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Guidelines for volunteer management during COVID-19 pandemic

Note: This advisory supersedes the earlier guidelines for volunteer management during COVID-19 pandemic, dated 14 April 2020

  1. On 19 May 2020, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced a phased approach to resume activities safely from 2 Jun 2020. This advisory provides guidance to individuals and organisations on the phased approach for the resumption of volunteering activities.

    Phase One: Safe Re-opening

  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. During the Circuit Breaker from 7 Apr to 1 Jun 2020, volunteers can be enlisted to support (a) essential services and provide (b) essential aid distribution (i.e. supplies necessary for daily sustenance e.g. cooked food and food rations, and urgent financial aid). Volunteer host organisations (VHOs)1 are required to submit their plans to the relevant authorities and only continue their activities after their plans are reviewed by the relevant authorities. Activities are calibrated with a small number of volunteers for a limited period of time, with the necessary precautionary measures.
  4. From 2 Jun 2020, this practice will continue. All VHOs providing essential aid to vulnerable persons and families, shall refer to MSF’s updated Advisory on Essential Aid Distribution Against COVID-19 (26 May 2020), and seek approval from National Council of Social Service (NCSS) with the following information via this link at least 3 working days before VHOs commence activities:

    a. Name of VHO

    b. Person-in-charge and contact details

    c. List of staff, volunteers and beneficiaries

    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. NCSS may propose changes to the plans, limit the number and movement of staff/volunteers in the community, while ensuring that those in need continue to have access to essential aid.

    Resumption of more services
  6. As we resume more services, e.g. in the social support sector (https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg), VHOs that are allowed to operate can enlist volunteers in small groups to conduct activities, subject to the guidelines for the specific sector. For example, volunteers can conduct home visits, but only for critical cases and high needs beneficiaries. Outreach and engagement should be done remotely, where possible. VHOs are encouraged to tap on virtual volunteering roles to continue providing services. Please refer to MSF and MOH advisories on gradual resumption of social support and eldercare services.
  7. For other services that have not been given the approval to resume, VHOs will need to apply for an exemption from MTI (https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg) and seek approval from relevant authorities before resuming volunteering activities.
  8. See Table 1 for a summary of the process to conduct volunteering activities

    Table 1: Summary of the process to conduct volunteering activities
    VHOs with permitted
    services, and are allowed
    to operate under Phase
    One
    All other VHOs, community
    groups
    a. Volunteering activities
    supporting essential aid
    distribution
    Seek approval from NCSS via this link
    www.go.gov.sg/distributioncontact
    b. Other volunteering
    activities, e.g.
    befriending, home visits,
    medical escorts
    Refer to guidelines by
    relevant authorities (MSF
    and MOH advisories under
    footnote 2)
    VHOs: Seek approval via
    https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg
    to operate. Community Groups
    may consider volunteering
    remotely/virtually or partnering
    VHOs that are permitted to
    operate

    Assess risk and apply safe management measures
  9. VHOs must have a volunteer activity risk assessment matrix to assess the format and deployment of volunteers (See Annex A for an illustration).
  10. Where possible, VHOs are strongly encouraged to carry out their volunteering activities remotely or in virtual format, e.g. via telephone and video-conference. VHOs should also collaborate and coordinate with partners to minimise duplicative efforts, and reduce the movement of staff and volunteers and physical interactions.
  11. Should face-to-face interactions be necessary for volunteering activities, VHOs must ensure compliance with safe management measures, and have minimal staff and volunteer strength onsite to minimise the risk of transmission. These measures include:

    a. Limit the number and physical movement of staff and volunteers involved. Implement staggered working and break hours to reduce possible congregation at common spaces. Keep a register and track movement using a movement log, in order to facilitate contact tracing, if necessary.

    b. Ensure no cross deployment or social mixing among different groups of volunteers and schedule their volunteer activities, if possible, in fixed teams, to minimise interactions between volunteers and staff.

    c. Reduce frequency and duration of physical interactions with beneficiaries, e.g. consolidate essential aid to be delivered to reduce the number of physical trips and avoid physical interactions by leaving supplies at the door.

    d. Observe strict safe management measures, including for backend activities such as food preparation and packing of supplies, and ensure staff and volunteers wear a mask. Ensure clear physical spacing of at last 1 metre between persons at all times. Staff and volunteers should not participate if unwell.

    e. Enable contact tracing to be carried out quickly and effectively by using the SafeEntry system to log the check-in and check-out of staff and volunteers from premises. This is a free-for-use service. Visit https://www.safeentry.gov.sg to sign up for SafeEntry NRIC or SafeEntry QR and to refer to the user guidelines and FAQs. Upon registration, an onboarding guide with links to all the key resources, digital posters, step-by-step user guides and demo videos will be provided.

    f. Require staff and volunteers to download and activate the TraceTogether app. This will help MOH to more quickly identify potential close contacts of COVID-19 patients and reduce disease transmission. Data recorded by TraceTogether is stored on the user’s phone, and is only uploaded when required by MOH, e.g. when the user is suspected to have COVID-19. More information on TraceTogether can be found at www.tracetogether.gov.sg.

    g. Encourage staff and volunteers to observe good personal hygiene, e.g. wash their hands regularly and refrain from touching their face.

    h. Do not involve seniors, children, persons with chronic or underlying conditions, and pregnant women as volunteers. However, these individuals can take on virtual volunteer roles that allow them to operate from home.

    i. Deliver essential aid to seniors to their doorstep as far as possible, so that they do not have to venture out to do collection.

    Ensure safety and well-being of volunteers
  12. VHOs shall continue to ensure the safety and well-being of their volunteers. The volunteers should 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.
  13. Even with safe management measures and gradual resumption of activities, 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 Fund3, 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.
  14. VHOs shall also find ways to appreciate volunteers for their support, which can include sharing positive stories through the SG Cares App, providing words of encouragement, and tokens of appreciation.

    Sustain engagement of supporters and volunteers
  15. VHOs are strongly encouraged to continue to communicate and engage their supporters and volunteers during this period even if they are not deployed . This will allow the VHO to activate volunteer resources quickly in subsequent phases 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 B for a list of resources)

    Phase Two (Safe Transition) and Phase Three (Safe Nation)

  16. These measures will be revised in tandem with future adjustments in MOH’s guidelines. Depending on the risk assessment and our safe management practices, we expect to progressively allow more volunteering activities as we move into Phase Two and Three after circuit breaker. However, we need to remain cautious and stay safe as long as the risk of COVID transmission remains.
  17. MCCY will issue further advisories to guide VHOs on the management and deployment of volunteers in the subsequent phases.

    Working Together to Emerge Stronger

  18. The community and volunteers play a key role in shaping a caring and united Singapore. With everyone playing their part and supporting each other, we can overcome this challenge and emerge stronger.

    For Enquiries

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

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 MOH’s Post-Circuit Breaker Measures for Seniors (22 May 2020) and MSF’s Advisory on Residential and Community Facilities (26 May 2020)

3 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 04 June 2020