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Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde and Andy Frain

Policy and Public Affairs

Charities Aid Foundation

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How can you help in an age of coronavirus

17 April 2020

It’s easy to feel a little directionless in a time like this. Some of us may be feeling crowded with information overload on COVID-19, while also casting about for ways to help others as we sit at home with too much time on our hands. Here are some simple ways to get plugged into the inspiring community response to COVID-19: be it donating from your sofa, volunteering safely or simply reaching out to give support.

Can you go out and volunteer?

Online groups have mobilised across the UK to bring neighbours together and provide assistance to isolated people. Under the umbrella organisation Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group, local groups are self-organising to carry out leafleting, shopping and directing people to support services. Find your nearest group here. The app NextDoor can also help you support your neighbours and local businesses, launching a ‘help map’ you can use on your phone. The Government’s NHS Volunteer Responders scheme had a whopping 750,000 sign up in the first few days. They’ve had to pause the programme while they get up and running, but keep an eye on @GoodSamApp and @RoyalVolService for updates.

You can also check out your local council’s COVID-19 response – many are in need of volunteers. Volunteering Matters is the leading UK volunteering charity and can connect you with local causes as well. There are also separate platforms and charities that offer specific volunteering opportunities in the devolved nations, such as the Be Collective platform from Volunteer Now in Northern Ireland, Volunteer Scotland and Volunteering Wales.

Remember charities at this time

Many mutual aid groups are going ‘hyper-local’, which is great for being close to those who are most in need and helping to bring our neighbourhoods together in spirit. Grassroots approaches like this will benefit from being well-coordinated to make sure they aren’t duplicating efforts and that safety is always a consideration.

Many of these roles have been taken up by volunteers, who are vetting volunteers to make sure they have the necessary police (DBS) checks, finding available training and professional advice from others who are qualified in safeguarding the young and vulnerable and making sure people’s personal data is protected. Ward-level WhatsApp groups are also keeping in touch to gather so-called ‘road leads’ – finding similar problems in different parts of a wider area and working together to find the best answers to common challenges.

Existing charities can also form part of a ‘whole of society’ response. Charities have invaluable knowledge about delivering services, working with vulnerable people, sensitive data handling and safeguarding the vulnerable.

They can be a trusted source of advice when fake news can quickly spread on online channels and as older people are more likely to be self-isolating, charities who already provide crucial services may be losing a pool of their most valued volunteers. You can help fill this gap — be sure to check out your favourite charity to see if they need help.

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Resources for volunteering

Many charities can also provide useful information on what needs to be considered when engaging with volunteers and how volunteers should engage with the public.

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If you need support yourself

You can find your local mutual aid group here, and many can be found on Facebook. You can be part of these groups to both give and request assistance!

Members of your community, charities or your local council can direct you towards support for different issues, such as benefits, caring responsibilities, domestic violence, mental health or housing. Your local Citizens Advice bureau is also a key resource.

Cause-based charities can help in specific areas, such as Age UK supporting elderly people, and Mind, the mental health charity – which is running Elefriends, a supportive online community and safe space to listen, share and be heard at this uncertain time.

Are you in a position to donate?

The impact of COVID-19 on charities’ ability to raise funds has been severe, just when demand for many services has increased due to the virus. Many people are struggling, but those of us who are in the lucky position to be able to give can continue to do so and in smart ways.

CAF offers a range of products and services that can make your giving go further right now. CAF has also set up a Coronavirus Emergency Fund for charities that are impacted by the crisis and need emergency funding.

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