Recruiting Volunteers Safely for Your Organisation
A guide to maximising the use of volunteers whilst limiting harm.
Our thanks to Richmond CVS for allowing us to use information they collated as the basis for this information resource.
For our full coronavirus page with information and links, click here: https://wandsworthcarealliance.org.uk/coronavirus/
For helpful volunteer guidance to give meaningful telephone support, see this guide from: Age UK
This document will help organisations to apply a common-sense approach to the recruitment of volunteers and ensure that people are recruited safely and effectively.
Unfortunately there have already been a number of cases across the UK of criminal activity, particularly financial abuse, carried out by unscrupulous people who have gained access to vulnerable people in their properties.
Organisations therefore need to make it clear to both the beneficiary and the volunteer that no financial transactions will take place and no bank cards/online details/passwords will be requested.
Advice from Age UK on how to protect yourself from doorstep scams, can be found here.
This resource assumes that, as a current Volunteer Involving Organisation (VIO), your processes and procedures relating to recruiting safely are already in place. We do not recommend that you reduce your standards because of this crisis, but use a common sense approach, particularly in relation to roles involving new volunteers, and that you limit access to personal data.
As a starting point:
- Identify at least two or three people currently employed or volunteering for your organisation that can take the role of Volunteer Co-ordinator. Ideally they will have already completed vulnerable adult safeguarding training. This will allow you to have a Shift Leader for each day of operation, with a consistent approach and understanding of safeguarding issues, it will build in contingency for staff illness, and ensure that access to personal data about beneficiaries is limited.
- When registering a person in need of help, ensure that you collect a next of kin contact who should be consulted if a need or concern arises outside of the immediate task in which your volunteer is involved. The Shift Leader should be the main point of contact for any issues arising through the volunteer activity and be the referral point for concerns. It would be preferable to have a single contact number that is used by all the shift leaders.
In normal circumstances interviews, references, and DBS checks for certain roles would need to be in place. However, as the Covid-19 situation escalates, normal access to the checks and balances of safer recruitment may be limited and therefore a sensible pragmatic view needs to be taken thereby maximising the use of interested volunteers whilst limiting harm.
The key to a safe approach is to create volunteer roles that enable help to be given whilst minimising the volunteer(s) access to personal data, with clear boundaries in place in relation to the functions that the volunteers carry out, and the relationship with the beneficiary.
Such roles might include:
- Supplying emergency food parcels
- Telephone befriending
- Collecting prescriptions (click here for NHS advice on collecting for someone else). Please note that non-prescribed medication for symptom relief (e.g. paracetamol) will need to be labelled via the pharmacist.
Some organisations are prioritising volunteers who have a DBS check already obtained for previous roles they have undertaken, and there are a large number of professionals already in regulated activities, such as teaching, who are seeking to offer help. DBS checks are useful, but are only a snapshot in time so it is important that even for those with DBS checks, other checks are completed.
Be clear that these are temporary roles, and should they wish to volunteer in the future for your organisation that checks and assessments specific to those roles will apply.
Minimum checks for new volunteers:
- Collect name, address, contact details and Proof of ID (passport / driving licence/ birth certificate/ proof of address with recent utility bills).
- Ask for two references which can be taken verbally.
- Photo for ID would be helpful to reassure people that are being delivered to and also, in the event of restrictions on movement, to evidence legitimacy.
For roles where DBS checks are required, they are available, and local organisations with online facilities already set up are reporting that they are taking two weeks.
Do not involve volunteers in roles that require DBS checks if they do not have a DBS check for that specific role for your organisation.
Once you have completed your checks:
Have a standard e-mail to the volunteer which needs to include:
- A requirement to read and sign that they have understood your Safeguarding Policy.
- A requirement to read and sign your Code of Conduct and Confidentiality Agreement.
- The requirement that all personal details are shared solely for the purpose of the task. These should be deleted once that task is completed.
- The above can be done electronically. Keep the email trail to evidence this.
- Your Privacy Statement in relation to use of personal data (GDPR compliance and Data Protection Act 2018). To be fully compliant, a Privacy Notice needs to be quite detailed, however, the ICO have a simple checklist and this example from Age UK is helpful.
- Include a Volunteer Agreement specific to the Coronavirus outbreak.
- If your organisation has access to online safeguarding training, ask them to complete this.
- Keep a simple checklist or record, whether as an online form or paper document, of each volunteer’s agreement to abide by your policies and their completion of any required actions.
Additional information that could be helpful to include:
- A good explanation of safeguarding can be found at the NCVO website.
