Coronavirus & Volunteers: Insurance and Risk Implications

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The “Your NHS Needs You” campaign saw 750,000 people volunteer to support the vulnerable. Often, local voluntary “infrastructure” groups coordinate efforts and other community organisations manage volunteers; some organisations already existed, while others have ‘sprung up’ in response to COVID-19. What are the risks and insurance implications?

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Background Checks and Training

Safeguarding is a key consideration for all charities, particularly when working with those who may be deemed vulnerable.

An application form should be obtained from each volunteer detailing contact information, relevant skills and experience, health information, availability, access to transport, driver details / car insurance, DBS information, GDPR sharing permissions (if sharing with a third party). This can either be completed online, through a paper form or via a recorded telephone call.

Most activities required by the NHS will not be ‘regulated’ or ‘regular’ so DBS checks would not be compulsory, but this may change depending on the nature and length of the role. In addition:

  • Offering introductory Safeguarding training would be advisable with a “see something, say something” style approach
  • Offer manual handling training where necessary
  • Explain risk assessments and lone worker policies

Job Specific Considerations

The jobs volunteers may be tasked with includes delivering medicines from pharmacies, shopping, transporting service users, and telephone befriending. Organisations should consider…

For voluntary driving and associated activities, does the driver:

  • have a full UK driving licence
  • have a safe, appropriate vehicle
  • have valid insurance (with agreement from their motor insurer to cover this activity), MOT and Tax for the vehicle

These 3 points can be picked up in your initial application process.

Furthermore, where there is an element of personal contact (e.g. patient transport) it is advisable to dictate that service users sit in the back of the vehicle, where possible, to ensure a certain level of social distance. Cars should also be regularly cleaned, especially areas such as handles.

Volunteers should not transport service users with symptoms of COVID-19; organisations should check with service users.

Service users should be advised of the name of the volunteer and the volunteer should carry identification.

Shopping orders should be taken over the phone (and read back to confirm) or by paper form; deliveries should be done by leaving goods on the doorstep and stepping back to confirm collection.

Volunteer expenses is another issue requiring consideration.

Their own expenses (e.g. fuel) – Organisations should outline their expenses policy and volunteers should always retain receipts in order to accurately reconcile expenses.

Service Users expenses (e.g. to pay for shopping or prescriptions) – Where possible, organisations should manage these expenses (collecting and allocating monies), to ensure clarity and reduce the risk of theft or fraud.

Cash should be avoided, but if this is required considerations need to be made around infection control.

More generally, volunteers also need to abide by the government’s rules on self-isolation, social distancing and travel. Checks that volunteers don’t / haven’t had symptoms and provide volunteers with proof of their volunteering duties (such as a letter or the telephone number of a coordinator) should the need to prove it.

Advising your Insurer

Most specialist charity insurance policies automatically include some cover for “Personal Assistance”. For example, CaSE Insurance automatically includes cover for: attending to, accompanying and caring for Service Users including shopping, laundry, cleaning, cooking and other household work, dog walking, collecting pensions and prescriptions and pastoral care and advice.

Such policies should therefore be able to provide adequate cover but for peace of mind always confirm with your insurer. If you are taking on many additional volunteers, insurers may need to be advised of this.

Other Considerations

  • Provide volunteers with PPE such as gloves and also anti-bacterial gel and advise them to carry water
  • Provide clear contact details for the volunteer
  • Make sure volunteers are given manageable workloads and are not overstretched
  • Data protection – Obtain necessary permissions where handling personal and health data
  • What are the rules on discretionary payments? Refer other useful links.

Other Useful Links