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Impact of COVID -19 on the NSW Volunteering Sector

In April/May 2020, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) conducted an online survey of NSW Volunteer involving organisations (VIOS). The results are in and the Department would like to thank everyone that participated in the survey.

What you told us - Survey (PDF, 450.72 KB)

Supporting volunteers and the community during COVID-19

Volunteers may look to organisations to provide support and guidance during COVID-19. It is important that organisations respond by helping volunteers to stay connected, even if the organisation has changed its operations, or stopped operating.

You can help volunteers stay connected by:

  • encouraging volunteers within an organisation to support and check in with one another
  • providing advice to volunteers about how to move their volunteering efforts online
  • organising regular team chats or virtual meetings to help volunteers stay engaged and connected with the organisation.

Can people continue to volunteer during COVID-19?

On June 12, the NSW Minister for Health announced a further easing of restrictions on gatherings and movement. These changes outline how you can deliver essential services in ways that are safe for the community. Refer to the NSW Government website for more information.

As a result there are no restrictions on volunteering for a charity or community organisation. Even though the restriction has been lifted it is critical for organisations to continue to manage the risk of exposure to staff and volunteers during this time.

Where can I get more information on COVID-19?

NSW Government website is the most up to date source of information for COVID-19, including

  • what COVID-19 is
  • what the symptoms are
  • self-isolating
  • social distancing.

How can volunteer organisations minimise transmission of COVID-19?

Practicing these simple measures recommended by NSW Health can significantly reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19:

  • wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser that is at least 60% alcohol
  • cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and immediately dispose of the tissue
  • avoid touching your face and avoid direct contact with others (e.g. shaking hands or hugging)
  • routinely clean surfaces with detergent and disinfectant
  • increase the amount of fresh air by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning
  • promote the strictest hygiene among food preparation staff – see guidance on food preparation and COVID-19.
  • practice physical distancing and abide by NSW Health requirements
  • follow the four square metre rule (maximum 100 people in a predominantly inside space and maximum of 500 people in a predominantly outside space)
  • develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan
  • if you deliver your service in a community centre, ask the centre administration to share their COVID-19 Safety Plan with you.

Organisations and staff must observe physical distancing requirements and provide clear instructions about following good hygiene practices. Personal protective equipment is advisable where possible.

What should we do if a volunteer has symptoms of COVID-19?

In the first instance, call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. Explain the situation including if the volunteer has been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or travelled overseas recently.

If the volunteer is directed to go a medical centre, ensure they call ahead before going in. Make sure you know what advice must be followed in your area and have it ready for volunteers if needed.

Should volunteers who are at high risk of getting seriously ill stay home?

When deciding to volunteer or return to volunteering all individuals should consider their own health needs first. As a precautionary measure individuals may want to seek advice from a medical practitioner about whether it is safe for them to volunteer.

This is particularly important for individuals who are in the following categories:

  • people aged 70 years and over
  • people aged 65 years and over with chronic medical conditions
  • people with a compromised immune system
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions.

Should we change how we deliver our volunteering activities?

Yes, even though the restrictions have been lifted organisations should still look for ways to change how they support people during the pandemic. Organisations should:

  • practice physical distancing and abide by health requirements
  • follow the four square metre rule
  • develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan
  • if your service is delivered in a community centre, ask the centre administration to share their COVID-19 Safety Plan with you
  • if your service delivers activities in schools you will need to talk with the school Principal before you recommence delivery. For more information visit the NSW Department of Education website.
  • consider continuing programs online where this is possible.

It is important for people’s mental wellbeing that they remain socially connected during this time.

How can I recruit for more volunteers during COVID-19?

You can advertise remote or online volunteering opportunities on the NSW Volunteer Recruitment Portal.

How can I volunteer to help with COVID-19?

Thank you for your interest in volunteering during this time.

The following organisations have expressed the need for more volunteers at this time. Please contact these organisations directly through the links below.

Note: Organisations are receiving a high volume of enquiries, so they may be slower than usual in replying.

We will keep this list updated so check back regularly.

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Last updated: 01 Jul 2020