On this page, you will find advice on how to help during the Covid-19 pandemic. We realise there is a lot of information around at the moment – this portal contains trusted information for community groups, organisations and volunteers.
The most impactful thing anyone can do is follow guidance on how to be a good neighbour which you can find on this page.
Please note that opportunities to volunteer for voluntary organisations and public services are limited at this time due to Phase 3 restrictions.
Meantime thank you and please Think Local, Act Local.
Supporting staff & volunteers
We are here to support you and your organisation to volunteer and work safely during the COVID lockdown. We can support you with the latest information and training to deliver your services as safely as possible by talking about returning to work
As lockdown eases, organisations need to think about how staff and volunteers can continue to work safely.
The Volunteer Centre is a hub for Community Clean up hub for Keep Scotland Beautiful – contact us for litter picking kits and local information.
A positive feature of lockdown is that public appreciation and use of parks and greenspaces has increased. As an organisation involved in outdoor and greenspace work, you will obviously want to build on this and encourage people to continue their involvement in your activities. However you must proceed with caution and adhere to government guidance for each stage of the route map out of lockdown.
Keeping Volunteers Safe: Restarting your Volunteer Programme
This new course by Volunteer Scotland covers the essential things you need to consider to ensure a positive experience for individuals returning to volunteering following suspension of programmes in response to Covid-19. The overall aim is to help you prepare your volunteers, organisation and colleagues to return to supporting volunteer involvement in your work.
Regardless of your organisation’s size, you need to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19 as you plan resumption of your activities. You have a responsibility and legal duty to protect your people (whether paid staff, volunteers or members of the public) from risk to their health and safety. This means you need to think about the risks they face and do everything reasonably practical to minimise them.
Before planning resumption of activities find out how your volunteers feel about returning:
Do they want to resume volunteering with you? Many probably will, but do not make assumptions. Lockdown may have prompted them to consider new activities.
If volunteers are unable to continue volunteering with you, help them to consider other options. Direct them to our website or suggest they call us on 01851700366
In preparing for the phased resumption of your volunteers’ activities you should:
Identify what activities you can undertake at each phase of the easing of lockdown. This may be:
resumption (partial or whole) of previous activities
new or different ways of doing previous activities
completely new tasks or activities
Undertake risk assessments of all planned activities (see risk assessment template below).
Alongside your activities’ risk assessment, you may also want to assess the volunteers’ individual vulnerability to Covid-19. For doing so, you can use the Covid-age tool.
Check your Employers’/Public Liability insurance policies to ensure they provide adequate protection to you and your volunteers.
Be transparent in your communications with volunteers and keep their expectations realistic.
Ensure that information and guidelines about resumption of activities is clearly and consistently communicated to all volunteers, and that they agree to comply with the measures you are putting in place. You may wish to formalise this with written guidelines and agreement (see guidelines and agreement template below). It is essential that everyone involved with your organisation knows and understands what they can and cannot do.
Ensure all volunteers know who is responsible for their volunteering (manager/lead volunteer/Chair of management committee etc) and have contact details in case of emergencies.
The responsible person should know who and when is volunteering at any given time
Do not publically promote the time and place of intended events or activities to avoid the risk of large social gatherings.
Continually review your situation and amend when necessary e.g. in light of new government guidance, or as a result of your own experience.
This is also an opportunity for you to review your overall engagement of volunteers. Some organisations have processes for recruiting, training and supporting volunteers. Others are more informal. Whatever your structure it is important, now more than ever, to ensure that your volunteers have a good and safe experience.
The Government’s advice is that you should not leave your home except for a few very specific reasons, which includes providing support to someone vulnerable or self-isolating.
You should only provide essential support to someone who is unable to leave their home if you and everyone in your home is healthy and does not have a high temperature or a new and continuous cough (the symptoms of coronavirus).
If you are over 70, pregnant or have any underlying health conditions you should not leave your home.
If you are already a volunteer and you are healthy and not in an at risk group then you should contact the organisation you normally volunteer with to find out whether you should attend your regular place of volunteering. If you are still required it is likely that your volunteer role will change, for example you may be asked to contact service users by phone rather than face-to-face, or if possible you may be asked to work remotely. It is also likely that organisations will require volunteers to do new and different roles, please consider what roles are available and whether you would be able to help out.
