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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice.

Guidance and tips for volunteers

Updated 12 November 2020

The Prime Minster announced tougher national restrictions which came into effect on 5 November 2020.

Where possible, you should volunteer from home. 

If you cannot do so, you can volunteer outside your home if you follow the social distancing guidance - and no one in your household has symptoms of coronavirus or has tested positive for coronavirus.

Voluntary and charitable activities are exempt from a number of the new restrictions. This means that, where volunteers are able to volunteer outside their home you can:

  • meet in groups of any size indoors or outdoors while volunteering
  • travel to volunteer or while volunteering

Volunteer-involving organisations must ensure their workplaces meet coronavirus safety standards. 

People over the age of 60 and those who are clinically vulnerable do not face any specific restrictions on volunteering and should follow the same guidelines as above. However, as this group could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, they may need additional support to follow social distancing rules and minimise contact with others.

There is a further group of people who are defined, on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to coronavirus – that is, people with specific serious health conditions. Clinically extremely vulnerable people can volunteer from home; they are advised not to volunteer outside their home. 

Volunteering - things to think about

  • try and work as a pair, this will alleviate some concerns about safeguarding and offer protection for yourself and the person you're helping
  • always tell someone where you're going and when you anticipate returning
  • carry a mobile phone with you
  • try to volunteer in daylight hours only
  • carry a torch with you if you can’t avoid volunteering in the dark
  • stay at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away at all times - this reduces the risk of potential infection to yourself and the person you're helping
  • avoid entering the home of the person you're helping
  • don't take credit cards from individuals, and keep any receipts for items purchased on behalf of others
  • photograph all receipts and purchases for your records
  • don't assume that someone needs help or call at a house unexpectedly - anxieties are high at the moment and people need to follow guidance with regards to opening their front doors, especially if they are self-isolating
  • consider dropping a note through the door as a first offer of help (but wash your hands before doing so)
  • don't get disheartened if a volunteering role is not found for you immediately - the response to this crisis is growing daily and the volunteering response will grow with it
  • only assist with activities which have been risk assessed - if you're asked to carry out a different activity, contact your volunteer coordinator / voluntary group for guidance
  • always put yourself in the shoes of the person you're helping, ask how you would like to be treated if the situation was reversed
  • for your peace of mind and that of people you support, a DBS check may be required for some activity – check with the Volunteer Centre

Remember volunteering is a choice, freely made. Should your circumstances change, and you are no longer able to volunteer (either short term or long term), the voluntary organisation/group will support your decision. 

How to help your community safely have provided guidance on how to help your community safely. 

How to manage financial transactions

We’ve put together a guide with our colleagues at Public Health Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council for managing financial transactions as a volunteer. 

Post Office cash schemes 

The Post Office have made it easier for those self-isolating to access cash products with the following schemes:

  • ‘Payout Now’ - this is a voucher sent by text, email or post to a self-isolating customer who can then share it with a trusted individual to withdraw cash on their behalf
  • ‘Fast PACE’ – this is a service that allows a self-isolating customer to arrange for a trusted individual to collect the cheque from them, cash it at Post Office, and return with the cash

Please see the following websites for further information:

Guidance on buying alcohol

Following the updated Government advice to stay at home, many people are now in self-isolation due to having COVID-19 symptoms or because they are identified as being part of the particularly vulnerable community, many people will now be finding it hard to get to grips with not having a social life.

Lots of people drink alcohol every day and some may be more dependent on it than others and may find this situation even tougher.

If you’re volunteering to help someone with their shopping because they can’t get out to do it themselves and they ask you to buy alcohol for them, please do buy it. Although this may not seem helpful to someone who is dependent on alcohol, detoxing in an uncontrolled way can be much more harmful to them during these times.

There are specialist services to support people who are dependent on alcohol and other drugs, and if you do have concerns about someone’s drinking, please contact them via the Public Health website.

