Coronavirus information for volunteers
All our volunteer managers are being briefed on specific matters related to coronavirus (Covid-19) and are being updated regularly as the situation evolves. If we cannot resolve your enquiry immediately we will take your details, investigate and will respond to you within 24 hours.
Thank you for following this guidance.
How we’re responding to COVID-19 (coronavirus)
We find ourselves in an unprecedented situation that is impacting on the way our wonderful Guide Dogs family - staff, volunteers and service users - work, give, and receive support from one another. This is a challenging time for us all, so we are adapting to overcome the immediate and prolonged impact of Covid-19 (coronavirus) — not only in our personal lives but also the lives of others who need our help.
After carefully considering government advice, World Health Organisation and NHS and NHS Inform for Scotland, we’ve taken a sensible and practical approach to ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers, service users and dogs. Our response is a 10 point action plan, which provides us with guiding principles to inform our decision-making and help steer us through unchartered territory.
So far, we’ve made a number of changes to key volunteering roles. These changes are now with immediate effect. We’ve also published some useful FAQs for volunteers and local community team news, which will be updated on an ongoing basis.
We’re closely monitoring the developments of coronavirus and will continue to share updates with you on our website, social media channels, by email and phone (if appropriate).
During this time of uncertainty, we’ll also do our best to get in touch with you on an individual basis, because it’s important to us that you’re ok, and that you know what’s happening with your volunteering, including any elements which could be done online, by telephone or another way. If you haven’t heard from us for a while, please get in touch. We’re always happy to hear from you. As always, our local community teams and Volunteering Office will be contactable on 0345 143 0191 or email.
Thank you for your continued dedication and for being part of our story – together, we are Guide Dogs.
Our 10 point action plan
We’ve set out a 10 point action plan to help us respond to the fast moving nature of coronavirus. These guiding principles will inform how some of our services and volunteering roles will need to adapt/change/flexible/alt methods during this unprecedented period/these challenging times.
- We will support the well-being of our staff, volunteers and service users, as well as the welfare of our dogs, through all available channels
- Our services are to be replaced where possible with telephone or online interactions
- We will replace My Guide volunteer service with phone or online contact that is appropriate to each service user, and will be delivered by volunteers and staff
- We will make appropriate contact with our services users to support their well-being
- We will provide telephone support for volunteer Boarders and Puppy Walkers, to maintain dog training and welfare.
- Where possible technical staff will take dogs home to continue in-home training and support their welfare.
- A revised breeding plan for the next six months will be developed shortly
- All our regional centres and local community teams are physically shut. All our phone lines are open as usual (9am to 5pm) and you can call you local team on the usual number. Our National Breeding centre is open on restricted access only for supporting our dogs. Our central office also remains open on restricted access only for essential staff roles.
- Staff should work from home where possible, for the time being and should be reachable through their usual contact details
- We will cease or postpone face-to-face services, events, or fundraising, except in exceptional circumstances
Immediate changes to volunteering roles
Firstly we would like to thank all of our volunteers for providing such amazing support during this challenging time. We will get through this together.
How we’re keeping volunteers informed
What have we said to volunteers/how have we communicated to volunteers so far?We’ve provided general coronavirus information for volunteers and signposting information. As a result of government advice, we also informed them about our decision to postpone the remainder of our stakeholder events. We have posted detailed information specific to volunteer roles. This information will be published on a regular basis on our website and will write to volunteers in occasional coronavirus (COVID-19) related emails/mailings as well as keeping in contact on the phone.
If you don’t currently receive any national communications such as the ‘The Guide’, our new volunteer e-newsletter, you will need to contact the Volunteering Office to update your email/contact preferences immediately.
We’re also sending out letters to volunteers who don’t use or have email. However, this takes longer to coordinate and we’re mindful the information may go out of date before it arrives. We’ll use letters to provide general information with details of who to contact locally for up to the minute news.
What if other volunteers ask me about coronavirus or Guide Dogs’ response?Please refer them to the Guide Dogs website, a member of staff or to the government website for accurate and timely information.
Personal contact and self-isolation
Should I still visit my local community team, regional centre or National Breeding Centre?
