Returning to volunteering
Many older people have had to put volunteering on hold because of the pandemic. As restrictions start to be lifted, you may be keen to start volunteering again. There are some important things that all of us need to consider before we return to volunteering.
The organisation that you volunteer with should conduct a risk assessment with you to help you think through some of these issues.
Understanding and managing the risks of volunteering
Some people are at higher risk from coronavirus. This could be because you:
- are over the age of 70
- have underlying health problems which mean you are at greater risk
- live with or care for someone who is more vulnerable.
If you fall into one of these groups, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go back to volunteering, but it’s a good idea to think about extra precautions you could take to volunteer safely.
Some volunteering roles come with greater risks than others. For example, volunteering in a hospital will be riskier than over-the-phone befriending. Sometimes it won’t be obvious how risky your role is. The following questions can help you to think through the risks:
- Will you have face-to-face contact with people you don’t live with?
- Will you be in contact with the same people each time or different people? The more people you come into contact with the greater the risk of transmission.
- Will you be around people who may be more exposed to COVID-19? For example, health professionals?
- Will you be able to socially distance from other people?
It might be possible for you to adapt your role to make it safer. You could explore the following:
- Could you volunteer from home, for example over the phone or online?
- Could you volunteer in a separate space to other volunteers?
- Are you able to volunteer in an outdoor space rather than inside?
- Are you able to socially distance from other people while volunteering?
- Could you make sure you only volunteer with the same people each time?
There are also precautions that all of us should be taking when we leave the house:
- Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. You could carry hand sanitiser with you for times when washing facilities aren’t available.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth when you are outside of your house.
- Try to socially distance from people that you don’t live with. If it isn’t possible to socially distance, then, if you are comfortable doing so, wear a face covering.
If you or anyone you live with has symptoms or has tested positive
Remember, you must not volunteer outside of your home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus and are waiting for a test or have tested positive for coronavirus. You also should not be leaving your home if you have been advised by the test and trace service that you need to self-isolate.