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C19 Helpers – Frequently Asked Questions

On this page, we list the responses to questions we have been asked by Helpers. If you have a question for which the response could be useful for other Helpers, please let us know so that we can add it to this page.

How should payments be made for shopping?

This is matter for each person to choose for themselves.  Our Helpers are generally very flexible.  Some of the people being helped are quite ‘tech savvy’ and can order shopping online and pay for it online, then asking our Helpers to collect it for them and to leave it on their doorsteps.   Others pay by phone.  An example is the Avenue Store in Blackford Avenue, for which some people place an order by phone and give their card details to the shop assistant (whom they often know) and again, our Helper will simply collect the shopping for them.  Several of the larger supermarkets offer ‘click and collect’ services which the ‘tech savvy’ isolated people can use, simply then asking their Helper to collect the groceries for them.  Sainsbury’s offers a “Volunteer shopping card” which can be bought online by the isolated person and then used by the Helper.  Waitrose similarly sells “Volunteer’s Shopping Cards” online.

In other cases, the Helpers have arranged to go and get the shopping, pay for it, and then to telephone the person being helped just before they return with the shopping, to advise the cost.  Ideally we would want the isolated person to pay the Helper online but we acknowledge that it is a minority of the older isolated people who would be comfortable doing that.  So, in general, the isolated person then leaves an envelope with a cheque or cash in it in an agreed place near the doorstep, the Helper leaves the shopping there and takes the cheque or cash.  

We appreciate that, although many older residents prefer to use cash, this is not a long-term solution as they will run out of cash in a long shutdown.  We would not agree to our Helpers being given a bank card to collect cash from a cash machine for an isolated person.  We therefore encourage all other forms of payment first, with the ‘cash in an envelope’ as a last resort. 

Can I take my assigned person to the shops if they ask me?

Generally, no. The reason that you are helping someone is because they need to be isolated for their own protection. We appreciate that it is frustrating for many people who have been isolated for weeks now and would welcome a trip outside. However, the Scottish Government’s guidance is clear:


If the person you are helping has received a letter from the Scottish Government advising them that they are in the “Shielding” category, then they must not leave their home.  You should endeavour to be clear whether the person you are helping is in this category.   If they are, and they ask you to take them out, e.g. to the shops, you should politely refuse but make clear that you will help them to get whatever they need – shopping, prescriptions, newspapers etc.  

Higher risk group

If the person you are helping is in the ‘higher risk group‘, then the Scottish Government advises that the social distancing advice should be followed strictly. This group includes anyone who is:

  • instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds; 
  • aged 70 or older; or
  • pregnant 

This group should minimise all contact with people who do not live in the same household as them.  That means that you should be collecting their shopping for them and leaving it on their doorstep.  You should not enter their home and should keep at least 2m separation from them at all times.   You should not normally be outdoors with them and you most certainly should not be taking them anywhere in your car.  

Do I need PPE to be a Helper?

You do not require any medical grade PPE. However, it is sensible to take all reasonable precautions, such as wearing clean gloves when shopping. For example, Health Protection Scotland provides general guidance for non-healthcare settings, which includes advice on hand hygiene. Scottish Government guidance on the public use of face coverings states:

In enclosed spaces, where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of your household, you should wear a face covering.

People must by law wear a face covering in shops and on public transport and public transport premises such as railway and bus stations and airports. This applies to open-air railway platforms, but not to bus stops.

There is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors from wearing a face covering unless in a crowded situation.

Physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene are the most important and effective things we can all do to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.

What should I do if I get no response?

It is not unusual for an older or isolated person to decline to answer the telephone, or to neglect to check emails or mobile text messages for some time.  Unless you have specific reason for concern, a single missed contact is not in itself a cause for alarm.  However, if you have been unable to make any active contact with your assigned person for more than 24 hours, you should consider paying a visit to their home and knocking on the door.  If there is still no response after a total of 36 hours, and neighbours have been unable to provide any reassurance, you should contact your Area Co-ordinator for advice.   The Area Co-ordinator will liaise with other Committee members who may decide to alert the authorities or, in extreme cases, to call the Police to effect an entry.

I have still not been assigned to help anyone. Are there other opportunities to volunteer in the meantime?

Yes. There are many other groups in Edinburgh that are looking for volunteers. You can find details through the following links:

Volunteer Edinburgh (general)

Volunteer Edinburgh (specific Covid-19 volunteering)

City of Edinburgh Council volunteering

Citizens’ Advice volunteering

If you do take up another volunteering opportunity and it would preclude you from being available for the Grange Helpers’ scheme, please tell us promptly, so that we can flag your record as ‘Unavailable’.  Please do not wait for us to ask you to help someone before telling us you are unavailable.