COVID-19 (coronavirus) mutual aid groups are self-organised groups of people setting up individually to support and help people in their communities. Members of the groups are volunteers.
You do not need to register with Action Together to set up or volunteer for a mutual aid group. We are currently collecting information for people who are interested in formal volunteering roles in relation to coronavirus in Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside. You can register for this at https://www.actiontogether.org.uk/volunteering
There is no uniform way to develop a group and each group is advised to work in a way which best benefits their community.
You can volunteer to take part in a group whether you are self-isolating or not. Volunteers who are able might perform tasks that isolated people can’t do. People who are self-isolated can help co-ordinate a group from home. Many groups are organised online, for example through Facebook or WhatsApp.
Please DO NOT volunteer to come into contact with others if you are currently in at at-risk group, at high risk of infection or experiencing symptoms yourself. Follow government and NHS guidance on who should self-isolate.
UK Government response to coronavirus: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-gov...
NHS information: coronavirus https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Groups organise their own activities in response to local community needs. Some tasks might include:
- Leafletting and flyering to reach people who are isolated and to raise awareness of the group
- Providing contact information for people to contact for support. A phone number is more useful for people who do not have internet access
- Registering others to volunteer
- Running errands, shopping or other activities self-isolated people cannot perform
- Providing emotional support and contact for people who are self-isolating or struggling with the effects of the pandemic
Mutual aid groups are springing up all over the UK. Covid Mutual Aid have an up to date map and list of local groups on their website: https://covidmutualaid.org/local-groups You can also register your own group on the site.
You can set up a mutual aid group if there isn’t one in your area. The size of the area is up to your group. A local group to cover your street or neighbourhood could be more effective than a larger group. It is also easier to manage data and information at a more local level.
Many mutual aid groups are setting up Facebook or WhatsApp groups for volunteers to join.
More information and support for group admins is on the Covid Mutual Aid site: https://covidmutualaid.org/resources/#setting-up
Action Together are registering volunteers using Google Forms. By sharing the link anyone can complete the form, and the data will be collected in a spreadsheet. Google have a guide on how to use Forms https://support.google.com/docs/answer/6281888?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDeskt...
If collecting information be aware of your role in managing personal data. Ensure that people who register know where their data will be stored and why, and that any data is password protected. People should be able to request their data is removed if needed. As few people as possible should have access to the data. More information on safeguarding and data protection is further down this document.
We recommend organising and communicating with your volunteers online, for example through Facebook or WhatsApp groups. You can then communicate and share information quickly and without meeting in person. We advise keeping discussion focused on the practicalities of your local response to coronavirus - information can be quickly lost in group chats.
Facebook have a guide on how to create a Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/help/167970719931213
WhatsApp have a guide on how to create a WhatsApp group: https://faq.whatsapp.com/en/android/26000123/?category=5245251
Be aware that not all volunteers will be able or willing to use these platforms. This may require alternate methods, such as a central email address or phone number. Setting up a specific email address for this purpose means multiple people can access it and you will not be sharing a personal email address.
People in self-isolation may not have access to the internet or be comfortable on social media. This is particularly true of at-risk groups.
Leafleting or flyering is one way to reach people in their homes. Ensure you have a method for people to contact you in this way. Any leaflets should be focused on the key information and be accessible to people with visual impairment. The Macular Society have guidance on preparing documents for people with visual impairments. https://www.macularsociety.org/preparing-documents-visually-impaired-peo...
Key information to include is:
- What your group is
- The area you cover
- How to contact you
- A positive message that you are here to help
Do not include any medical or care advice. People should be directed to government and NHS guidance for the latest information.
There are a number of print-at-home cards online that you can post to your neighbours to offer support. Find one version here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1L_8GoI1zQ572fBZtElFfQZI9vNEwK7Rf/view
If you are leafleting remember this can also pass on the virus. We advise:
- Do not leaflet in large groups
- Do not share one stack of leaflets, and separate leaflet stacks between different people
- Use hand sanitizer regularly if you are able to
- Wash your hands before and after leafletting
Remember that although you are delivering mutual aid in your community, we are all advised to practice social distancing and follow official guidance.
If you are assisting someone who is self-isolated, please follow the necessary social distancing precautions. Use your judgment while running errands or in interactions with self-isolated people.
Volunteers who are shopping for others are advised to phone the inhabitant rather than knocking on the door, and to leave shopping at a safe distance from the door.
The government have produced guidance on How To Help Safely: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-how-to-help-safel...
The Food Standards Agency have produced guidance and food safety information if you are preparing meals to share in your community: www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/food-safety-for-community-cooking-and-food-banks
An online training document is available on safeguarding for mutual aid groups: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rCRSecht8EBVJ407prSmIjNkNv6wv0k56TOt...
You may want to use our data protection statement as a basis for your own statement:
Stay up to date with and only share the latest government and NHS advice through your mutual aid group.
- UK Government response to coronavirus https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-gov...
- NHS information: coronavirus https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
- Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK https://covidmutualaid.org/
- How To Help Safely: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-how-to-help-safel...
- How to create a Google Form https://support.google.com/docs/answer/6281888?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDeskt...
- How to create a Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/help/167970719931213
- How to create a WhatsApp group https://faq.whatsapp.com/en/android/26000123/?category=5245251
- Preparing documents for people with visual impairment https://www.macularsociety.org/preparing-documents-visually-impaired-peo...
- Safeguarding and data protection for mutual aid groups https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rCRSecht8EBVJ407prSmIjNkNv6wv0k56TOt...
- #ViralKindness mutual aid flyer https://drive.google.com/file/d/1L_8GoI1zQ572fBZtElFfQZI9vNEwK7Rf/view