Frequently Asked Questions

Any requests for the guidance or resources mentioned below should be sent to


Q. Volunteers are trying to buy multiple items in supermarkets but are being refused, how can we help them overcome the restrictions?

We have produced a letter asking shops to disregard the restrictions when asked by a volunteer. This can be provided to known community groups by Some coordinators have been able to work directly with their local store manager to come to an agreement – for example in Orwell the parish council has supported its village store with a loan from its s137 fund to ensure it can obtain enough stock to support the local community.

Q. How can our volunteers accept payment for shopping etc. in a way that avoids handling cash?

You could re-purpose an existing community bank account and payment process. For example, the existing Cottenham Fun Run website has been modified to provide a pre-payment system for shopping. The Fen Edge Community Association (which runs the Fun Run) would be willing to work with other Fen Edge Community Association member parishes/community groups to allow them to use this platform too. They are also willing to offer guidance to other parishes/groups. Please enquire via your patch manager. 

Other villages have asked residents or family members to bank transfer the funds to an existing community bank account. The volunteer takes a photo of the receipt and sends it to the co-ordinator for their records giving the original to the recipient along with the bank details.

Where cash is the only viable option the recipient is asked to place the cash in an envelope and leave it out for the volunteer, if change is required that is also left in an envelope. The bags are left unopened for 72 hours.

Q. Where people are reporting that they are struggling to get priority access to food shopping, what can we advise?

We have provided a list of retailers and what they are each able to provide on our dedicated Food and emergency supplies for residents page. It is a good idea for people who are self-isolating to alert their retailer about this if possible. Please visit supermarkets' webpages for individual Covid-19 responses.

A variety of approaches have also been used by community groups to assist with shopping, including:

  • purchasing some necessities ahead of time to be able to fulfil shopping orders if the volunteer can’t get hold of something, or to save volunteers time in having to visit a number of shops on the hunt for particular items
  • working with a local shop to purchase in bulk key items e.g. pasta
  • freezing bread and milk – for instance in Fordham the group has made use of the local butcher’s freezer, the community café fridge and the garden centre café 
  • collecting food donations from their area to take to the nearest foodbank, or having volunteers pick up food parcels from foodbanks to give to families known to the foodbank in their villages, building relationships between the foodbank and the co-ordinators of the village response
  • setting up a short-term foodbank locally. It helps if someone in the village has experience of foodbanks but any community champion should have the skills to be able to understand who is in need. If a family needs help they can visit once a week / twice if a larger family and receive some of the basics. The Trussell Trust may be able to provide guidance on setting up short-term foodbanks
  • setting up a community pantry. These usually operate on a ‘Bring what you can, take what you need’ approach – more informal than a foodbank and easier to manage. Volunteers to check daily for sell by dates and that there is not too much of the same thing.

Q. Can groups access bulk food deliveries to distribute locally?

Community groups are encouraged to contact their local supermarket for case-by-case options, but we have so far been made aware that Waitrose, Aldi and Sainsbury's may be willing to support community groups in accessing bulk deliveries for local distribution. Please contact your local supermarket direct.

There are also a number of wholesalers and retailers that are selling direct to the public that might be able to help. Some examples of companies you could contact are: JJ Food Service, Bidfood, GroceriesRus, Star Bargains

There are also a number of local suppliers that may be able to help, some examples are as follows but the list is by no means exhaustive - and we are happy to add to this list if people make us aware: Histon ProduceKale and Damson, Fisher and Woods, St Ives Food Company, Sweet Talk

Working with pharmacies

Q. How can pharmacies and community response organisations work together?

Working with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Pharmaceutical Committee, we have been provided with some helpful guidance:

  • Anyone from a community group can pick up a prescription on behalf of someone else, as long as the person going to collect it has the name and address of the person the prescription is for, and knows whether the prescription is paid for or not. The pharmacist may ask the person picking up the prescription for ID, such as a driver’s licence
  • A small number of controlled medications will normally only be released to the person the prescription is for. This is still the formal guidance but pharmacies are striking a balance
  • One way to reduce waiting times will be for anyone who is collecting multiple prescriptions to leave a list ahead of the collection being made - saving time while multiple prescriptions are collated
  • There is no problem with an individual collecting multiple prescriptions, as long as the person picking them up has all the details needed. The advice is for community groups to try to agree a system with their local pharmacy
  • When a patient receives a notification (normally by text or email) to say a repeat prescription has been processed, this does not mean the prescription is ready for collection from the pharmacy. The notification means the GP has approved the repeat prescription and it has been sent to the pharmacy to process. It is best to wait at least 48 hours before collecting and if possible one week. In most cases people have a good supply of regular prescriptions and there isn’t the need to pick it up immediately.

