Coronavirus: Charity Volunteers

24th March 2020

It can be expected that once the COVID-19 pandemic has waned in the UK, there will be a groundswell of willing volunteers looking to aide charities as the third sector look to help repair the social and economic damage that has been created by the virus.

Last week the Government announced that the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are working with key civil society organisations such as the National Emergencies Trust, The National Council of Voluntary Organisations and the British Red Cross to coordinate a volunteering push across the UK to get support to those who need it most.

The Government’s announcement on 23 March 2020 that has effectively put the country into ‘lockdown’ will no doubt impact on the numbers of volunteers that are available at the present time, the ways in which charities can interact with their volunteers and the ways in which volunteers can help the charity.

What we have seen in our own client base is a shift to the use of technology on a mass scale to coordinate volunteers or reach beneficiaries – be that video-calls, instant messenger, or the use of group calling in mobile applications such as WhatsApp.

With a backlog of volunteers to process, the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) has gone someway to make its procedures easier to complete in the current environment. 

In normal circumstances a charity would need to have the original ID documentation for a new volunteer, as well as having to physically see them in person or over a video-call. The DBS has temporarily amended its guidance so that a scanned image sent in advance of a video-call, or seeing the documents whilst on the video-call, are acceptable forms of verification of the individual and their ID documents. 

The volunteer must present the original ID documentation on their first visit to the charity. This is a step that will undoubtedly make it easier for charities to process volunteers. 

The DBS has also altered its Contact Centre hours due to COVID-19.

It is accepted that this is a chaotic time for all organisations, but the principles of accepting volunteers remains the same – ensuring the individual is properly vetted by the charity and checked with the DBS that they are a good fit for the charity; and have the skill set the charity needs. 

It is likely that charities will be inundated with volunteers in the wake of COVID-19, so it is vital that the most appropriate people are chosen, as having a rogue volunteer can present a reputational and financial risk to the charity. 

Please contact your usual Bishop Fleming contact if you need any further advice.

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