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Safeguarding for informal volunteer-led groups

This page is free to all
This page explains specific considerations for informal volunteer-led groups, such as a Mutual Aid Groups or an unregistered community organisation, to keep people safe during the covid-19 pandemic. It is helpful for anyone involved in groups, especially anyone helping to organise or coordinate activities.

If you are a registered charity or voluntary organisation you have additional duties; potentially including legal obligations to keep people safe from harm. Read our guide for leading safeguarding during the pandemic for voluntary organisations.

Keeping everyone safe

Here are some ways you can keep your team and those you seek to help safe

  • Follow the up-to-date government guidance to stop the spread of the virus: this includes hand washing, wearing a mask and keeping two metres away from people being helped. For details see the Government’s guidance on how to help safely
  • If volunteering cannot be carried out from home, there are specific conditions that must be met in order to volunteer safely outside the home and to be safe around others. To learn more see our guidance on volunteering under national lockdown.
  • Plan to work together: ask people to volunteer in pairs, observing social distancing rules. Make sure others know who is doing what, when, with whom and where. 
  • Have clear boundaries and stick to them: volunteers should not enter others homes unless it is absolutely necessary and only ever do so with the person's consent. Do not provide medical treatment or personal care. Try to work in ways that avoid spending excessive time with an individual you are helping, especially without others knowing. 
  • Be open and honest: do not overstate the checks that have been conducted on volunteers – this might create a false sense of security for those you are helping. 
  • Let people know they have a right to be safe: make sure people know which group you’re involved in and contacts for multiple people. Where possible, share information on how they can stay safe. For example, share the government’s guidance on staying safe if a volunteer is helping you.
  • Be careful handling money: Have clear processes with simple precautions like keeping records of money spent and providing shopping receipts.
  • Be careful about information collection and sharing: Minimise what information you collect and avoid collecting or storing personal details of people, especially of children or adults at risk of harm, unless necessary. Always delete or destroy any information collected. Learn more about data protection for community groups
  • Think about social media: it’s great to let people know how you’re helping. However, always make sure you do not share personal identifiable information about people you are helping on your personal social media accounts without their explicit consent. 
  • Look out for one another: Show curiosity about others behaviour and speak out if someone’s behaviour is concerning. Remember, people may be learning and may be open to your feedback. State why you think that they should act differently. Consider their response. If necessary, share this concern with other volunteers.

If you want to learn more 

Act if people need help

Looking after yourself and other volunteers 

  • Sometimes volunteering can be demanding and expose you to others who are distressed. Consider your emotional state and whether the task is right for you. If you are unsure, consider the advice of those you are close to and whether they are supportive of you volunteering. There may be other tasks which you may be better placed to undertake now.
  • Be vigilant and show curiosity into the actions of others. If you feel someone is behaving inappropriately or you’re worried about them, consider saying this. State why you think that they should act differently. Consider their response. If necessary, share this concern with other volunteers.
  • If you feel you are starting to get overly stressed or unable to manage the demands of helping, tell others. Take a break and remember that it is always your choice to give the gift of your time. 
  • Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should volunteer from home.

DBS checks 

  • There is no legal requirement for you to carry out DBS checks on volunteers. 
  • People who are legally barred from working with children and adults would be committing an offence by trying to do that work. You can ask your volunteers if they have been barred. If they have been barred, then you should not allow them to work closely with children or vulnerable adults. 
  • You can learn more in the governments Safeguarding Factsheet: Community volunteers during COVID-19 outbreak on gov.uk.  
  • If you think a role carries a higher level of risk that requires these checks or additional support, it is often best to work through an established organisation via a Volunteer Centre.



Page last edited Jan 11, 2021

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