Guidance for Vounteers

Coleridge Community Forum

This document is a briefing for volunteers in Coleridge ward. It is an adaptation of a similar briefing document developed in Cherry Hinton. The Neighbourhood Associations of Rustat, Lichfield and Birdwood Roads contributed as did Ann Hislop and Shula Ramon. 

Guidance for volunteers

Many thanks for helping out in Coleridge during the Coronavirus outbreak. Many people will need help who are not used to thinking about themselves as in need of help. Others will be very used to having help and/or are in real hardship. In Coleridge we have undertaken to do shopping for people who need it, to run local errands, and to be a listener for people who are isolated and lonely.

From a logistical point of view, your area co-ordinator will contact you with a prospective “job” to do for a resident, then if you take it on, you will be given the details and a Ticket No.

When you have finished a job, you are asked to promptly email with the subject ‘DONE’ and the ticket number. If you and the helpee have agreed ongoing assistance, please include a note to that effect.

This guidance is about keeping you safe and well while delivering essential shopping items/running errands

Hand hygiene

  • Wash hands with soap before going shopping. You may choose to wear protective gloves if you have them, but the most important thing is to wash your hands.
  • Wash hands before and after delivering.

Safe delivery

  • If you can, place food into a cardboard box rather than bag – this harbours the virus for a shorter time (see below).
  • Leave box or bag outside the door.
  • Let recipient know it is there.
  • Ring bell and step back a safe distance (at least 6 feet/2 metres) to have a quick exchange. Or ring them to let them know food has arrived.

Safe handling on receipt of goods

  • Advise recipient to wipe down each item with soapy/bleachy water solution with a cloth which is then disinfected in washing machine or bleach solution. 
  • Wash their hands thoroughly with soap afterwards.
  • The box or bag should remain outside or in an unused room until their ‘virus free’ date (see table below – information verified by a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2020).

Handling Money (don’t forget to wash your hands or wear gloves when handling cash)

Ways to Pay

  • The requester pays in advance over the telephone. For instance, the requester can buy a gift card by calling Co-op (0800 29 4592), this card can then be used by the Volunteer to pay for shopping and this will be recorded on the card, all receipts kept and given to the requester.
  • Bank transfer from requester to volunteer.
  • The Square app, which allows one to take payments using a smartphone ( Please do not take the requester’s card and do not accept their PIN number.
  • The requester pays CCA and CCA reimburse the volunteer. The volunteer should submit a copy of the receipt, the job number, and their bank details to Cllr Rosy Moore ( or Sue Dennis (, who arrange volunteer reimbursement. The requester reimburses CCA by paying the same amount via bank transfer (or cheque) to Romsey Mill Trust Ltd (sort code: 40-52-40, account number: 00030789), with both “Coleridge” and the job number as a reference.
  • As a last resort, cash or cheque. Please be mindful of the fact that this poses a potential risk of contamination, be gloved, and touch as little as possible.
  • If requester and volunteer have already set up a system that is safe and they are happy with then this is acceptable as well.


  • When shopping, always make sure to get receipts to give to the requester.
  • If someone has no means to pay at all, either because they are suffering hardship or because they can’t use any of the above means, please contact the person who gave you the job – usually your area co-ordinator – or CCA generally (see below). You must not go to the bank with someone’s card to obtain cash.

If you have any concerns about payment issues or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact either the person who gave you the job, or CCA directly, by emailing or calling (01223) 641 021.


We must safeguard helpers and those being helped in these difficult times. Please read the following and adhere to these guidelines: 

  • If you feel unsafe at all, withdraw. Your safety is a priority.
  • If you think someone is in immediate danger ring 999.
  • If you think someone needs more help than you can give as a volunteer, ring your volunteer co-ordinator to discuss. They will ring adult social care on 0345 0455202 or email
  • If you are worried about what you have seen or heard and need to offload, contact your volunteer coordinator or Ann Hislop (Radegund area): or M: 07773 119050. Please leave your name and a contact phone number and/or e-mail. Ann will check e-mails and ansaphone messages daily and get back to you asap.
  • An alternative contact in case you need a sounding board is Shula Ramon (Radegund area). Please leave messages at or phone her on 01223 563971.


If you are offering to help people by listening to their concerns, please see attached sheet (Appendix 1) on Supportive Conversations.

