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Voluntary Action’s Important Guidance For Community Support Groups During Current Crisis

Published on: 19 Mar, 2020
Updated on: 21 Mar, 2020

Following the surge of people offering to help others and be good neighbours during the coronavirus crisis, Voluntary Action South West Surrey has issued this guidance primarily for support groups who are planning to provide services to vulnerable, self-isolating people within their community.

Establishing your support group

General guidance

If possible, keep your group local – there is a much higher chance of people knowing one another.

Before establishing a group check whether there is another group that is covering the same areas that you could join forces with.

Consider whether you can have a recognised community organisation as the contact point e.g. local church, residents association, scout group, local councillor. This will enable people to check telephone numbers/emails via a different source (and they should be encouraged to do so).

Decide the scope of what you are able to offer; the target group(s), geographical scope and nature/ examples of services.

Let Voluntary Action South West Surrey know what you are doing by contacting us at so we can put people in your area who need support in touch with you.

There are a number of formal and regulatory issues that you need to address covering health, legal, data protection, financial protection and safeguarding set out below

What organisation do you need?

Organise your group so there is a small team who are managing back office functions. Keep the team relatively small using trusted volunteers (e.g. with DBS) but large enough that the organisation can continue if volunteers are taken ill.

Back office tasks may include:

Publicising the group locally and telling the Councils about you.

Receiving requests for help (and referring on if unable to help).

Sorting requests for help – different types and different areas/streets.

Receiving offers of help.

Recording and sort these offers of help.

Checking the ID of volunteers – we recommend you ask for proof of address and/or employment. Possibly ask for proof of age.

Providing guidance to volunteers.

Matching volunteers to requests for help and keeping a log.

Managing funding (if you are doing this).

What services are you offering?

Services could include:




Dog walking.

Other services.

Protecting your volunteers

Who can be a volunteer?

Ensure that you are following government guidelines about who should be self-isolating. Unless the person is volunteering at home, we recommend the following do not volunteer:

Anyone who is 70 years or older.

Anyone with an underlying health condition as specified by the government.

Anyone who is pregnant.

Anyone displaying symptoms of Covid-19 – a persistent cough or fever.

What are you asking your volunteers to do?

Try to be as clear as possible what volunteers are being asked to do and what the expectations are. Think about creating a volunteer role description/agreement for each volunteer. An example is included below.

What support are you giving your volunteers? 

Volunteers should have a named person as their main point of contact.

Consider giving the volunteers guidance on what to do if they have a problem i.e. how to report a safeguarding concern or if they have concerns about a person’s health.

How are you protecting your volunteers?

The health and safety of the volunteers is paramount. Make sure that your volunteers are aware of the guidance given on the government website,

Try to avoid volunteers volunteering alone. If this is not possible then the volunteer needs to register who they are going to visit for their protection.

Are you looking after people’s information correctly?

Confidentiality of people’s information is a legal requirement under GDPR legislation. A sample confidentiality agreement is available from Voluntary Action South West Surrey.

Due consideration must be given to the way that volunteer and client details are stored. A sample GDPR policy is available from Voluntary Action South West Surrey.

Protecting the people you want to help

Cross contamination

Take all sensible precautions to avoid / reduce the risk of cross contamination.

Identification/ reassurance

Let the people you are helping know about who will be helping them and roughly when they can be expected.

Ask the volunteers to display their ID and the people you are helping to request ID.

Reducing the risk of financial fraud

All volunteers to carry ID and the principle of ‘payment on receipt of goods not before’ to be adopted.

For the protection of the people you are helping ensure that they have overtly agreed to you holding any personal information and how you are handling it.

How to structure a service where payment is required from the person being helped

Principle: payment should only be made on receipt of goods NOT before

If possible have a float (small sum of money) which is provided by the organisation to the volunteer and the organisation keeps a record.

The organisations records which volunteer is providing the service to the individual.

The volunteer provides the shopping to the individual and sends a copy (photo) of the receipt to the organisation.

The original receipt is provided to the individual concerned and the organisation then seeks payment from the individual at a later date.

Alternatively, individual volunteers may be able to pay for the shopping up front and then either receive payment immediately from the individual or keep a record for later payment.

For further support and advice please contact Voluntary Action South West Surrey on 01483 565456.


For all medical queries please use the official government website.


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