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Guidelines for volunteer management during COVID-19 pandemic

Management of volunteers and precautionary measures for volunteer host organisations (VHOs)

  1. On 3 April 2020, MOH issued an advisory on “Circuit Breaker to Minimise Further Spread of COVID-19” which outlined an elevated set of safe distancing measures to reduce the risk of further local transmission of COVID-19. The measures aim to significantly reduce the movement and interaction of people in public and private places and to only leave home for essential purposes.

    Community involvement and volunteers

  2. The community and volunteers continue to play a key role in the fight against COVID-19. Their activities include promoting social responsibility, supporting essential services and caring for the vulnerable segments.
  3. This document elaborates on the management of volunteers and precautionary measures to guide volunteer host organisations (VHOs)1 in safeguarding the health and safety of your staff, volunteers and beneficiaries and preventing further spread of the virus:

    a. Volunteers can be enlisted to support essential services2, as long as they take the necessary precautionary measures under MOH advisories (e.g. safe distancing, temperature monitoring, maintaining personal hygiene, etc.). However, VHOs should deploy only the minimum number of volunteers to carry out the essential activities;

    b. Volunteers can be enlisted to provide essential aid3 to vulnerable persons and families. Activities shall be calibrated with a small number of volunteers for a limited period of time, with the necessary precautionary measures;

    c. For other non-essential services and aid, volunteers can be enlisted if they are able to operate remotely from home; and

    d. VHOs shall ensure that the safety and well-being of their volunteers are being looked after, as they have stepped up to contribute to the overall effort to fight COVID-19 and are not financially compensated for their efforts.

    Volunteers supporting essential services and aid

  4. VHOs that provide essential services and aid are required to submit their plans to the relevant authorities and only continue their activities after their plans are reviewed by the relevant authorities. For essential aid to vulnerable persons and families, VHOs shall refer to MSF’s advisory on Essential Aid Distribution (13 Apr 2020), and submit to National Council of Social Service (NCSS) the following information via this link www.go.gov.sg/distributioncontact at least 2 days before VHOs commence their activities.

    a. Name of VHO
    b. Person-in-charge and contact details 
    c. Region served (by planning area/ postal code/ blocks etc)
    d. Number of beneficiaries served
    e. Type of essential aid (e.g. cooked meals, personal care products, vouchers) 
    f. Modality and frequency of essential aid distribution
    g. Number of staff/ volunteers needed to distribute essential aid
  5. VHOs shall comply with the advisories issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on measures for workplace premises on the 3 April 2020 and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) for residential and community-based facilities, and other relevant advisories issued by other authorities. These include: 

    a. Activities that can take place through telecommuting must be done from home.

    b. Safe distancing and precautionary measures to be implemented to reduce physical interactions and safeguard safety of volunteers.

    Reducing the need for and duration of physical interactions; 
    Staggering working hours; 
    Postponing all group events; 
    Implementing shift work and/or spilt arrangements;   
    Ensuring clear physical spacing of at least 1m apart; 
    Implementing baseline sanitation and hygiene measures; and  
    Providing mask to those who are unable to avoid close contact with others.
  6. These advisories are regularly updated and VHOs can check for updates through the gov.sg and msf.gov.sg websites.
  7. VHOs shall ensure no social mixing among different groups of volunteers and schedule their volunteer activities, if possible, in fixed teams, to minimise interactions between volunteers and staff.
  8. VHOs shall not deploy seniors, children, persons with chronic or underlying conditions, and pregnant women for direct, physical, volunteer roles as these are  vulnerable groups in the current pandemic. However, these individuals can take on volunteer roles that allow them to operate from home.
  9. VHOs shall have a volunteer activity risk assessment matrix for essential services and aid, which can include the following considerations (See Table 1 for an illustration): 

    a. Nature of volunteer activity; 
    b. Location of volunteer activity; 
    c. Number of volunteers and service users involved (small or large groups); 
    d. Level of interaction with service users and among volunteers (e.g. physical distance, minimal or face-to-face sustained contact); and
    e. Type of service users (vulnerable4 or non-vulnerable groups). 

