Covid-19/Coronavirus resuming activities

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This article sets out guidance on how you can safely engage volunteers as lockdown restrictions ease.

Guidance on resuming activities

Every volunteer involving organisation will have dealt with the impact of the pandemic on their volunteer engagement differently, depending on the roles that your volunteers undertake. Some volunteering has changed, but continued, but for other volunteering roles it has not been possible for them to continue. As the country progresses out of lockdown many organisations will be starting to plan how to restart services and involve volunteers again. When planning any resumption of volunteer involvement you must consider the most up to date Scottish Government Guidance. This is constantly evolving as we progress beyond Level 0. However, with few certainties, flexibility in your planning is important.

Regardless of your organisation’s size, you need to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19 as you plan resumption of your activities and ensure that your activities are compliant with the guidance. You have a responsibility and legal duty to protect your people (whether paid staff, volunteers or members of the public) from risk to their health and safety. This means you need to think about the risks they face and do everything reasonably practical to minimise them.

One size does not fit all

Different types of volunteering role will be able to restart at different times, and with different procedures in place. Under Level 3 and below guidance, non essential retail and hospitality can resume, with situation specific guidelines in place. This means that charity shops and possibly cafe's which involve volunteers may be able to restart. However, face to face indoor activities such as befriending may not be possible. Organisations need to consider each volunteering role individually and how safely it can be resumed and at what time.

Ask your volunteers

Before planning resumption of activities find out how your volunteers feel about returning:

  • Do they want to resume volunteering with you? Many probably will, but do not make assumptions. Lockdown may have prompted them to consider new activities or their personal circumstances may have changed.
  • Are they able to resume volunteering with you? Everyone must continue to follow government guidance for shielded people and those in high-risk groups, along with guidance on travel and use of public transport.
  • If volunteers are unable to continue volunteering with you, help them to consider other options. Direct them to our website or suggest they call us on 0131 225 0630.


In preparing for the phased resumption of your volunteers’ activities you should:

  • Identify what activities you can undertake at each phase of the easing of lockdown. This may be:
    • resumption (partial or whole) of previous activities
    • new or different ways of doing previous activities
    • completely new tasks or activities
  • Undertake risk assessments for all planned activities.
  • Check your Employers’/Public Liability insurance policies to ensure they provide adequate protection to you and your volunteers.
  • Be transparent in your communications with volunteers and keep their expectations realistic.
  • Ensure that information and guidelines about resumption of activities is clearly and consistently communicated to all volunteers, and that they agree to comply with the measures you are putting in place. You may wish to formalise this with written guidelines and agreement. It is essential that everyone involved with your organisation knows and understands what they can and cannot do.
  • Ensure all volunteers know who is responsible for their volunteering (manager/lead volunteer/Chair of management committee etc) and have contact details in case of emergencies.
  • The responsible person should know who and when is volunteering at any given time.
  • Do not publically promote the time and place of intended events or activities to avoid the risk of large social gatherings.
  • Continually review your situation and amend when necessary e.g. in light of new government guidance, or as a result of your own experience.
    This is also an opportunity for you to review your overall engagement of volunteers. Some organisations have processes for recruiting, training and supporting volunteers. Others are more informal. Whatever your structure it is important, now more than ever, to ensure that your volunteers have a good and safe experience.
    Volunteer Edinburgh can help with all aspects of your volunteer engagement, no matter how big or small your group. Our website explains how we can support you. Also, VolunteerWiki has resources, information and template policies, and you can call us on 0131 225 0630 too.

Risk assessment templates

Volunteer Edinburgh General Risk Assessment Template.

Befriending Networks Risk Assessment Template for Home Visits.

Volunteers’ individual vulnerability to Covid-19 assessment

Alongside your activities’ risk assessment, you may also want to assess the volunteers’ individual vulnerability to Covid-19. For doing so, you can use the Covid-age tool. It should be born in mind that this tool was developed prior to the vaccination role out and therefore may not be that useful for individuals who have had both vaccinations.

Other mitigations to consider

As part of your strategy and risk management, if you are physically having volunteers (and indeed employees and visitors) coming into your premises you may want to register with Check In Scotland. This means that volunteers and others can check in using a unique QR Code every time they come into your premises. Its a useful and important part of contract tracing and virus suppression.

Lateral Flow Tests

While in most settings it may not be appropriate to require volunteers to undertake regular Lateral Flow Tests, you may wish to explain the benefits of doing so.The tests are aiming to discover a-symptomatic cases of Covid 19, including in those who have been vaccinated, to prevent unknowing transmission of the virus. Lateral Flow Test kits are free to anyone in Scotland for use at home and can be ordered simply and quickly here. Alternatively Third Sector Organisations in Edinburgh can collect testing kits from us at our Leith Walk office. Please contact us on 0131 225 0630.

Other useful guidance and templates

Covid-19 Medical Risk Assessment.

Volunteer Edinburgh's Volunteer Guidance and Agreement for resuming volunteering involvement.

Befriending Networks Decision Making Toolkit for resumption of activities.

Befriending Networks Guidance on Doorstep and Garden Visits.

Shared practice and guidance for volunteer management in NHS Scotland

Although this guidance is focused on volunteering in NHSScotland, it provides suggestions for role development and the safe and measured return of volunteering that might be of interest to any volunteer-involving organisation.

Remobilisation of Volunteering in NHSScotland COVID-19, Shared practice and guidance for volunteer management in NHSScotland.

National Group for Volunteering in NHSScotland, Remobilisation of Volunteering in NHSScotland.

Outdoor and greenspace activities

A positive feature of lockdown is that public appreciation and use of parks and greenspaces has increased. As an organisation involved in outdoor and greenspace work, you will obviously want to build on this and encourage people to continue their involvement in your activities. However you must proceed with caution and adhere to government guidance for each stage of the route map out of lockdown.

Outdoor and greenspace activities - Risk assessment template

Click here.

Outdoor and greenspace activities - Guidance and agreement for volunteers template

Click here.

Litter picking guidance and FAQ (Keep Scotland Beautiful)

Click here.

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More help?

If you would like more help or advice please contact Volunteer Edinburgh on 0131 225 0630 or email:
Or you can drop in and see us:
Volunteer Edinburgh
222 Leith Walk, EH6 5EQ