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How to help safely

Last Updated 3:30pm, 1 April 2020


Information about coronavirus is available in different formats and languages, including easy read, BSL and for people who are not online.

Helping others

The one thing we can all do to help others is to follow the government advice on staying at home and away from others:

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home

However, there are also many opportunities to volunteer to help support neighbours, communities and the NHS.

The government has published guidance on how to help safely – please read this first.

Look out for your neighbours

The best and simplest thing everyone can do right now is look out for their vulnerable neighbours and offer essential help – but at the same time to do everything possible to obey the social distancing rules and limit the spread of the virus.

Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint – your help may be even more crucial in a few weeks’ time. For now, the best thing to do is to check in on neighbours.

Stay safe when supporting others

Please read the government guidance on how to help safely.

  • You should not go inside the homes of anyone you do not live with, especially vulnerable people or people who believe they may be infected and are isolating themselves. Breaking these rules could put you at risk of infection, or risk spreading it to others
  • If you are picking things up for others, try to limit the amount of time you spend outside of your home by picking up essential items for them when you do your own shopping or collect their medicines during the same trip
  • You should stay 2m or six feet away from anyone you do not live with at all times. Do not share a car journey with them
  • You should also regularly wash your hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds
  • If you have offered to help other people, please do not place yourself in positions where you may feel unsafe, for instance helping late at night. Let family and friends know what you’re doing
  • You must also always adhere to government advice on how to stay safe
  • If you or someone in your household has shown symptoms, or if you are more vulnerable to coronavirus yourself, then you must stay home. You still play an important role but will need to do this from home
  • Don’t take on too much. To minimise the time you spend outside and limit the spread of the virus, it might be better to help just one person
  • If you’re trying to help someone with very serious issues, don’t be afraid to flag with appropriate statutory services

Payment options for volunteer shoppers

If you can’t leave the house and are relying on someone else to get your shopping for you, its important to consider the safest way to pay and what options are available.

Click and collect services

Most major supermarkets offer a click and collect service, where you can order and pay for your groceries online. You can then share the order reference number with your friend, neighbour or community volunteer who can then go and collect the shopping on your behalf at the allotted time.

Some smaller local shops are also happy for you to ring them to place an order for someone else to collect on your behalf and either take a payment over the phone in advance or when its ready to be collected.

Supermarket e-cards

Some supermarkets have launched special e-cards for self-isolating customers who want to arrange payment for groceries delivered by volunteers, friends or family members.

They offer a safe, secure and contact-free way to allow others to shop for them, without having to hand over cash or share bank card details.

They can be bought easily online and then emailed to whoever is doing the shopping, or printed out and left in a safe place for them to pick up. They can be topped up online, and people will also be able to check their balance and keep track of their spending.

Please visit your preferred retailer’s website to find out more.

Paying online

If you’re online, and the person shopping for you is online too, then you could pay them for your shopping via bank transfer using your online banking service. You would need their bank details to set them up as a payee, then you can simply log on and transfer the right amount each time they do your shopping.

If you don’t want to swap bank details, you could use PayPal. It’s easy to set up an account and you just need to know the email address someone has signed up with in order to send them some money.

Paying by phone

If you don’t have internet access, you can set up telephone banking, which allows you to check your balance and pay people. You will need to speak to someone at the bank to set telephone banking up.

Once it’s set up, make sure you have the full name, sort code and account number of the person you need to pay.  Some banks have an automated service for making payments via telephone banking, others you’ll need to speak to them to give them the details each time you want to pay someone.

Other options

Some banks offer the option to get a special one time code that you can send to the person buying your shopping so they can get cash out of an ATM machine or the Post Office without needing a debit card. You set the amount you want them to be able to withdraw, up to the limit set by the bank.

Some banks also offer a special bank card, separate to your debit card, that you can add money to and give to the person doing your shopping so they can use it pay.

Cash or cheque

As a last resort, you could pay the person doing your shopping with cash or a cheque.

You would need to make sure the person doing your shopping is happy to receive cheques, as many banks are operating reduced opening hours and they may not want to visit their local branch or Post Office to cash it at the moment. However, some banks allow mobile banking customers to cash cheques by taking a photo of both sides. Other banks let you post cheques to them.

All physical forms of payment (cash, cheque, cards) carry more risk that the virtual options due social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Whichever method you pick, make sure you stay in control of how much money you’re giving over to someone else, and never hand over your debit or credit card and PIN.

NHS Volunteer Responders

The government is looking for up to 250,000 volunteers to help up to 1.5 million people who have been asked to shield themselves from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions.

You can sign up on the GoodSAM website to become am NHS Volunteer Responder, to be called on to do simple but vital tasks such as:

  • delivering medicines from pharmacies
  • driving patients to appointments
  • bringing them home from the hospital
  • or making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home
  • NHS Volunteer Responders is not intended to replace local groups helping their vulnerable neighbours but is an additional service provided by the NHS.

Find a local community support group to help

Many communities in Devon are putting together local initiatives to support those in need:

Further volunteering opportunities

Help feed the nation! The UK urgently needs 30,000 resident workers to pick our crops.

Growers of various crops in the UK have relied principally on seasonal workers migrating on a temporary basis from other countries. With international travel limited by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a need for people who are living in the UK to fill these jobs. These jobs have always been available to people living in the UK but due to low unemployment figures and the seasonality there has been a low volume of take up within the UK.