This government guidance is for volunteers and those receiving support from volunteers.
Part 1 – Giving Support to Others
The most important thing you can do to fight coronavirus is to follow social distancing guidance. This will help control the virus and save lives.
Whether you choose to volunteer will depend on the type of activities you would like to do, and the risks associated with that for you as an individual. We recommend that you check guidance on how to manage the risk of coronavirus before you volunteer. If you volunteer via an organisation you should also contact them for advice on if it is safe for you to volunteer.
When volunteering you should follow health and safety guidance, using safety measures appropriate to the risk.
If you live in Scotland, go to Ready Scotland for the latest information.
If you live in Northern Ireland, go to NI Direct for the latest information.
You can find coronavirus (COVID-19) volunteering opportunities in Volunteer placements, rights and expenses
If you run a volunteer-involving organisation or group, or manage volunteers, you can read guidance on enabling safe and effective volunteering during coronavirus.
1. Stay safe as a volunteer
If you are volunteering, you must follow social distancing guidance. If you do not follow this advice, you could put yourself at risk of infection, or risk spreading it to others.
You must volunteer from home unless it is not reasonably possible for you to do so.
You can volunteer outside your home if:
- you cannot volunteer from home
- you follow the social distancing guidelines
- you’ve not been told to self-isolate by NHS test and trace
- you’re not self-isolating for any other reason
This also applies to clinically vulnerable people.
If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you should volunteer from home. You should not volunteer outside your home.
Where you are unable to volunteer from home, you are allowed to travel in order to volunteer or while volunteering. You should:
- where possible, stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live, unless absolutely necessary
- walk or cycle if you can – where that is not possible, use public transport or drive
- plan ahead and avoid the busiest routes, as well as busy times
- follow the safer travel guidance.
If you are volunteering outside your home, you can meet in groups of any size indoors or outdoors while volunteering.
Taking part in a volunteering activity does not mean you can meet in person as part of a social activity.
If you volunteer at a formal support group, there cannot be more than 15 participants (aged 5 and older) in the group itself but there is no limit on the number of volunteers. For example, 5 volunteers could support up to 15 parents and children in a group session, to make a group of 20 in total. Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support – but they must take place at a premises other than a private home.
When meeting people from outside your household or support bubble, you should be especially careful to follow social distancing guidance and observe the following key behaviours:
- HANDS – Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
- FACE – Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
- SPACE – Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).
Within workplaces, the risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.
If you are volunteering in a workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).
Organisations should not knowingly require or encourage volunteers who are being required to self-isolate to volunteer at a location other than where they are required to self-isolate.
If you are volunteering through a voluntary or community group, contact that organisation for advice on how you can stay safe.
If you volunteer in a critical worker role, you are allowed to send your children to school or other educational settings.
Further guidelines on staying safe can be found on staying safe outside your home.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 — a high temperature, new and persistent cough or anosmia, however mild — you should self-isolate for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started OR if you are not experiencing symptoms but have tested positive for COVID-19 you should self-isolate for at least 10 days starting from the day the test was taken.
If you have tested positive whilst not experiencing symptoms but develop symptoms during the isolation period, you should restart the 10 day isolation period from the day you develop symptoms.
You can find information on the NHS Test and Trace service guidance page, including what happens if you test positive for COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive.
1.1 If you’re worried about someone’s health
Contact the NHS:
- Online: NHS 111 online Coronavirus service (for help and advice)
- Phone: 111 (if symptoms get worse)
- Phone: 999 (if someone’s life is at risk)
If you are worried about someone’s mental health, tell them to get help and support from Every Mind Matters.
2. Stay safe if a volunteer is helping you
Read the guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing). Your safety is important and must come first.
The below are recommendations you should follow when a volunteer is helping you, especially if the volunteer is unknown to you.
If a volunteer is helping you while you stay at home:
- do not give them your credit or debit card numbers or other financial information
- ask for ID if someone you do not know calls at your home
- only share your phone number or address if you need to
- only give your information on a need-to-know basis
- do not let them pressure you into giving information
Remember that volunteers should not enter your home, unless it is absolutely necessary.
If you have serious concerns about the behaviour of someone who is helping you, report this to the police.
3. Face coverings
You must wear a face covering by law in some public places unless you have a reasonable excuse for not wearing one (for example, you are not able to wear one because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability).
You are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
When disposing of face coverings and PPE, people should do so in a ‘black bag’ waste bin or litter bin. Face coverings or PPE should not be put in a recycling bin or dropped as litter. Businesses should provide extra bins for staff and customers to dispose of single-use face coverings and PPE, and should ensure that staff and customers do not use a recycling bin. Full details on how to dispose of your personal or business waste during the coronavirus pandemic can be found in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): disposing of waste guidance.