Community groups are invited to share any further queries with us to discuss:

Q. Can residents pay for their prescriptions online to avoid residents and volunteers having to exchange money?

Prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs) are already well established and, in addition to enabling online payment, allow people to have as many NHS prescriptions as they need for a fixed price. The quickest way to buy a PPC is to buy it online. Volunteers may still need to provide evidence to the pharmacy that the person for whom they are collecting the prescription has made the prepayment. This is usually an email confirmation that the prepayment is in place.

Q. Can residents receive prescriptions from hospital without visiting the hospital in person?

Yes. Residents who are shielding should not be travelling to the hospital only to collect prescriptions.

At Addenbrooke’s, although the outpatient pharmacy is open as normal, prescriptions are being posted as much as possible to reduce footfall. If anyone has a specific question they should call the Patients' Medicines Helpline: 01223 217 502 or email 

At Royal Papworth, collection is the most reliable method, so asking a relative, friend, or community volunteer to collect is the preferred option. Once the individual has been informed that a prescription has been written for them they will need to contact the hospital by calling 01223 638700 to provide the following information:

  • Their name, date of birth and hospital/NHS number
  • The medication they are due to collect
  • The name of the person who will be collecting the medication and estimated collection time.
  • The address to which the medication will be delivered.

Relatives or friends should come to the pharmacy hatch with the patient's name and either their date of birth or hospital/NHS number. Community volunteers should come to the pharmacy hatch in the main reception area with the patient's name and address to which the medication will be delivered.

The pharmacy will only use postal/courier services when there is no other option, to avoid overloading services and the risk of delayed delivery. If anyone has any questions, contact the pharmacy: 01223 638700 or email 

Safeguarding and identifying volunteers

Q. We would like some information about safeguarding. Where can we get this?

Please visit the Cambridgeshire County Council's website for guidance on adult safeguarding. 

Q. How can our volunteers reassure residents that they are genuine?

We have an ID badge template and we are offering to create these for known volunteers. Please send a list of names of your volunteers, accompanied by suitable named photos of the volunteers, to with subject ‘ID BADGES’. We will then send you individual ID badges for your volunteers.

Please also see our safeguarding frequently asked questions

Q. What else should we know about safeguarding right now?

The current restrictions mean that right now, vulnerable children and adults may be particularly isolated. This means that the family, community and professional networks they usually rely on may be unavailable or hard to access. However, safeguarding is everyone’s business.

Guidance on recognising signs of abuse or neglect can be found on the Home Office Brandworkz portal. The portal contains print and online versions of the guidance for England, along with instructions on what to do if you think someone is in trouble.

Neighbours, volunteers and professionals – like pharmacists, shop and supermarket workers or anyone who might still be interacting with members of the public – can play a vital role in keeping adults and children safe, so please share these materials with your networks, and feel free to repurpose and adapt the text as needed.

Care homes

Q. What sources of help can care home providers draw upon? Should they be looking to local volunteers or the NHS Volunteer Responders?

Adult social care providers can make use of the NHS Emergency Responder (NHSER) volunteers. The NHS has confirmed that providers of residential homes, supported living and home care can use NHSER volunteers to support ‘shielded’ people with shopping, picking up medicines, transport to medical appointments and check-in calls to combat isolation and loneliness.

This initiative is being delivered by the Royal Voluntary Service and enabled by the GoodSam Responders app. Adult social care providers can make requests for help through the county council’s hub by emailing in the first instance, or direct to the RVS. NHS Volunteer Responders information for health professionals guidance provides further information.

The County Council is also training up relief care work volunteers. To access this support, care providers can enquire by emailing or using the online form.

Financial support for community groups

Q. Is there any financial support available to community groups responding to the Coronavirus crisis?

Yes. Find information on the dedicated section of the website.

Q. Our group doesn't have an appropriate bank account to accept grants - can you recommend any solutions?

Certain parish councils and community groups that do not have a bank account may be concerned that you are unable to accept a grant payment. If you do not have a business/group bank account, please consider using cash plus (we are aware of other parish councils and community groups which have done so). You can access the account at Post Offices. The account does need to be put in an individual's name, but it ensures the money doesn't have to go into a personal account.

Wellbeing support for residents

Q. What support is available for people at risk of domestic abuse?

Please visit our Wellbeing support for residents page.

Q. What support is available for people to look after their mental wellbeing? 

Please visit our Wellbeing support for residents page.

Q. Can you signpost us to some support for people who are bereaved?

Please visit our Wellbeing support for residents page.

Financial support for residents

Q. Can people stop paying Council Tax if they are struggling with their finances?

They could set up a payment-plan or may be eligible for support. Please visit our Finances support for residents page. 

Q. What other financial support is available?

There may be other support available to residents. The Government has announced options ranging from mortgage holidays to protection from eviction for renters. Some energy providers and water companies have announced different levels of support and we are adding information to our Finances page as we are made aware of it. 

