Guidance for Volunteers

Westminster Mutual Aid is no longer active as a central coordination organisation. This is an archive page.


Volunteer Guidance

The system we have designed is simple and de-centralised, aiming to link volunteers with people requiring support.

When you sign up to volunteer, you will be directed to a local announcement only WhatsApp group. N.B that all flyering has been suspended until further notice following government announcement of 23 March.

Once you are in a local WhatsApp group, you can start helping people straight away – your Ward Leads will dispatch requests and provide more information.

Give the requester a call (your Ward Lead will let you know if the requestor prefers another method of communication, such as text / whatsapp)

  1. Introduce yourself and let them know you are calling from WESTMINSTER MUTUAL AID as part of the coronavirus community support project.

  2. Ask the requester what they need assistance with. They may have thought of extra things they need since they completed the form.

  3. Make sure their request is for one of these things: food and supplies; collecting prescriptions and medicine; sending or collecting post; check-in calls; dog walking; lending an item / equipment. Guidance for each category is below.

  4. Confirm their address and how they can pay. The request assistance form only asks for postcodes, you will need to discuss the exact delivery details with the requestor personally.

WE RECOMMEND THAT NO ONE DOES MORE THAN £40 SHOPPING PER TIME. You should also set your own limits on what you feel comfortable spending, and waiting to be reimbursed for, based on your own personal circumstances. For example, your own limit may be £10 or lower.


If the request is for something outside of these categories, let the requester know you might not be able to help, and message one of the administrators of your local WhatsApp group for advice. We can help you figure out if it is something we can help with, or whether we should refer the requester to other services or organisations for specialist support.


Helpful information guides (produced by other organisations)

Staying Well at Home

How to Help Safely

Visual Guide for Covid-19 Mutual Aid Groups


Equality

You will support a diverse range of individuals in diverse communities and we ask that you respect every individual’s beliefs and that nobody is treated less favourably or excluded in anyway. We are all different and all have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. If you witness any behaviours where you feel someone is being treated less favourably or excluded, then you must inform Westminster Mutual Aid admins of this immediately so we can tackle this and take appropriate action.

How to protect yourself and the person you are supporting – General Guidance

  • Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water at regular intervals throughout the day.

  • If running water and soap is not available, then ensure you have alcohol-based hand wipes or sanitiser to kill viruses that may be on your hands.

  • Avoid touching your face and keep hands away from eyes, mouth and nose to avoid spread of any virus.

  • If you cough, use a tissue and dispose of the tissue immediately. If the cough becomes persistent then you should follow government self-isolation precautions. If no tissue is available, cough into your arm.

  • Consider social distancing by maintaining at least 2 metres distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing, this should be observed at all times.

  • Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces.

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.

  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.

  • If you feel unwell and have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and follow NHS guidance whilst avoiding any contact with people.

  • Use common sense and never put yourself into an environment where you feel there is a risk to yourself or others.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 Symptoms?

If you are concerned about your health in relation to COVID-19 and believe you have symptoms, then you need to pause your voluntary service and self-isolate for the required period of time. Please check out the Public Health Guidance to identify how long you need to isolate for. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, sore throat or cough then do not agree to volunteer and support a vulnerable individual, making sure you self-isolate.


Guidance for all Deliveries

DO NOT ACCEPT DELIVERY TASKS IF YOU SHOW ANY SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19.

Please read carefully:

  1. Don’t go into any houses. Leave food/ goods outside the doorstep. Communicate to the person in isolation that you have delivered via message or phone call. Get confirmation that the person has received it before you leave. Do not make physical contact with the person you are assisting and maintain a distance of at least two metres at all times.

  2. Remember to wash hands before and after deliveries. Where possible wash for 20 seconds with soap and water. When out and about keep a bottle of alcohol hand sanitiser to hand.

  3. Volunteers should ensure they have a low chance of becoming infected. Where possible follow social distancing protocol and don’t take unnecessary risks.

  4. Public transport should be avoided where possible. In cases where taking public transport is unavoidable, disinfection of the items delivered should be carried out. If using your car to deliver items then keep your car clean and disinfect the most used surfaces such as the steering wheel, gear stick and door handles.

  5. Take care to wear gloves when handling any items which may be given to people who may have compromised immune systems. The virus can live on inanimate surfaces for up to 24 hours.

  6. If you cannot wear gloves, disinfect any surface that will be handled by the person you are delivering to.

  7. Any receipts, plastic gift card or change that needs to be returned should be placed on the doorstep.

  8. After every request is completed, please let the Ward lead know as soon as possible so they can update their system. If you were unable to fulfil the request, or only partially fulfil, please communicate this to the Ward lead.


Food & Essential Supplies

DO NOT ACCEPT DELIVERY TASKS IF YOU SHOW ANY SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19.

N.B that we will also be making extremely vulnerable people requesting assistance aware of this website and supporting with completing form over the phone where needed.

  1. Establish whether you are required to go shopping on behalf of the isolating person or if you are required to pick up a pre-paid order.