Mental Health Concerns

It is likely that you will have concerns about people’s mental health and wellbeing over the course of this crisis. Everyone is going to struggle to stay well and positive, especially those asked to isolate for months on end.

Volunteers are organised into three teams based on the neighbourhood associations. These cover the West area (Rustat), the central area (Radegund) and the East area (Birdwood). We aim to talk through the responsibilities  of the team via telephone, Zoom, as works best for people, and we will review the role of volunteer/helper and this guidance together. We will allocate requests to be nearby so far as we can. For some people, it works to exchange news and share any concerns via a WhatsApp group. We will get to know each other over the coming months, but it is likely that some of us will be sick or self-isolating at times and will need help rather than being helpers, so we will have to be flexible. The aim is to be supportive of each other in testing times.

However, it is possible that group support will not be enough. In these cases, Ann Hislop and Shula Ramon will be available as mental health specialists for you to offload.  If you want to have a conversation with Ann, please contact her: or M:07773119050.  Please leave your name and a contact phone number and/or e-mail. Ann will check e-mails and ansphone messages daily and get back to you asap. Alternatively, Shula Ramon is available via or phone: 01223 563971.

We anticipate that some volunteers will have a few designated households to look after. Please try to check in with your assigned household(s) every other day, or as you have agreed with them, even if just a phone call to say hello. The ambulance service is aware of what we are doing and says that checking in with people regularly will help catch problems before they escalate to needing emergency assistance.

Useful phone numbers:

Area volunteer coordinators:

Volunteer manager: Matt Bird:

Further help for mental health concerns – see also attached sheet (Appendix 2 Helping in a Crisis)

Urgent mental health advice is available by calling 111 and selecting option 2:

Staying positive and managing your feelings and simple tips for helping those who are in isolation or are feeling stressed and worried:

Connection for a Happy Mind, a virtual pen-pal platform:

Covid-19 and Creative Isolation – free resources:

And via Cambridge Community Services:

Volunteer support: Ann Hislop or M:07773 119050

Practical help

Coleridge Community Forum:

Queen Ediths Community Forum:

Medical Concerns

  1. If you are concerned that somebody’s health may be in immediate danger, and the person is not able to access urgent help themselves, you can telephone for an ambulance. 
  2. Examples of concerns warranting immediate assessment could be severe breathing difficulties (unable to speak, rapid breathing rate), chest pain, or appearing to be very confused. 
  3. It is difficult to establish level of risk for somebody you have not met before – using the ambulance service is a safe and appropriate thing to do
  • If somebody you are visiting has a non-urgent medical problem, encourage them to contact their regular GP or NHS 111.  Reassure them that medical problems not related to COVID are still important, and they are not wasting anybody’s time by using NHS services as normal. You may want to check-in with the person again, to establish that the problem is being dealt with or has resolved.
  • Obtaining repeat prescriptions for long-term medications can cause a lot of anxiety – it is a good idea to ask people if they have 1 week of medication in stock.  Encourage people to speak to their GP and pharmacist to make a plan for medication supplies.  It is important to plan ahead to avoid urgent situations / panics arising. 
  • If somebody you are visiting has a non-urgent medical problem, and they cannot access advice from their doctor’s surgery or NHS 111, you can email the following individuals for some additional suggestions:

They cannot diagnose or see any patients, but may be able to give you informed advice if someone you are supporting is in distress.  Please do not expect an emergency response from them – if you are worried that someone is getting worse quickly, you must call their own doctor, 111 or 999 (if severe.)

  • Talk your concerns through with your area volunteer coordinator if you are at all worried.

Please ensure people are aware of the guidance on this site:

Please do not keep a record of the personal details of anyone you are helping after the end of the crisis. This team will disband when we get the ‘all clear’.