Volunteers who may be helping out delivering medicines

  • ring the doorbell or knock on the door
  • step back and remain at the recommended distance of 2 metres (approx. 3 steps)
  • the volunteer will need to confirm the name and address with the person answering the door, to make sure it is the right house and right person
  • normally when medicines are delivered the recipient would be asked to sign for their delivery. This must not happen as part of this procedure, but the volunteer will need to ask the person answering the door who they are, so a note can be made of who accepted the medicines.
  • the medicines should not be handed directly to the person but instead ask them to step away and the medicines should be placed on the doorstep. If the person would struggle to reach the doorstep then identify a suitable place e.g. window sill by the door.
  • medicines must not be posted through letter boxes or just left outside the house
  • the volunteer should use hand sanitiser after completing the delivery
  • volunteers should not accept waste medicines or sharps boxes.
  • volunteers should agree with their pharmacy a return procedure for meds which cannot be delivered ( e.g. the door is not opened to them)
  • Volunteers will need to carry a simple register to record the name of the person receiving the medicine.
  • volunteers should not offer advice or help the person take the medicine but ask the person to call the pharmacy if they have any queries. 

Useful tips for volunteer dog walkers

Volunteers can continue to offer to walk dogs for those who are vulnerable – but NOT for dogs whose owners are diagnosed with coronavirus or awaiting results from a Covid-19 test.

There's no evidence of coronavirus circulating in pets or other animals in the UK, and there is nothing to suggest animals may transmit the disease to humans. However, when handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies.

  • as you are a volunteer, you may not know the dogs you are walking. It's best that you only take one dog out at any one time unless they come from a household where dogs are regularly walked together. You should never walk more than 3 at any one time
  • before going out make sure you have antiseptic wipes or a hand sanitiser with you. Wash your hands before leaving the house and make sure you take your own clean lead with you
  • when you arrive at the dog owner’s home, make sure that you can take control of the dog in a way that maintains the 2 metre distance from the dog’s owner. This can be done by the owner tying the dog to an object in their front garden for the short period of time that the handover takes place
  • avoid touching the fur or stroking the dog. If you do find that you have had direct contact with dog please make sure you wipe your hands with the antiseptic wipes or use hand sanitiser immediately after. Try to avoid touching your face while walking. You may find covering your mouth and nose with a scarf aids this
  • before leaving the owner’s home, make sure the dog is not displaying aggression or nervousness. As you may be unfamiliar to the dog it is important that you are safe. If you have concerns about the dog’s behaviour, then do not take the dog
  • keep the dog on the lead whilst walking. This will enable close control and reduce the risk of any viral transfer from other dog’s fur or their owners
  • maintain your 2 metre distance (which also includes the dog) whilst walking and do not approach other people. Make sure the dog does not come into contact with other dogs
  • return the dog to the owner in the same way that the dog was picked up, keeping the 2 metre separation distance from the owner
  • on leaving, use you antiseptic wipes on clean your hands and wipe the lead down. Upon arrival home, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water

Remember: You should carry poo bags with you, and can put filled bags in street litter bins, or these can be disposed of in the dog owner’s household waste.

If you are not confident with walking any dog, you can contact the dog warden team who can offer any advice or if you lose the dog you are looking after, contact Dorset Council’s Dog Wardens on:

  • East Dorset area 01202 795096
  • North Dorset area 01258 454111
  • Purbeck area 01929 556561
  • West Dorset area 01305 251010
  • Weymouth and Portland area 01305 838000

Dog behaviour and breeds

Signs that the dog you are looking after is unhappy include:

  • stiff body posture
  • ears pinned back
  • growling
  • baring teeth
  • snarling 

If the dog is showing any of these signs, then stop walking, and try to calm the dog down by talking to it calmly. You may also want to consider taking the dog back home where it may feel safer.

Some dogs were originally bred for fighting and guarding. These include:

  • Staffordshire Bull Terriers,
  • Rottweilers,
  • Dobermann Pinschers
  • Akitas

These dogs tend to be large and strong, even if they are calm and mean you no harm, but they may revert back to showing aggression in stressful situations. Make sure that you have the strength to handle the type of dog you are walking. 

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