  2. If the latter, ask for a list of the items that they need you to collect for them.

  3. Ask where they want you to purchase their items from. With shortages of certain items in some retailers, you may want to agree a max budget for each item in case you have to source from another retailer.

  4. Let the individual know that you will try and obtain all the items listed but in the current situation, all items may not be available. Please also check if the individual has any dietary requirements. Ask the individual if there are any particular brands they require, or do you still buy the item if their preferred brand is out of stock?

  5. Chat with them about arranging payment between you. The principles of mutual aid we are using are based on an agreement between you as individuals based on trust. If you’re worried about being able to afford their items or that they may be unable to pay, contact an administrator on the WhatsApp group for advice. Please see more info below on foodbank and payment options.

  6. If you need to collect a voucher, pre-paid card or cash in advance of shopping, arrange a suitable time to go and collect it and follow hygiene and social distancing measures.

  7. Arrange a time to drop their shopping requests to their house. Make sure you leave enough time to go to the shop to buy everything, factoring in time to visit more than one retailer in case of shortages of items and for queuing for entry to the shop.

  8. Any receipts, plastic gift card or change that needs to be returned should be placed on the doorstep with the shopping. Allow the isolating person to check the receipt matches the amount spent

  9. Follow all the safety guidance outlined above to deliver their items.

If the person you are supporting mentions that they cannot afford food at this time or are running out of money, please make them aware of local foodbank such as Westminster Chapel https://www.westminsterchapel.org.uk/ministries/foodbank/

Payment options

The options below are in order of preference and ease for both you and the person you are supporting.

a. Supermarket click and collect service – Where possible, and if able, we are encouraging people to use a click and collect service if this is available at their local supermarket. The isolating person can place the order online and then share a reference number with you to go and collect the shopping on their behalf. (e.g. Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Tesco).

b. Call and collect – Check to see if the isolating person is able to call a local trusted shop and place an order for shopping over the phone and also make payment over the phone. Then when ready, you can go and collect the shopping and deliver on their behalf. Please note major supermarkets are unable to support this process.

c. Payment over the phone at check out– This option will allow you to go to a local store and payment details for the shopping can be taken over the phone by the shop assistant. i. The isolating person should be sure that their local shop can do this by calling them in advance. Most Spar stores have confirmed this payment option. Check the local store is participating before you travel. ii. The isolating person will give you their shopping list and a code word for use at the till. iii. When going to the shop, speak to a shop assistant and explain that you are a volunteer and you would like to use the “Customer not present” payment option. iv. When at the till, share the code word suggested by the isolating person with the shop assistant. This will make the isolating person feel more comfortable when sharing their card details over the phone once they have heard their code word. Please note major supermarkets are unable to support this process.

d. Pre-paid supermarket plastic voucher or gift card or e-voucher - if the isolating person has a plastic supermarket gift card/voucher (available online or a friend or relative could buy in store e.g. Aldi, Asda, Waitrose) they can share this with you. Digital e-vouchers can also be bought online either on a general gift card site or directly from the stores website e.g. Marks and Spencer. Many other supermarkets are developing their websites to enable people to buy cards directly. i. You will need to collect the plastic card or print out of the e-voucher before your shop..You will need to collect and return the plastic card.

e. Prepaid cards – If the isolating person has a plastic prepaid debit card they can share this with you. You will need to collect and return the card.

f. Grocery choice – An isolating person may highlight that they want to pay for their shopping by a Grocery Choice voucher. i. The individual will need to exchange their Grocery choice voucher online with a retailer of their choice. ii. You will then be able to collect and return the e-giftcard/voucher from the individual. These can be used at a number of stores. (e.g. Aldi, Asda, M&S, Sainsburys, Waitrose).

g. Monzo / Paypal / Bank transfer - Exchange details to arrange reimbursement. It is safer to do this over the telephone or by whatsapp. Avoid sharing by email or when talking in person (due to distancing required).

h. Paying with cash – As a last resort and if all options above have already been exhausted you are able to pay for the shopping with cash.

Medicine and Prescriptions

DO NOT ACCEPT DELIVERY TASKS IF YOU SHOW ANY SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19.


https://www.pharmacy2u.co.uk/ offer a free delivery service. For anyone requiring prescription collection, direct them to that. You may need to talk them through it. Details are on the website.

If you are collecting a prescription for someone else, follow NHS guidance. Most prescriptions are sent electronically direct to a pharmacy from the GP surgery and you can collect the medicine on their behalf if the person has told the pharmacy that they are happy for you to do so. In rare cases where paper prescriptions are used, the patient and person collecting will need to fill out an FB10 form.

This guidance comes from Disabled People Against Cuts. They recommend that these precautions should be followed:

  • Volunteers collecting prescriptions should message organisers when they have collected prescriptions.

  • Volunteers should message organisers when they have delivered prescriptions.

  • Organisers should message the requester to confirm they have had their delivery before deleting the request.

  • If you collect a prescription, do not advise on doses, preparation or administration of medication even if you have a relevant qualification. This should only be done by the prescriber.