Appendix 1


Starting the Phone Call:

  • Check that the person who has picked up the phone is the person who requested a telephone call. “ Hello, am I speaking to ….? “.  If someone else has picked up the phone ask to speak ‘Jean Smith’  i.e. the name of the person who requested help.
  • Introduce yourself and explain that you are a volunteer from Coleridge Community Action and that you are ringing in response to their request for a chat.
  •  Check that they still want a chat, that this is a good time to chat and   that they are somewhere where they feel comfortable to chat. If not arrange a mutually convenient to chat and call them back later.
  • Tell them that the phone call will last 10-15 minutes and go through the confidentiality policy with them (cf: below).
  • Tell them that you are a volunteer and that you are interested in how they are getting on in the current crisis but you are not a mental health specialist or a social worker and cannot offer professional advice or support.
  • Perhaps start the conversation by saying something along the lines of “Most people seem to be finding the current situation quite challenging and I wonder how you are coping …

Qualities to bring to the conversation:

  • Respect:  using appropriate language and tone, refraining from interrupting
  • Non-judgement: Accepting who people are and what they say even if you disagree with them or think you would feel or behave very differently in the same situation
  • Empathy: trying to understand how the other person is thinking and feeling about the experience they are describing
  • Kindness:  expressing care and concern about the things the other person is finding hard ‘ That does sound like a difficult situation, I can see why you are anxious…upset … I am sorry to hear that’

Active Listening: working hard to understand what the speaker is saying and how they feel about what they are saying:

  •  Use verbal signals to communicate that you are listening to what they are saying; e.g. “um .. yes .. I see…”
  • Asking for clarification if you don’t understand e.g.Sorry I didn’t quite catch that … are you saying you’ve been feeling a bit lonely?”
  • Using open questions to encourage the speaker to say more:   e.g. What did you think/feel about that?
  • Reflecting back content and emotional tone of what the speaker has said  to give the them a sense of being heard and understood e.g. “So you’re saying your brother is self-isolating on his own and it sounds like you are feeling quite anxious about how he will cope … “
  • Refraining from talking about yourself and your experience of the pandemic at length

Ending the Conversation

  • 5 mins before the end of the conversation remind the speaker that they have 5 minutes left.
  • Remind the speaker that they can e-mail or ring Coleridge Community Forum for further support if they wish: tel: (01223) 641 021

See over….

Confidentiality Statement

Volunteers  need to know that a confidentiality statement has been ‘delivered’ to the ‘helpee’ by the area co-ordinator or Requests Monitor, and that the helpee has agreed to having the conversation on this basis… see below.  Thus, if any risk issues come up the Volunteer knows this has to be taken to Mental Health Team.  (If  someone asks you what you would do if they did talk about anything like this you say: “I would talk to the Coleridge Community Forum Mental Health Team and they will decide how to take things forward.”) 

“We would not repeat the details of our conversation to anyone. The only circumstances in which we would need to talk to someone else about this conversation is if you tell me someone is hurting you, you are hurting someone else or a young person is in danger of sexual, emotional or physical abuse. Are you happy to go forward with having a conversation with one of our volunteers on this basis?”

Appendix 2 –

(If the help is for a resident you have been dealing with, usually discuss with your area co-ordinator for them to progress)


For mental health matters, please contact the NHS Psychological Wellbeing Service on 01223 884422 or

If you feel you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need access to immediate help, please call the NHS First Response Service on 111 and select option 2.

If you feel actively suicidal help is available from:

1. SAMARITANS – 116123 (24/7 tel helpline) 01223 364455 ( local Cambridge office) email

2. LIFELINE 0808 8082121 (tel helpline open 7pm-11pm 365 days a year)

3. SANEline 0300 304 7000 (Open 4.30pm – 10.30pm daily)

4. Hopeline UK: Tel: 08000684141  (open 10am-10pm weekdays, 2pm-10pm weekends and Bank Holiday.

5. FOR YOUNG MEN: CALM: (Campaign Against Living Miserably: helpline: 0800585858)

6. YOUR GP DURING NORMAL SURGERY HOURS – ring and ask for an emergency appointment

7. URGENT CARE CAMBRIDGE   111   option 2 – during hours when GP surgery closed


For issues around abusive behaviour or sexual abuse:

For women experiencing domestic abuse: Cambridge Women’s Aid at  tel: 01223 361214

The Change Project: tel: 01245258680,

For issues around child protection: Cambridgeshire County Council Social Services: tel: 03450 455203 (office hours) or 01733 234724 (out of hours)

For issues around the safety of an elderly or vulnerable person: Cambridgeshire County Council Social Services tel:03455 0455202

For survivors of childhood sexual abuse: CHOICES at

For issues around rape:  tel: 01223 245888

For issues around drug and alcohol dependency:

For issues around bereavement: Cambridge Cruse at: