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Advice for Gateshead volunteers during Covid-19

The next few weeks is an unprecedented and difficult time for all.

The community of Gateshead will always pull together and as a result there are lots of new help groups popping up and volunteers wanting to help. Thousands of people have signed up to volunteer to help reduce loneliness and ease food poverty all over. People who may never have volunteered before are offering to walk dogs, collect prescriptions, do the shopping and offer a friendly face in times of need.

However, we need to protect both the vulnerable people and the volunteers. There are lots of questions around duty of care, safeguarding and lines of accountability. There are already some negative examples circulating on social media that threaten to undermine the community spirit and jeopardise public trust in volunteering that has developed over a long time. If you are a volunteer, please consider:


Before you think about helping others, including family, make sure that you:

  • do not have coronavirus symptoms, or share a house with anyone who does
  • are self-isolating if you need to
  • are regularly washing your hands thoroughly for more than 20 seconds

Helping others

Is there anyone you are already known to who needs help and support? Especially if they are self-isolating? Please think of this before offering to help someone unknown to you.

  1. If there are no family members who need support, then start local and check on your neighbours. Don't assume you know who is self-isolating or who might want or need help.
  2. Find out what your neighbours might need help with. Can you help, or can another neighbour help too? A good idea is to share the care and set up a buddy system.
  3. It's better to prepare now so you are effective when needed. Remember it's a marathon, not a sprint.
  4. Always remember to check the most up to date NHS and government recommendations.

Stay safe, especially while helping others

  1. Always tell someone where you are going and what you are doing.
  2. Keep a safe distance (at least two metres away from someone else). Keep to the "knock and drop" system when dropping something off with neighbours.
  3. Always set boundaries and realistic expectations. Only share personal information or contact details if you absolutely need to and be clear as to why you are sharing it. If possible, use your landline instead of your mobile and consider using your work mobile instead of your personal on if at all possible.
  4. Always remember to stay safe.

Be aware of exploitation 

Most people want to do the right thing, but the reality is there are always people who will exploit any situation. This is why we have reference processes and criminal record checks as part of our recruitment process.

If you join a mutual aid group that has no insurance or screening checks, only agree to get involved when it is centred in your street. Some other hints and tips include:

  1. Don't pay for someone's shopping or use their bank card. Instead, help them get online direct agreements with local independent shops who may deliver and take payment by phone.
  2. Don't look after someone's children even if you have a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service). If you agree to babysit then it is an agreement between neighbours and not considered volunteering or part of a mutual aid group.
  3. Don't drive if you do not have appropriate insurance or an up-to-date MOT. Normally volunteers are required to tell their insurance company they are using their car for volunteering purposes. It will not increase your premium.
  4. Don't pick up medication unless the person in unable to get it delivered directly from the pharmacy. Many are offering a free delivering service.
  5. Don't share your personal information publicly on Facebook or on other social media platforms. If you need to, use a private message instead.
  6. Limit use of public transport. This is a common way for the virus to spread. Try to drive, walk or cycle where possible.
  7. Don't put yourself or others at risk. If you are within any of the risk categories stay at home and don't endanger yourself unnecessarily. These categories include people who are over 60 years old or have pre-existing medical conditions.
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