Part 2 – Receiving Support From Others
Who can get support
You can get support from others outside your home if you’re vulnerable and need:
- care or assistance
- support to avoid risk of harm
This includes if you are:
- over 70
It also includes if you have an underlying health condition – for example, if you:
- are visually impaired and need to be guided around unfamiliar settings
- have a learning disability and need support to stay safe
- have communication difficulties and need support to communicate with others
What ‘getting support’ means
You can be supported by someone outside your home either:
- in any outdoor setting
The support can be for ‘everyday’ activities like:
- getting around safely in unfamiliar settings
- communicating with others
- going shopping
Getting support while socially distancing
All areas in England are currently in national lockdown.
The restrictions include the ‘rule of 2’. This means that if you exercise in a public outdoor space with someone who is not in your household or support bubble, you can only do this with one other person (unless an exemption applies).
When people who support you count towards the ‘rule of 2’
If you’re disabled and require continuous care, any carers that are employed or volunteer to support you do not count towards the ‘rule of 2’ limit. They can also continue to support you indoors.
However, it must be ‘reasonably necessary’ for anyone who is not in your household or support bubble to provide you with care and assistance.
For example, if you’re exercising in a group of 2 and it’s possible for the other person to give you the support you need, the ‘rule of 2’ limit would apply.
If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable
If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you should reduce social contacts as much as possible. However, if you feel it’s essential for your physical or mental health, you can continue to meet with people. This is a personal choice and should be balanced against the increased risk of infection.
Optional badges: showing others that you need support
Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they have a disability, or that they might need help with social distancing.
You may find these resources useful:
Who should help you
To minimise the risk to yourself and others, it is usually best if you get support from either:
- someone within your household or support bubble
- your carer (if you have one)
If this is not possible then you may be supported by someone else if you and they take other precautions (details below).
The people who can help you may include:
- family or friends who do not live with you
- staff in services that you are using
What everyone should do when they provide support to you
A person can support you if they do not have any of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is particularly important if you are clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable.
People providing support to you should follow advice on maintaining good hygiene. They should:
- wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
- avoid touching their face, particularly their eyes, nose and mouth
- catch any coughs or sneezes in a tissue or their elbow
- put used tissues immediately in the bin and wash their hands afterwards
If you find it hard to communicate, you should ask the person who supports you to write down a plan. The plan should explain to others what help you need in case the person who normally supports you gets COVID-19 and cannot support you. You might also want to take this plan with you when you’re out, in case of an emergency.
When the person who supports you writes the plan they should:
- involve you as much as possible
- write down any important contacts (family, neighbours, friends or professionals) who can be called upon to help you
- include information about all the support you need
- work with local social care and health staff to develop and share the plan
Getting support from someone in your household or support bubble or your normal carer
You should follow social distancing guidance as far as possible with those outside your household and support bubble. This means keeping (2 metres or 6 steps apart from other people. In certain settings, you are also required to wear a face covering, unless you have a reasonable excuse or are exempt from wearing one.
If you believe you need new or extra support, you should contact your local authority’s adult social care service. They can give you advice and information on what support may be available, and whether you can get it.
Getting support from someone who is not in your household or support bubble, or is not your normal carer
Where you need support from someone who is not in your household or support bubble and is not your normal carer, you and they should try to either keep:
- 2 metres away from each other
- one metre away and take extra precautions
Extra precautions could be:
- spending as little time as possible closer than 2 metres from each other
- avoiding face-to-face contact – side-by-side contact is better. If you need to have face-to-face contact, keep it to as short a time as possible
- wearing a face covering (unless you’re unable to) if you’re going to be supported indoors, or get close-contact support for a long time indoors or outdoors
If you need help with communication due to a health condition, you can ask for someone to take their face covering off so that they can communicate with you. You can ask for this either verbally or in writing.
If you’re in a larger group, such as when you are attending a funeral or support groups, the same person in that group (or people, if you need support from more than one person at a time) should support you at all times.
Getting support from volunteers or organisations
You may get support in situations where the person helping you may also be helping many other people during the day. For example, you might get help from people working in:
- voluntary organisations
- businesses, such as larger shops
- train stations
- hospital clinics
When asking for support you should explain what help you need and give them your name and contact details.
The organisation providing you with support should keep a record for 21 days of:
- your name and contact details
- who provided support to you
- when they provided support
The organisation will keep this record to help NHS Test and Trace. If NHS Test and Trace contact you, you must follow their guidance.
Before you get support, the organisation or volunteer will:
- ask whether you have symptoms of COVID-19 (or if you have been advised to stay at home or self-isolate)
- wash their hands before providing you with support
You and the person providing the support should follow the guidance above for getting support from someone who is not within your household or support bubble and is not your normal carer.
When you get the support, you and the person helping you should:
- maintain social distancing
- wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
- wear a face covering if you can