Again, we need to follow government advice on social distancing and non-essential travel to help limit the spread of coronavirus. At this time all of our regional centres and the local community teams are closed and cannot be accessed. The National Breeding Centre is open only for the critical care of our dogs and is not open any unauthorised visitors. Only those with permission to attend this site should be travelling there and you will be advised by Guide Dogs if you are in one of those roles.
If you typically volunteer on reception or with one of our teams then for the time being we need to ask you not to come in following the government advice and this applies for all of our sites.
Will I be able to go round to visit another volunteer at their home?
Following government advice, you should not be visiting any other household apart from your own. Therefore, please do not visit any other volunteers at their home or invite them to yours.
I’m a volunteer, do I need to inform Guide Dogs if I’m self-isolating?If you decide to self-isolate (either because you have symptoms or someone in your household has) you should inform the Volunteering Office as soon as possible either by phone on 0345 143 0191 or email.
How do I stay in touch with my partnership/My Guide/service user without face-to-face contact?No face-to-face contact is to happen, however we are currently exploring alternative ways to continue contact as part of the My Guide Service. We recognise the importance and value placed on the contact between our volunteers and service users but in this time of self-isolation and latest government advice, it is not possible. We’re currently considering options which will protect the health and safety of our volunteers and service users whilst enabling some form of contact (non face-to-face). Further information will be available in due course.
Free running partnerships
What’s happening to free running partnerships?Following the latest information regarding the government guidance for people to stay home and not visit people outside of their household, Guide Dogs do not support our volunteers (i.e. dog exerciser volunteer, free running volunteer) free running any dog that does not live with them in their household. If you are an active free running volunteer or dog exerciser volunteer, or free run guide dogs as part of your My Guide role, for a guide dog owner who does not live in your household, you can no longer perform this volunteer role until further notice.
If you are a Boarder volunteer or a Puppy Walker volunteer can still free run the dog(s) that live with you as long as you have had the training from us to do so. Any free-running you undertake needs to be within the government guidelines for leaving the home once a day for exercise.
Guide dogs have published podcasts for those with dogs living in the household on how you can provide environmental enrichment and physical activity, including free running, for our dogs in these restrictive times.
If you are Boarder volunteer or Puppy Walker volunteer or guide dog owner who has been given advice from the government to ‘shield’ (i.e. not leave your home for a number of weeks, more than the 14 days isolation advice) please call your local team to discuss this situation with one of our specialist Canine staff, where we will agree a plan of action for your dog in these circumstances, which will be determined on a case by case basis.
Canine, including self-isolation whilst looking after a dog
What if I look after a dog and have to self-isolate?
If you are well enough to continue caring for a dog, we will continue to support you. We will keep in regular contact with you to check how you’re both doing and whether any other help is needed.
If you have been advised by the government that you need to “shield” please advise your volunteer manager ASAP so we can discuss any necessary arrangement for your dog.
Should I check in with my local vet about their contingency plans (i.e. telephone only appointments)?It’s worth checking in with your local veterinary practice to find out if or how their services are changing as a result of coronavirus.
What if I look after a dog and test positive for coronavirus?
The spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals/dogs play a role in the spread of this or that they can themselves become infected or unwell with this strain of coronavirus, despite some articles circulating on media and social media. We have taken guidance from our chief vet and have been advised that whilst it would be possible for a dog to harbour the virus on its coat, it would be very unlikely that this would pose a transmission risk. In any case, we would assess the individual circumstances with you and the relevant health agencies to determine next steps.
Are there any changes to how Boarders pick up and return dogs?Yes. With dogs in training, we will work with Boarders to plan the daily handover of the dogs carefully to minimise any face-to-face risks. The handover of dogs may vary between sites (community teams and regional centres). Our staff will be in touch to let you know.
Dog ExercisersGuide Dogs do not advise any dog exerciser volunteers to be collecting dogs outside their household for free running even when exchanges can be done contactless.
Are we cancelling all volunteer driving activities?
Yes. We recognise the importance and value placed on the contact between our volunteers and service users but in this time of self-isolation and latest government advice it is not possible. We’re currently considering options where we may require support from some volunteers in emergency situations, and where this is an identified need we will be in touch with those volunteer drivers to discuss this with them. We are also looking into options to enable some form of contact (non face-to-face) which we hope will be available in due course. Protecting the health and safety of our volunteers and service users is of the utmost importance.
