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Guidance for volunteering in social care settings

This guidance for volunteering in social care settings has been jointly developed by Social Care Wales, WCVA and Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW).


This guidance provides information on the general principles of volunteering for staff who are or likely to manage volunteers within social care, whether they be from a local authority, an independent provider or a voluntary sector organisation contracted to provide care and support services in the following settings:

  • Care Homes
  • Supported Living provision for people with a learning disability
  • Domiciliary Care
  • Day Services
  • Other community support services.

Reason for guidance

Covid-19 has had an impact on social care services throughout the lockdown and likely to for several months to come and into the future. Many volunteers have been unable or unwilling to volunteer, for example because they or their families are vulnerable to infection or have been shielding. At the same time there continues to be an increased strain on social care services, and an increased demand for volunteer services as well as new opportunities for volunteers to be involved.

As those who have been volunteering through the lockdown, including those who have been furloughed are returning to work there is still the need to support people in the community, especially those who have been shielding for over 4 months. The legislation aims to make it easier for people to volunteer to help support public services, including organisations being able to make basic DBS checks for those wishing to volunteer beyond the lockdown and into the future to support their local communities.

A one-page checklist summarises the key points from this guidance.

Care for volunteers and minimising the risk of spreading Covid-19

Some volunteers stopped volunteering for the time being, on the grounds of their age (over 70 years) and those who have underlying health conditions which put them at risk, including those who have received the shielding letter and were advised to stay at home until the 16 August 2020. A risk review of current volunteers may still be appropriate, asking key questions about vulnerabilities and encouraging those at risk to continue to ‘pause’ their volunteering.

You may want to use, with volunteers, the workforce risk assessment tool, although only with volunteers who are under the age of 70.

Volunteering: things to consider

Health first

Anyone can volunteer in many ways. In the first instance, and as priority to lessen the risk of spreading the virus, those working in social care settings still need to think about non-contact volunteer roles which can be performed through remote access using phones, emails, FaceTime or WhatsApp video facilities, for example. These roles are just as important as many others to prevent loneliness and disconnection.

It appears we reached a peak of infections several weeks ago, but there is still the danger of spikes of infections, of which we have seen several incidents, and also the potential for a ‘second wave’. People continue to self-isolate with a possible infection or at risk of infection, but can continue, if already volunteering, to undertake their social distancing roles if they are well enough, but importantly they must not break their isolation to volunteer.

Volunteers should not be expected to:

  • Be involved in any moving or handling as this requires training,
  • provide intimate personal care,
  • undertake food preparation or housework, and
  • should not administer medication.

Throughout the crisis, if volunteers have been asked to assist in contact roles, then they should have only done so if they were provided with and can continue to act in line with the latest guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Volunteers must adhere to the same standards as the paid workforce and comply with an organisations or local authority advice.

Supporting people

Most volunteer activities were put on hold in social care settings or have been adapted to minimise direct contact. Whilst, care homes and other residential settings have had guidance on reconnecting families and friends most of the re-connecting has been at a distance and volunteering activity remains mostly on hold. However, volunteers could be involved in supporting family and friends to reconnect and prepare them for visiting their family member where, for example, there has been a deterioration in their condition.

Some activities in care settings will have been reduced simply due to a limited number of volunteers or due to increased priorities elsewhere. As priorities have changed and you needed to operate restricted volunteer services in one area temporarily, be sure to communicate this clearly to staff.

Time to get creative

With the ongoing need to limit contact and maintain social distancing there is a need to find alternative ways to volunteer and the types of activities which can be safely achieved at a distance using, for example, through social media platforms. Providing ongoing opportunities for people to have mental stimulation and social interaction is important for their health and well-being

There is useful new information sheets on volunteering and easing out of lockdown, as well as a related blog to get people and organisations ready to re-start volunteering.

There have been some good examples of where children have been making cards and sending messages to local care homes, as long as care homes take the appropriate measures to social distance and use antibacterial spray to limit any chance of passing on the infection to very vulnerable residents.

Other volunteering activities have included:

  • Arranging to send videos to connect residents in care homes, supported living provision and those being cared for at home to their families, by offering technical support to do this. This activity boosted both the person being supported and their families and reduce the impact of social isolation and loneliness.
  • You can still continue to look at alternative volunteering activities such as live streaming classes to care home residents or doing a beauty or hair tips video which many have been appreciated during the lockdown and be helpful now and in the future.
  • Schools, where they were open for children and young people of critical workers, they created short videos of them singing or sending messages as intergenerational activity which has been shown to be mutually beneficial.
  • In some care settings volunteers, who are exercise specialists, who would have been able to do sessions directly have delivered session via video links to maintain movement and reduce the risk of muscle wastage. These sessions have been welcomed by care homes.
  • Telephone befriending has been another way that people have volunteered with existing third sector organisations who provide this service but also have been delivered via FaceTime or other video-conferencing platforms for people being cared for at home to increase social interaction for people who are more isolated.

