Age discrimination rules!

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Staff and volunteers with the mayor and town crier in September 2019

Recently there were rumours locally that people over the age of 70 years would no longer be able to volunteer as we return to something approaching normality. We were rather shocked and interested to follow this up, as it seemed clear that local voluntary groups would not manage without their older volunteers.

In pursuit of the truth, we checked various websites to see exactly what was happening. Could it be an insurance issue? A government guidance issue? Or have the great and the good decided that everyone over 70 is beyond the pale and should stay indoors forever?

The truth is that there is no ban on people over 70 years continuing or taking up volunteering opportunities. The government website Covid-19 guidance states quite clearly that:

You can volunteer outside your home if:

  • You’re well
  • Nobody in your household has coronavirus symptoms”

If you are over 70 OR clinically vulnerable you can volunteer outside your home if:

  • The volunteering organisation does a risk assessment
  • You can work in a separate area from other people

You can volunteer from home if:

  • You are over 70
  • Clinically vulnerable
  • Extremely clinically vulnerable
Its not so lonely with a volunteers on hand.

This seems to be the crux of all the guidance coming from the voluntary organisations, on their websites or through the contact pages. Age UK’s website has a comprehensive question and answer page, and sections on understanding and managing the risks of volunteering, which helps each individual make the decision for themselves as to whether volunteering if you are over 70 is a safe thing to do, and makes reference to the initial risk assessment that needs to be carried out by the organisation. It does not say anywhere that people over 70 cannot continue or look forward to volunteering.

The Trussell Trust, in response to an email for information on the new part of their website which has a video about food bank volunteering, refers again to the government guidelines, additionally making it clear that, whilst they are not encouraging over 70s to return just now, it is at the discretion of the individual food banks to make a decision based on the risk assessment undertaken. The entirely valid point is made that maintaining social distancing in a food bank is hard to achieve, and lists some of the roles people have undertaken from home.

This fits with the guidance on the Age UK website, mentioned above, too.

So, age discrimination is not as rife as thought, and looking for future chances to be useful again, or continuing to be useful, goes on. Just don’t ignore the risks, think carefully and stay safe seems to be the message. And why not?

Image Credits: Denise Ellis , Rye Mutual Aid .

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