Local voluntary organisations across England have reacted strongly to the news that Boots is to recruit up to 1,000 volunteers to carry out COVID-19 swab tests, with a time commitment from each volunteer of around 32 hours each week.

Jane Ide, CEO of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), said:

“Volunteers make an incredible contribution to communities and we know there are thousands of people keen to help during the COVID-19 outbreak. We estimate over 250,000 people have registered as volunteers through our member organisations across England since the start of the outbreak.

“NAVCA members have many years of experience in volunteer management and in matching volunteers to the needs within their local communities.  And crucially, they have the reach and connection into the most marginalised parts of those communities, to the people that perhaps are most vulnerable both to the virus and to the social and economic effects of the crisis.

“It’s so important that when people come forward as volunteers they are given the appropriate support, training and encouragement, and feel their contribution is recognised for what it is – a gift. Volunteers donate their time and energy, free of charge, to help charities and community organisations.

“There are clearly some questions about whether delivering this particular programme through volunteer effort is appropriate, and it is disappointing to say the least that the wealth of expertise in volunteer management readily available through local infrastructure organisations is not being used in this context.

“Local volunteer organisations have been the absolute frontline of support for people in need throughout this crisis.  We know our members continue to stand ready to work with colleagues in public health as the programme of testing and tracing develops.”