Coronavirus (Covid-19) advice to GNN groups

You will now have heard the announcement by the Prime Minister last night (Monday 23 March). The government has made it clear people should be staying at home to help beat the curve of the Coronavirus.

An exception to the government guidance is very clear:
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or help to a vulnerable person.

Our advice to all groups is to minimise all tasks and limit them to those that fall within the government criteria. This can include shopping or support for someone who is vulnerable, but volunteers must take care to put their safety and health first, and that of their families.

Volunteers who are either in a vulnerable category themselves or live with someone in that category must not undertake volunteering tasks that involve going outside of their home. They may wish to offer help still, and telephone befriending or a daily 'check in' service is a great way to do this.

There are many things that can still be done by those willing and able to do something. We are seeing many people coming forward wanting to offer help and we encourage all groups to look for ways to assist with this positivity. Committees and coordinators will need to consider what they can offer. The restrictions on ID checking for DBS checks have been relaxed slightly (although not the requirement for DBS checks, where applicable). Now this process can be done remotely,  ID checkers over 70 or isolating can still help, if they can see the information on their computers.  

There are six key points to note:

  1. There are many people offering to help – spontaneous volunteers and groups would be missing a key opportunity to recruit some younger volunteers if they do not make use of that. With so many GNN groups already set up to do many of the tasks people want to help with, it would save enormous trouble and time if groups can find a way to facilitate local initiatives and support this enthusiasm to help.
  2. One of the main issues is going to be getting hold of the food as supermarkets struggle with shifts in demand.
  3. Driving (but only to healthcare settings) and shopping, if it involves a financial transaction are considered fully regulated activities and as such will still require a DBS check 
  4. While there has been no relaxation of the DBS rules, there are a lot of ways to offer help that do not require DBS checks. For instance, a donation of food, that does not involve payment, does not count as shopping and is effectively a food parcel. Groups may not be able to afford to do that longterm but, could set up a donation page.
  5. Groups that would usually be running cafes or befriending schemes can continue to offer support by phone and no DBS checks are required for this, or age or isolation restrictions for phone activities. Groups may want to consider reimbursing the cost of phone calls.
  6. All groups must still practice safe recruitment. All new volunteers can be put to work on non DBS tasks. GNN can also offer assistance with DBS checks although they may take slightly longer.

There is a lot of really helpful information already on the NHS website.

It is true that when there is a common enemy people come together and want to help each other. However, alongside these kind and caring people that want to help, will be a number of people who don't have such altruistic motivations. The perfect storm of this health crisis, people being anxious and frightend, and the necessary isolation that this virus brings with it means that it could be easier for people to take advantage of others. So, we must all be vigilant, as well as kind, caring and giving. Please click here for a poster from Hampshire Safeguarding Adults Board you may wish to share with your friends and neighbours.

Our challenge now is to do the best we can to continue to provide support to those most in need in a way that's appropriate and does not put people, whether volunteers or those helped, at risk in any way.

The GNN staff team are available on the phone, and by email ([email protected]) if groups need particular help and support.

With very best wishes 

Canon Nick Ralph and Karen Jordan

Director, Council for Social Responsibility /Good Neighbours Network Team Leader