What should I do if I know of another volunteer who needs their dog to be collected?If you’re concerned that a dog may need collecting from someone else, please contact your local Community team.
Fundraising and events
Are we going ahead with local volunteer award events in June?At present, please continue to nominate your fellow volunteers. We’re continuing to plan for these events as far as reasonably possible. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and provide updates in due course.
As a volunteer fundraiser or speaker — should I still attend collections, speaking events, talks?Following the latest government advice, our priority is to keep our volunteers safe. This means we’re cancelling all fundraising events until the end of April. During this time, we’ll continue to closely monitor the situation. Any fundraising groups should follow government advice and cancel any events.
Are we still promoting events such as ‘Walk your socks off’ and ‘Tea party’?‘Walk your socks off’ is a virtual event which can be done independently. We’ll change our messaging to promote this. For our ‘Tea party’ event, we’ll not promote it as it requires social gathering.
I have an intergroup meeting planned, should this go ahead?Following government advice, the planned face-to-face meeting should be cancelled, It might be possible to move this meeting to skype or any other online application. This is something groups can explore.
I’m a volunteer Speaker Coordinator. Should I still be sending Speakers out to deliver talks?No. Following government advice, all speaking engagements are to be postponed.
I’m a Collection Box Coordinator. Is there specific advice for visiting stores and handling money?Following the latest government advice, you should not visit any stores to collect money. If you have already collected money, please ensure regular hand washing and do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth. is the current guidelines to keep people safe.
We have a fundraising group meeting planned should we go ahead with this?Following government advice, any face-to-face meetings should be postponed or moved to Skype or telephone.
I have a speaking engagement booked, should I still attend?Following the latest advice,all speaking engagements should be postponed.
I’m not comfortable going to events or collections so have cancelled events, do I need to let Guide Dogs know?Our priority is to ensure the health and welfare of our volunteers. We’re asking fundraising groups to cancel all fundraising events at least until the end of April. You don’t need to inform us. We’ll closely monitor the situation and take the latest advice for events planned later in the year.
We have fundraising group members aged 70 and over who are being advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks. Should we continue with our events?The health and wellbeing of our volunteers is of paramount importance. We’re following government advice to keep people safe. If a fundraising group is made up of any members aged 70 or over, then government advice on self-isolation should be followed and events cancelled for 12 weeks.
I have cash at home from fundraising activities, should I be banking this now?No, please keep this in a safe place until government restrictions on non-essential travel is eased, our insurance covers volunteers to hold up to £2000 cash at home. Please let your Community Fundraising Relationship Manager know about any income that is being held.
I have a cheque made out to Guide Dogs at home from our Fundraising activities, should I bank or post this?No, please keep this in a safe place until government restrictions on non-essential travel is eased. Please let your Community Fundraising Relationship Manager know about any income that is due to be banked.
Can donors and supporters of our groups still make cheque and cash donations?At present we ask that any donations are made by BACS, we can still credit this to your group. Please contact your Community Fundraising Relationship Manager for more details.
We have a social media page for our fundraising group, can we add a ‘donate’ button?No, not at this time, if you do wish to do online fundraising you can set up a Just Giving page and we can link this to your fundraising group income, please let your Community Fundraising Relationship Manager know if you do set a page up so that we can link any income to your group.
Recruitment and training
Are we still recruiting volunteers?Yes, we are still keeping our online recruitment open at present. We will continue to monitor but we know that our numbers applying are slowing down and have done so over the past two weeks.
Is Guide Dogs still conducting face-to-face interviews for new volunteers?At present, no. We won’t be doing any face-to-face interviews until government advice changes. However, we can still pre-screen.
I’m a newly registered volunteer. When will I receive my training?For new volunteers who are yet to undertake their training, you’ll be placed on a waiting list until our full training service resumes.
I’m part of an Employer-Supported Volunteering programme at work. What’s happening?All of our Employer-Supported Volunteering is postponed with immediate effect. A representative from your company will notify you if they’ve organised a volunteering opportunity for you between now and the end of April, they will notify you.
Name a puppy visits
I have a Name A Puppy visit booked. Will it still go ahead?
Stakeholder engagement events
My local stakeholder event was cancelled because of coronavirus. Will it be rescheduled?Yes. We’ll inform you of our plans to reschedule the remaining events once it’s safe to hold them again.