If you are not currently volunteering but would like to help out then thank you, that is fantastic. Our advice is very simple: Think and act locally! Basic neighbourliness is absolutely vital in a crisis, whether it is extreme weather or coronavirus, and it is often the little acts of kindness that have the most impact. There are many ways in which you can make a real impact right where you live:
Check on neighbours, especially anyone who may live alone (regardless of their age), and anyone elderly or that may be potentially vulnerable.
If someone is self-isolating or unable to get out for whatever reason you may be able to help by doing practical yet vital tasks such as:
Collecting a prescription or over the counter medications that may be needed.
Doing some basic grocery shopping.*
If you are making a meal offer to make a portion for someone who may not be feeling able to cook for themselves.
Take their bins out on bin day.
Offering to exercise their dog if they have one and are not able to do this themselves.
* If you are helping with shopping, we advise only exchanging money with people you know. If you are refunding someone ensure you have a receipt.
This is your chance to connect with them! Pop a note through their letterbox, exchange contact details and keep in touch. Just as you may be able to support them, they can support you if you have to self-isolate at any time. If there isn’t anyone in your immediate area that requires help, check noticeboards in your local area for anyone looking for help, or look on online forums such as Nextdoor and Western Isles Noticeboard on Facebook.
It is not just elderly people who can feel lonely and isolated. Check on all neighbours who may need help, or who are having to self-isolate. There will be neighbours around you who are living on their own and may not have a network of friends to call on. If you are having to self-isolate and have no one to help you, it doesn’t matter what age you are.
Please follow the latest Scottish Government and NHS Scotland health advice at all times. We would ask that you make sensible decisions and minimise the risk to your own and others health at all times.
If you are unable to help at this time, remember that your help may be needed in the weeks to come.
In the sidebar (below on mobile) you will find a ‘Being a Good Neighbour Safely’ document available for download with further details on how to keep safe while helping others.
Wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Use alcohol based hand rub where available if no access to soap and water.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
Cover nose and mouth with disposable tissue or crook of elbow when sneezing/coughing.
Visit the Health Protection Scotland site for further details.
Taking orders, visiting food outlets and delivering food
Take requests over the phone if possible or ensure social distancing (2 metres or 6 feet) if taking requests or payment at person’s property. Ensure no personal contact at any point, maintaining social distancing at all times. Disinfect all items passed to and from recipient.
Ensure you wash your hands before and after; visiting food outlets and deliveries. Ensure you follow social distancing rules set out by food outlets (further guidance here) and disinfect trolley or basket. Use Card as payment option where possible and place foods stuffs into bags that have been disinfected.
Phone or message recipients to inform them you are to leave bagged food on doorstep. Withdraw 2 metres (6 feet) and ensure recipient collects food.
Encourage recipients to wash their hands before and after delivery, as well as disinfecting food stuffs (that are packaged in glass, plastic or cardboards) and bags they received.
To disinfect surfaces you can use household cleaning products including; disinfectant disposable wipes and diluted household bleach solutions (further details here). There is also a helpful video to explain this all here.
Making meals safely
Ensure all foods are within manufacturers use by dates
Food preparation areas must be clean and disinfected
Does the person have any allergen requirements?
Is the food suitable for the individual? i.e have the capacity to prepare meal, may require food that is ready to consume.
Cook foods to be piping hot or boiled
If required cooling, ensure to cool as quickly as possible and place in refrigeration.
Cold foods to be immediately covered and chilled.
Food should be eaten within two days of preparation.
Food should be frozen on day of delivery and defrosted in a fridge overnight
When reheating foods they need to be piping hot throughout
Make sure hot food is delivered hot and cold food is delivered cold.
Use single use container or a container that have been disinfected and air dried.
Visit the Food Standards Scotland site for further details.
We understand that many people would like to do much more to help. While this situation develops it is important to be patient. New opportunities to volunteer will emerge over the coming weeks and months. It is important that when they do that there are still people who want to and are able to volunteer. We will be updating this page continually and highlighting where there is a need for help. It is also important to remember that to minimize exposure and spread people should limit travel, therefore helping in your immediate building, street or neighbourhood is the most impactful thing that you can do right now.
If there is already a community or voluntary organisation (including churches and housing associations) organising in your neighbourhood, please make contact with them and offer to work with them rather than setting up something new. Established organisations will already have in place safeguarding and data protection policies, and will have appropriate insurance. Check out our list of organisations who need volunteers. This will be constantly added to.
It is likely that this situation will be ongoing for several months and more people will be needed to help over the coming months. Thank you for wanting to volunteer, your help will be needed but it may be in some weeks that more volunteers are needed.
In the first instance ask, “What can I do to help?” There may be a need which you can help with directly for example phoning a utility company on someone’s behalf, contacting a local foodbank, or doing a delivery for them.
If you have concerns for someone’s welfare please refer to the information below:
In an emergency
If the crisis is life threatening, call 999.
If you are worried about someone who is ill, call NHS 24 on 111.
Urgent social care or someone at risk of harm
If someone needs urgent social care or you think an adult or child needs protection call Social Care Direct on 0131 200 2324.
In the evening and at weekends or public holidays, you can call Emergency Social Work, free of charge from a landline. Your mobile phone provider may charge for 0800 calls. 0800 731 6969.
Monday to Thursday 5pm to 8.30am, weekends from Friday 3.55pm to Monday 8.30am.
If you are unable to help an individual directly, there are other things you could do to help out in the local community, for example:
Litter picking while you take your daily recommended exercise – take a bin bag and some gloves on a walk and pick up litter while you go.
Encourage others to stay active with online exercise classes which can be done form home.
Revive the lost art of letter writing – send a message to someone who lives a bit further away, and even include a nice photo.
Microvolunteering – have a look at this list of informal volunteering opportunities (N.B some of these may be currently unavailable.)
Take an online course and learn something new – please see the list in the sidebar (below on mobile) for some ideas.
I know many volunteer-involving organisations across the city have been adjusting and adapting to the current crisis. Your available volunteer numbers may well be down as a result of self-isolation or it may be that there are more or different opportunities that you need volunteer support with. We are being approached by many people who want to volunteer. If you need volunteers please use our existing online advertising routes here.
Appeal to volunteer managers
If you are an experienced volunteer manager but you are not currently engaging or managing volunteers, for whatever reason, we are looking for your help. If you think you can support some of the work that we will be doing over the coming weeks please let us know by contacting us. We are currently working hard to coordinate a wide volunteer response to support vital services over the coming weeks. We are likely to need some help from volunteering professionals. So if you think you can help please let us know.
Engaging new volunteers at this time
Anyone engaging new volunteers during this crisis knows that normal best practice processes that we use may be difficult to maintain. It is important to consider how you can adapt your practices and be pragmatic while safely engaging volunteers. It may not be possible to get references for example. Social distancing requirements may make orientation challenging. Here are a few ideas which you might find useful:
Can you put your applications on line? Perhaps consider using Google Docs?
Can interviews and indeed orientation/induction be done via Skype/Zoom/WhatsApp?
References are likely to be impracticable at the moment. Can you ask for people to verify their identity more than you usually do? Remember many larger employers will undertake a variety of checks on employees, so if someone can prove they work for a particular company consider whether that can provide you with additional confidence.
Can you record your orientation/induction on a phone so that you can use it repeatedly? This is not the time to be worrying about production values!
You can find out further information about regulated work and PVGs here.
If you have a genius idea on adapting your volunteer recruitment please share it with us and we will let people know.
Volunteer Centre Western Isles supports the COVID-19 response in the following ways:
Find you a volunteer opportunity, where possible and safe to do so;
Support to COVID-19 volunteers who have signed up to help through the Scottish Governments Ready Scotland site;
Help to promote local volunteer roles related to the COVID-19 community response;
Providing advice and guidance on volunteering safely when dealing with vulnerable members of the public;
Support to community groups and organisations with volunteer management, sample policies;
Signposting to TSIWI partners for funding advice and support;
Communicate with local volunteers and organisations to let them know what is happening and connect them where relevantPlease continue to check our website news, Facebook and Instagram for the latest volunteering opportunities, updates and good practice guides.
The role of governance has never been more important, in order to safely navigate your organisation through this pandemic see below for some useful links and guidance.