    Table 1: Volunteer Activity Risk Assessment Matrix 

    Criteria

    Risk Level

    Low

    Moderate

    High

    a. Nature of volunteer activity

    Backend (i.e. no direct interaction with community/beneficiaries or items for their consumption/use)

    Front – facing (i.e. direct interaction with community/beneficiaries or items for their consumption/use)

    b. Location of volunteer activity

    Open-air

    Well ventilated

    Enclosed

    c. Number of volunteers and service users involved

    Small-sized groups (i.e. 10 persons or less), or activities with at least 1 person in 16 sqm usable space

     

    Large-size groups

    (i.e. 10 persons or more), or activities with more than 1 person in 16 sqm usable space

    d. Level of interaction between volunteers and service users

    No contact

    Face-to-face contact up to 15 mins

    Face-to-face sustained contact, beyond 15 mins

    e. Type of service users

     

    Non-vulnerable groups

    Vulnerable groups

  10. VHOs shall adjust their volunteer management and deployment based on the assessed risk level, and take additional precautionary measures if volunteers are still necessary to provide the essential services and aid. See Annex A for a list of volunteering activities and proposed continuity plan, and Annex B for precautionary measures.
  11. VHOs shall ensure that the safety and well-being of their volunteers are being looked after.  The volunteers should also be informed about the risks, and the measures taken by the VHO to protect them. This can include a briefing on the volunteer activity and precautionary measures, and shall be conducted remotely online, where possible. VHOs are to provide a contact number for volunteers to call in case of emergency or if they feel distressed. VHOs shall also actively seek feedback from volunteers and help to address their concerns, if any.
  12. Even with stringent mitigation measures, there is a risk that COVID-19 transmission may happen. VHOs shall be prepared to help volunteers who have contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty. This can include helping them to apply for relief under The Courage Fund5, and to extend support for their families during this period of time. VHOs shall also provide emotional support to any volunteer that needs it, and can tap on the National Care hotline.
  13. VHOs shall also find ways to appreciate volunteers for their support, which can include sharing positive stories, providing words of encouragement, and tokens of appreciation.

    Engagement of supporters and volunteers

  14. VHOs are strongly encouraged to continue to communicate and engage their supporters and volunteers during this period if they are not deployed. This will allow the VHO to activate volunteer resources quickly when the situation improves. Activities by VHOs can include doing the following remotely: 

    a. Keep supporters informed of the current happenings and initiatives; 
    b. Share stories to motivate volunteers to step up; 
    c. Encourage creative and safe ways to volunteer, both remotely and on-site; 
    d. Build online communities and social networks; and
    e. Leverage online volunteer opportunities portals, communication tools and learning resources (See Annex C for a list of resources). 

    For Enquiries

  15. For clarifications or enquiries, VHOs can write in to SGCares@mccy.gov.sg.

  16. Download pdf copy - Guidelines for volunteer management.

Issued by:
MINISTRY OF CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND YOUTH
14 April 2020

1 VHOs include organisations that involve volunteers in their activities such as Social Service Agencies (SSAs), ground up groups, religious organisations and other community groups.
2 The definition of ‘essential services’ is as approved by the relevant authorities for the respective sectors. They include: MSF’s Essential Services for Vulnerable Groups, MTI’s list of Essential Services for Health and Social Services, MOH’s list of Essential Community Care Services. For full list of sector-specific advisories, please see here.
3 Supplies necessary for daily sustenance, e.g. cooked food and food rations, and urgent financial aid.
4 For example, frail elderly, who may be more severely impacted if affected by COVID-19.
5 The Courage Fund provides a relief of $3,000 to community volunteers (non-healthcare workers who stepped up to contribute to the overall effort to fight COVID-19 and are not financially compensated for their efforts) who have contracted COVID-19 while providing services.

 

Last updated on 15 April 2020