Q. Is there any help for residents seeking food vouchers?

Please visit our Finances support for residents page for information about school meal vouchers and also Cambridge Local Assistance Scheme (CLAS), which can support residents in crisis by providing a CLAS award, which could be in the form of a supermarket voucher. 

Q. Where can we signpost people who are suffering financially and need help with big, unexpected expenditure, such as with replacing white goods?

There are limited options for help with replacement of white goods but please visit our Finances support for residents page for information about Cambridge Local Assistance Scheme (CLAS) and DWP’s budgeting loans for people receiving certain benefits.

Q. We are still encountering difficulties where people cannot obtain cash without leaving their home. How can we help with this?

Anyone who cannot leave home may be able to ask a trusted friend or volunteer to withdraw cash at any Post Office using a single-use voucher. The Post Office scheme is being extended and offered to all banks, building societies and credit unions. If the bank allows it, someone can ask for a one-time barcode sent via text, email or post for a stipulated amount. A trusted friend or volunteer can exchange the voucher for the cash requested.

Previously, only a named individual, such as a carer, could collect cash in this way on someone's behalf. Now any trusted neighbour or volunteer can do so. The idea of the Payout Now scheme is to allow people who are shielded or self-isolating to maintain access to cash without having to hand over a debit card and PIN to somebody else. They tell their bank exactly how much they want to withdraw from their account, up to a limit set by the bank, and allow a family member, trusted friend or volunteer to collect it on their behalf in exchange for the voucher.

Q. Can people provide a cheque which can be cashed at a post office on their behalf?

A service that allows vulnerable customers to contact their bank and arrange to cash a cheque at a Post Office branch is being sped up. Under the Fast PACE system, the customer should contact their bank and check they can use the service. They would then write a cheque to "The Post Office", print the name on the back of the cheque of the person collecting it for them and sign that side too. That individual can then collect the cash from a Post Office branch after their ID is verified. At its fastest, the whole process from the initial call to the cash being collected could take a day.

Q. How can people access their state pension when they would ordinarily collect it in person from a post office?

For applications for state pensions, the government guidance states that individuals are able to apply online or on the phone to change the way a pension is received. For example, from in person collection to payments into a bank account, the individual (or their assistant if the individual can give consent and be present) can contact the Pensions Service to report a change. Private pension schemes might have something similar, but individuals will need to check with their individual pension scheme.

For those communities with an Age UK Mobile Warden Scheme, Age UK can apply for a second card if the pension is paid into a post office account; this then means the warden would have their own card and pin for that account and it is all clearly documented. This can take 3 to 4 weeks to set up.

Q. How can help be given to those unable to access money from their bank accounts?

This will need to be sorted out on a case by case basis. Individuals will need to contact their banks to see if they can set up a route for them to access money remotely (like online banking). Various banks have been supporting customers to do this during social isolation. Many of the bigger branches are remaining open with reduced hours to support their customers.

Due to COVID-19 some shops are no longer accepting cash payments and this will impact on people who have no access to a credit/debit card. Likewise carers may need to shop for people who are unable to go with them and the carer will not be able to use the bank account card.

The County Council Finance Team have set up the facility to issue prepaid cards where required. The card is loaded with “emergency funds”, which the person is invoiced for in due course. Alternatively the person could be supported to set up a standing order payment from their own account to the prepaid card. If PCC/CCC is the Deputy/Appointee for the person, the Finance Team could
arrange to make payments to the prepaid card from the person’s account.

Where a card is required due to the change in the way the county council is working as a result of COVID-19 there will be an emergency stock of prepaid cards held at the following offices: 
· Amundsen House (01480 373529)
· CPDC (01223 703237)
· Cambourne (01954 284669)
· Hereward Hall (01223 699858)
· Princess of Wales (01353 613010)
· Hinchingbrooke (for TOC teams use only)
· Addenbrooke's (for TOC teams use only)

Contact the office on the number outlined above to arrange a time to collect the card. Contact Adult Finance Team to activate the card, allocate this to a named client and credit with funds. Complete the relevant paperwork when signing out the card, the instructions
for this will be held with the cards and you can discuss this with Adult Finance Team if needed. Ensure the person is provided with the relevant information (this will also be held with the cards).

Personal data

Q. How did a community group get my details and think I may need some help during the current Coronavirus emergency?

This is an unprecedented global crisis and the District Council has taken the decision to share data with local community groups who are playing a vital role in making sure vulnerable people have access to food, medication and other practical support. The Council would not normally share this information but has been told by the government and the Information Commissioner's Office that it is right to share data that could help minimise risk to life. The Council has been careful to only share information that serves that purpose and information is held with a local data controller in each community. Often this is a District or Parish Councillor. The data can only be used for the purpose of supporting people during the Covid-19 emergency and must be destroyed afterwards.

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