woman pulling on facemask to protect from coronavirus

What next: the volunteer response to COVID-19

Published: 09/04/20 | Categories: Volunteering, Author: Fiona Liddell

Fiona Liddell describes how we are building on public goodwill and volunteering to address the challenges of Covid 19.

How are volunteers helping?

A time of crisis can prompt the most amazing expressions of support, as individuals commit to meeting local needs in practical ways. We saw it with the recent floods. We see it again as people are responding to coronavirus.

Informal support groups are developing rapidly, led by volunteers. They enable  local community response including providing information, running errands and providing emotional support for those who are self -isolating and vulnerable.   The Covid 19 Mutual Aid website   includes a wealth of resources on how to get organised, including practical  information to ensure that volunteers are acting safely, minimising risks  of harm  to  themselves and to vulnerable people, from infection or abuse. WCVA has also published  guidance  on enabling safe and effective practice  when organising community response to the coronavirus.

Voluntary organisations, are redeploying existing volunteers and resources, where possible, to meet new and increased needs.  Many volunteers are having to pause their volunteering due to their own health needs or that of members of their household. New volunteers may be needed to make up the shortfall as well as to expand the capacity and reach of organisations’ vital services.  Current opportunities to volunteer are posted on www.volunteering-wales.net. Community volunteers who enable people to stay at home safely help to reduce the pressure on the NHS and social care.

NHS and social care providers  also are posting opportunities to volunteer  onto www.volunteering-wales.net. Many Health Boards are in the process of reviewing how and where volunteers can best help, (alongside redeployed and newly recruited staff and students of medical subjects who are in training).  The safety of volunteers and patients is paramount and whilst ways of streamlining recruitment and training processes is being sought, these still take time to accomplish; volunteers, once recruited, may be asked to wait until there are appropriate opportunities to get involved.

Developments to meet increased demand

A national approach and local coordination

Welsh Government guidance on volunteering during the coronavirus pandemic  answers many of the questions that are being asked by people who have been or would like to volunteer at this time.

A fund of £24 million has been announced by Welsh Government to support Wales’ voluntary sector in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It includes additional support for local county voluntary councils (volunteer centres) to enable them to coordinate the increased response from people who want to volunteer.

Volunteer centres and WCVA are experiencing record numbers of enquiries about volunteering.  In the month of March, for example, 11,387 new volunteers have signed up on the volunteering wales website.  The situation is fast changing.  We ask for your help and patience, therefore, in managing expectations whilst we develop new and effective ways to channel the energies and goodwill of volunteers to where they are needed, as speedily as is safely as possible.

Covid-19 volunteer app

Volunteering opportunities related to Covid -19 are being added to the www.Volunteering-Wales.net  website daily. The new Covid -19 category for opportunities has been introduced, to enable would-be volunteers to easily identify where they can help.  All of these opportunities help the  NHS and help to save lives

A further development is the Covid-19 volunteer app, connected to the volunteering-wales.net platform. This will allow administrators and opportunity providers to create specific tasks related to the Covid19 situation and will allow signed up volunteers to search for them.

An opportunity provider might, for example, create and publicise specific tasks relating to delivery of food or to provision of telephone support. A volunteer can find these by search and can offer to commit to one or more. The provider ‘approves’ and the volunteer undertakes the task, confirming when completed.

Further development to the app in the coming weeks will allow for management of ongoing as well as one-off tasks, such as the regular collection of prescriptions and for management of group tasks. It will allow volunteer ID badges to be printed and will become fully bilingual

Webinars on the use of the app were  given  early in April by  the developers, Team Kinetic  for administrators and for providers and recordings  of these will be available.

Support from the business community

With skilled staff being furloughed from their normal employment, there is opportunity for both voluntary and statutory partners (NHS and social care providers) to develop Covid 19 related opportunities which are targeted at volunteers with particular skills or experience to offer. The Volunteering-Wales.net website can be used for this purpose. We would be keen to hear of examples where employees have been enabled to volunteer in this way.

Business in the community has launched a National Business Response Network to identify community needs across the UK and match them to business support, including food, technology, advice on ‘business continuity’, resources or logistics.

Similarly,  Volunteering Matters is calling on businesses  to support local charities by volunteering their skills, services or logistical support at this crucial time and undertaking  brokerage of requests and offers.

Helpforce Assist  is connecting offers of time and resources from businesses specifically with hospital and social care teams.

A legacy for the future

These challenging times spur us to think ‘outside the box’, to harness the immense goodwill and human resource which is available to us to work for common aims across boundaries of sector and status.

The new relationships forged, experience in mobilising volunteers effectively and safely and both new and renewed commitment to volunteering will leave us with a positive legacy for the future.

Keep in touch

You can keep up to date by  following  @WCVACymru on Twitter or by signing up for WCVA  daily updates on the latest Covid 19 news for the voluntary sector in Wales.

Fiona Liddell is Helpforce Cymru Manager with WCVA

Helpforce is working with Third Sector Support Wales (WCVA and 19 CVCs), Welsh Government and other partners to develop the potential of volunteering to support health and social care services in Wales.   

For more information contact Fiona Liddell  fliddell@wcva.cymru  029 2043 1730