Maximising the volunteer workforce in social care

During periods of lockdown, organisations have been able to decide when and where more volunteers are needed and for whom. They have also had to look at how to fast track recruitment and training pathways, manage new volunteers or redeploy them in new roles.

Where volunteers have had to step down from their usual volunteering roles there maybe opportunities to move into paid roles temporarily with the right level of support and training. Contact your local authority or visit WeCare Wales for further information.

Training for volunteers

Finding new ways to deliver training to volunteers which previously would have been delivered face to face has been essential and likely to continue for some time to come.

Many have made use of online training facilities, like Zoom, webinars and social media platforms will help deliver solutions for while operating remotely.

Any training should include the importance of safeguarding themselves and those accessing volunteer support, even at a distance.

Contact your local authority to see what online induction training is available. You can also find example activity on our induction pages.

Volunteers could be recruited from:

  • The existing pool of volunteers who may still be redeployed to focus on managing demand and those in greatest need.
  • Former volunteers who feel ready to return to volunteering could be encouraged to increase your volunteer pool.
  • Students home from universities and colleges (e.g. students from Arts, IT and Social Care courses.
  • Retired staff across the social care sector.
  • Members of the public who have not volunteered before.
  • Your local volunteer centre may know of volunteers who have offered to help during the pandemic and have not yet found suitable ways to do so.

Redeploying volunteers

A skill audit review of existing and new volunteers could facilitate redeployment including identifying where volunteers have professional experience or skills that can be put to effective use and may not need to be trained in the same way as volunteers who do not have the same experience. Organisations across the social care sector may be able to recruit and train new volunteers speedily as they have adapted to change.

Support and supervision

Volunteers, within all social care environments, should be supported and supervised. The safety of volunteers and people in care settings is paramount. If there is not the capacity or infrastructure for fast-tracked recruitment to volunteering within social care (or an independent or voluntary organisation operating within the social care as a contracted provider), you may have to suspend recruitment temporarily but can signpost enquirers to your local County Voluntary Council.

Advertising opportunities

Creating a ‘Covid-19’ volunteering opportunity on the Volunteering Wales website in order to recruit and manage temporary volunteers beyond the lockdown should continue to be a consideration. There remains a specific Covid–19 category for opportunities, which enables people to search for these easily.

County Voluntary Councils, can advise on what ‘locally grown’ neighbourhood opportunities there are to support those who have self-isolated who need extra support, for example, with food deliveries and may still require this type of support now and into the future.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many thousands of new volunteers have registered via the Volunteering Wales and County Voluntary Council websites, so opportunities continue to arise through those online platforms.

Changes to legislation

The new coronavirus legislation aimed to increase the available care workforce and to reduce the number of administrative tasks they have to perform. Changes were announced by government on DBS requirements, in order to allow volunteers to be more quickly recruited.

Current volunteers who have an existing DBS check should still be applicable for the new role they may undertake, and volunteer roles requiring specific skills could be targeted at particular employee groups.

See also WCVA launches guidance on DBS checks amid Covid-19 crisis.


Safeguarding is everyone’s business. If you think someone is in immediate danger, you should call 999. Volunteers should have a basic knowledge about safeguarding. The Wales Safeguarding Procedures are available for download via the Apple App Store and Google Play Store; and they can also be viewed online at Safguarding Wales.

For any safeguarding concerns, speak to your local authority and ask for adult safeguarding or child protection.

Raising a concern

You will need to make volunteers aware about what to do if they have a concern about how a service is operating. Make sure the volunteer is clear how to pursue a complaint and make them aware if you have a whistleblowing policy. You should also make them aware of support from the inspectorate and regulatory bodies for any queries or concerns.

For concerns about a provider or service, contact Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) for advice and in confidence on 0300 7900 126 or e-mail

For concerns about an individual worker, raise a concern using the online form.

Finally, advice on handwashing and simple measures such as social distancing should continue to be reinforced. Where there are likely more direct contact volunteers should only do so if they have access to and the correct Personal Protective Equipment (masks, visors etc).

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