I shared in a recent blog that this strange new season feels a bit like emerging from an apocalyptic event, seeing the chaos and wondering how to navigate a coherent path through the mess. Though that’s a bit of an exaggeration, it certainly feels like that when it comes to getting volunteers back into care homes.
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on many care homes, and as visiting restrictions are lifted and they seek to restore community links for residents, there is inevitably much caution. Guidelines for visiting have changed so much throughout the pandemic and have always needed to be applied flexibly to the local circumstances. The most recent government guidelines for visiting care homes are here, but inevitably they will be superseded by the next instalment.
An added complication for volunteering in care homes is the new legislation, due to become law in October, that care home staff will have to be double vaccinated. Included in this legislation is a statement that all volunteers will need to be vaccinated too.
This is what the Government have said:
The new legislation means from October – subject to Parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period – anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England for residents requiring nursing or personal care must have 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine unless they have a medical exemption.
It will apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider (on a full-time or part-time basis), those employed by an agency and deployed by the care home, and volunteers deployed in the care home.
Those coming into care homes to do other work, for example healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians, and CQC inspectors will also have to follow the new regulations, unless they have a medical exemption.
The Parliamentary approval mentioned has now been given, meaning that this change is definite.
Whatever our views on this, the implications are clear – all volunteers will have to be double vaccinated if they want to visit residents in care homes.
So, how do we navigate this chaotic landscape?
Here are a few thoughts:
1. Remind yourself of why we do this. We need to be re-envisioned with our purpose. Proverbs 14:31 tells us, “Whoever is kind to the needy honours God”, and Jesus said that whatever we do for someone overlooked and ignored, we do for him. Just pause and meditate on that for a few minutes.
2. Have a chat with your local care home manager. These changes might be huge for them too, especially if they have valuable staff who are not vaccinated. Ask how you can best support them at this time. Find out if there are residents who would benefit from having a volunteer companion, and what the local procedures are for visiting and testing.
3. Check with your pool of volunteers – how many of them are keen to start visiting again, and have they been double vaccinated?
4. Start slowly and build up – you may have to do a recruitment drive for new volunteers. We have resources to help you with this.
5. Let us know how we can help and support you. Our volunteer training is now online, so any new volunteers can access it at their leisure. We can also run a zoom volunteer training if this would be helpful.
As we reflect on all the changes and the chaos around us, I’m reminded again of a verse of a song: “He turns our chaos back into order”. We can lift our eyes and focus on Him, the God who guides our path, renews out strength and who is in the business of restoration and renewal. As we reach out to some of the oldest and loneliest people in our society we are touching the very heart of God.