Volunteering during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
There are different ways to volunteer during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However the most important thing you can do to fight COVID-19 is to follow social distancing guidance. This will help control the virus and save lives.
Guidance for volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic
Northern Ireland restrictions may have changed recently. Make sure you understand the current restrictions in place - what you can and cannot do.
Guidance if a volunteer is helping you can be found at the following page:
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.
Anyone can volunteer during the coronavirus pandemic. However, you should volunteer from home where possible.
You can volunteer outside your home if you don’t need to self-isolate for any reason.
If you are at high risk from coronavirus 'clinically extremely vulnerable’ and ‘vulnerable’ you are advised to take extra steps to keep yourself safe when volunteering outside your home. This includes:
- minimising your social interactions
- minimising the time you spend in places where you can’t maintain social distancing
Information including ‘who can volunteer', ‘who you can help’ and ‘how you can help’ is available:
If you volunteer via an organisation you should contact that organisation for advice to find out if it is safe for you to volunteer. Many organisations will have their own policies in place to make sure you can volunteer safely.
If you run a volunteer-involving organisation or group, or manage volunteers, read general guidance:
How to apply to become a volunteer
You can also apply to volunteer through your Local Council, a charity or organisation.
Stay safe as a volunteer
If you are volunteering outside your home, 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.
Find out more about a 'Distance Aware Shield' which will help remind people to keep a safe social distance.
Observe the following key behaviours:
- hands - wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds
- face - wear a face covering in accordance with current face-coverings-guidance
- space – maintain a social distance of at least two metres between you and anyone outside of your household
Find out how to travel safely and make sure you practice social distancing where possible.
If you are volunteering in a workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to keep to the social distancing guidelines.
Within workplaces, the risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if Coronavirus: Workplace safety guidelines and social distancingare followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.
Disposing of face coverings and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
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, volunteers and customers to dispose of single-use face coverings and PPE and should make sure that staff, volunteers and customers do not use a recycling bin.
Rapid COVID Testing for volunteers
If you cannot volunteer from home you are encouraged to take part in the Asymptomatic Testing programme. This programme seeks to identify individuals infected with COVID-19 who having no symptoms can inadvertently transmit the virus to others.
If the test result is positive the individual and their close contacts can self-isolate thus breaking the chain of transmission. The programme should only be used by individuals not showing symptoms of COVID.
Where possible, organisations who involve volunteers should make arrangements for testing of volunteers.
You should contact your voluntary organisation to find out if they provide the testing.
If your organisation does not provide rapid COVID-19 testing, you can access the test using one of the following options:
- Find a local site to be tested at(external link opens in a new window / tab)
- Find a local site to collect LFDs to perform at home(external link opens in a new window / tab)
- Ordering LFDs for delivery to your home address
Further information can be found at: Workforce Testing.
If you or someone in your household show symptoms
If you or someone in your household starts to show symptoms, or if you are at high risk of severe symptoms yourself, then you must stay at home.
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.
You can find information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19): testing and contact tracing - including what happens if you test positive for COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive.
If you are worried about someone’s health
If you are worried about someone’s health, guidance on next step is available:
If you are worried about someone’s mental health, encourage them to get help and support.
Volunteer Now has information sheets about COVID 19.
The Public Health Authority (PHA) has resources for organisations and individuals responding to COVID-19:
The resources features items that may be useful for council teams and community groups/ volunteers responding to COVID-19. Some may be helpful for staff and volunteers for their own wellbeing and others may be helpful for them in carrying out their role during COVID-19.
The Department of Communities has published a Protocol for Regulated Activity - such as handling cash on behalf of a vulnerable person.