- Public Health England has produced comprehensive guidance applicable to specific groups which is helpful to include in your volunteer information - Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK and specifically for the protection of older people and the vulnerable.
Break each volunteering role down into its activities and consider the risks associated with each activity.
Example – collecting non-prescribed medication
Non-prescribed medication for symptom relief (e.g. paracetamol) cannot be given unless it is labelled by a pharmacist, as they could be contradictory to a person’s other medication.
Prepare text for each opportunity that describes:
- The activity.
- The functions that will be delivered.
- Include related safeguarding information.
Be clear that anyone who thinks they are experiencing symptoms should let the Shift Leader know and must not volunteer https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
It is recommended that volunteers work in pairs, observing social distancing guidelines. Make sure that your agency knows where your volunteers are at all times and advise the beneficiary when they should expect the delivery or volunteer activity being provided.
Some have been using telephone messaging systems such as WhatsApp groups for communication with volunteers. People should only be added to the group if they have been checked and completed the processes identified above.
Ensure that your Confidentiality Agreement includes the requirement to not identify or verbally discuss beneficiaries outside of the parameters set by your organisation and not share or comment about them on social media platforms or in any other way.
Example Volunteer Role Description - Delivery of Food Parcels
Thank you for your time and compassion. It is much appreciated.
Information about the activity you are helping with today can be found below. Please follow the instructions below and do not undertake any activity that falls outside of the task specific volunteering role you are in.
The NHS recommends that the following precautions are taken to help prevent people from catching and spreading COVID-19:
- Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds.
- Always wash your hands when you get home or into work.
- Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
- Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
Be clear that anyone who thinks they are experiencing symptoms should let https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19
Please check the NHS website for regular updates on advice and make sure that you follow the advice - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
In this role:
- Wash your hands fully (at least 20 secs) and regularly.
- Use hand sanitiser between deliveries.
- Ring the bell, or knock on the door, then leave bag(s) on the doorstep.
- Wait at a safe distance (minimum 2m) to see the person opens the door.
- Avoid physical contact but speak to them and check they are okay.
- Avoid going inside anyone’s home.
- Be clear that you cannot take money, bank cards or help with any financialtransactions
- Ask the person you are helping to wash their hands (particularly after receiving deliveries).
If the person you are helping thinks they have COVID-19 tell them to call 111 or look for guidance online - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
If you have concerns for the persons health or wellbeing do not attempt to deal with it yourself but refer to your Shift Leader who will take appropriate action (include the number).
Your duty of care to your volunteers:
Keep them safe
- Know where they are and when they have completed their shift.
- Set up a check-in system.
- Make sure you have adequate Personal Accident insurance and check the age range it covers (usually 18+ years).
- Make sure that the insurance you have is adequate for the volunteer role that you are asking them to do.
Keep them well
- Provide all necessary equipment - e.g. gloves, hand sanitiser.
- Provide advice on manual handling.
- Limit their hours, especially related to driving.
- Advise them to keep hydrated and fed by keeping food and water with them.
- Check for any pre-existing medical conditions and allocate tasks accordingly.
- Emphasise that if they feel at all unwell that they should not volunteer and have no obligation. They are free to leave, or pause, at any time but should try and make sure they let the organisation know in good time so that shifts can be covered.
Keep them motivated – let them know…
- You appreciate their time.
- You are there to talk about any worries and concerns.
- That their mental wellbeing is of the uppermost importance.
Useful sources of information
Government advice – www.gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-governmentresponse
Wandsworth Borough Council – www.wandsworth.gov.uk
Wandsworth Safeguarding Children Partnership – www.wscp.org.uk
Advice on Safeguarding Adults – for anyone experiencing abuse or at risk of abuse, report concerns online at
If you are concerned about a person’s wellbeing and believe it might be an adult safeguarding response, you should contact Wandsworth Council’s access team:
Tel: 020 8871 7707, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Out of hours 020 8871 6000
In an emergency e.g. person’s life is at risk, call 999
To support you with getting out the safeguarding message to volunteers, this short video has been made in Waltham Forest but it is applicable wherever you are: https://youtu.be/HHQG8CJROhU
Introduction to Safeguarding Adults e-learning training: https://adultsocialcare.tpd.org.uk/elearning/Course/Detail?CourseId=59
NHS England – www.nhs.uk Find guidance from the NHS at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Public Health England – www.gov.uk Find general information on Coronavirus at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england
Or specific guidance for supporting different client groups at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-guidance
Wandworth Care Alliance
Information for the voluntary and community sector in Wandsworth: