you’re at home – Sport England
- Exercising at home – British Paralympic Association
- Supporting Your Wellbeing – Wellbody Wellmind Wellbeing
- Health and Wellbeing – find out more and share some of your favourite local walks – Greenhavens Network
- Social distancing? No need to get stuck at home – Sussex Community Rail Partnership
- Getting active at home – Energise Me
The government’s advice on self or household-isolation and its direct impact on women and children experiencing domestic abuse.