  • The same is true of over the counter medications, such as paracetamol and ibruprofen. No advice should be given by volunteers, no matter what you’ve read. The person requesting over the counter meds must take all responsibility for their request. If over the counter then only buy and deliver the maximum amount which can be purchased by one person (ie only 16 paracetamols and not boxes and boxes. If they need boxes then this should be prescribed).

  • Don’t provide a panic buying service for paracetamols, nor pasta, nor anything.

If you need to call the isolating person to confirm collection details;

  • Ensure you ask which GP surgery/pharmacy.

  • Ensure you check whether the individual pays for their prescriptions.

  • You may need to provide some personal details to the pharmacy in order to collect the prescription e.g. name and address. Check this information with the individual beforehand.

  • Let them know what time you are going to collect and drop off the prescription.

  • Tell the individual that you will only be able to drop off the prescription at the doorstep and check they are able to come to the door to collect it.

  • Protect the person’s confidentiality - When collecting prescriptions the person may need to provide sensitive information – i.e. details of their prescription.

  • Volunteers must understand the level of confidentiality expected of them. The person’s privacy must be respected at all times.

  • Some medication may need to be stored in the fridge, you will be told this on collection, please communicate this to the isolating person.

  • Any prescriptions that cannot be delivered need to be returned to the pharmacy.

  • Do not open the prescription bag, if the medication spills or breaks, return to the pharmacy.

  • If the individual has a question about the medication, please ask them to contact the pharmacy.

  • Under no circumstances are volunteers to administer any medication.

  • If the person pays for their prescription, ask the pharmacy if they will accept payment by card over the phone.

Post

DO NOT ACCEPT DELIVERY TASKS IF YOU SHOW ANY SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19.


  1. If they need you to collect post, ask them where the collection location is, if there are any special codes or information needed to collect the item, and if there is any cost involved in sending their item.

  2. If they need to send an item, ask them what it is, where it needs to be sent from, and if there is any cost involved in sending their item.

  3. If they need to pay for anything, chat with them about arranging payment between you. The principles of mutual aid we are using are based on an agreement between you as individuals based on trust. If you’re worried about being able to afford sending their item or that they may be unable to pay, contact an Westminster Mutual Aid organiser before you complete the request.

  4. Arrange a time to collect/deliver their post.

  5. Follow all the safety guidance outlined above.


Lending an item / equipment

  1. Follow the guidance for deliveries / other safety advice on this page.

  2. The principles of mutual aid we are using are based on an agreement between you as individuals based on trust. Agree the period that the item will be on loan for. Please only lend items / equipment that you could afford or not be too inconvenienced to lose or not have returned, in case of unforeseeable circumstances including breakage.

Check in calls

This is a great voluntary task for those who are self-isolating but who want to volunteer

  1. Agree by text or whatsapp the preferred time of the call(s).

  2. The principles of mutual aid we are using are based on an agreement between you as individuals based on trust. Be clear with the person requesting a call about how long you are able to talk for (and if applicable, how often).

  3. If the person you call discloses information which gives you cause for concern that they or others are at risk -

Do:

  • remain calm, approachable and receptive

  • listen carefully, without interrupting

  • acknowledge you understand how difficult this may be

  • make it clear that you are taking what is said seriously

  • reassure them that they have done the right thing in telling you

  • let them know that you'll do everything you can to help them

  • make a written record of exactly what has been said.

Don't:

  • promise confidentiality

  • ask leading or probing questions

  • investigate

  • repeatedly question or ask the person to repeat the disclosure

  • discuss the disclosure with people who do not need to know

Depending on the information disclosed, you may find it helpful to direct the person you spoke to another organisation, or you may decide to pass on the information to or consult the organisation yourself. In the first instance, where possible, make the person aware of other support available to them and encourage them to make direct contact. If this is not possible, explicitly ask for their consent to contact another organisation on their behalf and/or to pass another organisation their contact details. You can also consult some organisations, without disclosing information that may identify the person you're assisting, to get advice.


Please be aware of Central and West London Talking Therapies (Westminster) service - To arrange a call or to find out more, please contact by phone on 030 3333 0000, email westminster.iapt@nhs.net or fill in a self-referral form at http://cnwl-iapt.uk/




Dogwalking

DO NOT ACCEPT A DOGWALKING TASK IF YOU SHOW ANY SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19.

  1. It is recommended that dog walkers use their own lead, or ask the owner to make sure leads are safely wiped with disinfectant before handing over.

  2. Where possible a distance of two meters must be maintained between the dog owner and the dog walker at all times during handover and return.

  3. The dog walker should provide own bags for picking up dog poo, to reduce the amount of items they come into contact with from inside the dog owners home.

For general advice for dog walkers, please visit: https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/news-events/blog/2019/10-tips-for-dog-walkers

For government advice for people with animals, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-people-with-animals

For advice from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, please visit: https://www.battersea.org.uk/pet-advice/how-care-your-pets-if-youre-ill-or-have-self-isolate-due-coronavirus

If the request is for something outside of these categories, let the requester know you might not be able to help, and message one of the administrators of your local WhatsApp group for advice. We can help you figure out if it is something we can help with, or whether we should refer the requester to other services or organisations for specialist support.