Advice And Guidance For Community Groups During COVID

Updated 13 April 2021

England is currently in Step 2 of the national roadmap out of lockdown, set out in the government's COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021. We are regularly reviewing our guidance in line with the roadmap, and will update this page with new advice when relevant.

The guidance on this page is written to support local community and voluntary groups to make informed decisions about their group, activity, or building under COVID-19 restrictions. We have worked alongside local partners to identify best practice to operate safely, and this page includes key points for you to consider. We make reference to restrictions and sector specific guidance throughout, and we will continue to update this page with other useful resources and information on a regular basis.

Book on to one of our regular Advice and guidance for community groups during Covid 19 - Q&A Sessions for our latest advice. These are online drop-in sessions where you will have the chance to ask questions and discuss COVID issues with other organisations 

Stay up to date and sign up to our fortnightly training ebulletin, with details of our training and training provided by other organisations.

If you are looking for funding support and advice, visit our Find Funding page.

1. Running a support group 

In the first instance check the current restrictions on the government website and the guidance below. 

Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where officially organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. Support groups must be organised by a business, charity or public body and must not take place in a private home or garden. All participants should maintain social distancing. Examples of support groups include those that provide support to:

  • victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
  • those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
  • those with, or caring for people with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable (including those with a mental health condition)
  • those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity (including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender)
  • those who have suffered bereavement
  • vulnerable young people (including to enable them to meet youth workers)
  • disabled people and their carers

The limit of 15 does not include children under 5 who are accompanying a parent or guardian. Gatherings above the limit can take place where reasonably necessary for work or volunteering. Where a group includes someone covered by an exception (for example, someone who is working or volunteering to facilitate the group), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit.

If you would like any support to think about whether your group and/or activity falls within this definition and your decision to continue operating please contact us on for a call back. 


2. Restrictions on venues 

From 12 April public buildings, such as community halls and centres, and libraries, can reopen. Non-essential retail, including charity shops, can also reopen.

The government have updated their guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities. This explains the current proposed timetable for the easing of restrictions, including any restrictions on places of worship and faith activities.

While some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed on 12 April, many restrictions remain in place. You should continue to work from home if you can, minimise the number of journeys you make where possible, and follow the rules in the Coronavirus Restrictions guidance. You should refer to the closures guidance for the latest rules for closing certain businesses and venues in England, this includes full details on exceptions to closure and other restrictions.

Oldham Council have produced guidance on re-opening safely including posters, signage and testing information.

Business Growth Hub have free to download signage for premises opening during the pandemic.


3. Guidance for running activities

Running activities in person

If you are permitted to open and plan on opening under the latest restrictions you may find the guidance below useful. 

  • Other sector specific guidance that we are often asked about includes: 

  1. Offices 
  2. Working in or delivering to other people’s homes 
  3. Working in or from vehicles 
  4. Performing arts 
  5. Grassroots sports and gym / leisure facilities 
  6. Shops 
  7. Out of school settings e.g. holiday and after school clubs 
  8. Early years 
  9. Outdoor activities 
  10. Places of worship 
  11. Close contact services 
  12. Reporting outbreaks of coronavirus 

Running activities online

Many VCSE sector organisations have adopted distance working and working-from-home arrangements, or moved their activities online. There are a number of digital tools to support organisations responding to Covid-19. A few that might be helpful for you include: 

  • Microsoft Teams is being widely used by public services. It includes video-conferencing facilities, the ability to share files, and instant messaging tools (like SMS messages, but on a computer). Microsoft are now making a free version of Teams available to anyone. This might help you to engage more effectively with public sector organisations in your area. Find out more on the Microsoft Teams site

  • Zoom is also being widely used for people to video-conference over the internet. Find out more about how to use Zoom here

  • Dropbox is a service for sharing files remotely. It is offering free Business accounts for three months to charities and non-profits working on Covid-19 response. Sign up here

  • Mailchimp is a system for sending out email newsletter (it simplifies distribution lists, scheduling of emails etc). It is making a similar offer of free access to its paid-for service (called ‘Standard’) to Governments and charities who need to communicate with people about the disease. Sign up here

We should all be wary of the increased risk from fraudulent emails at this time. Our Data Protection Officer has produced some simple tips to protect yourself and your organisation from e-mail scammers

NCVO have produced advice and guidance on using digital tools and ways of working to help your charity, organisation or community group.


4. Building / Organisation Risk Assessments 

Before reopening it is important to balance the risk, and to ask whether the risk of not opening outweighs the risk of opening. 

It is essential that you carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment before reopening your premises – a risk assessment should be carried out in line with HSE guidance.  

Please watch our latest session on why, how and when to undertake a risk assessment.

You will find some useful templates and examples below: 

The resources marked * were created by 4CT and MACC for North Manchester Together and are shared with their kind permission 


5. Involving Staff and Volunteers Safely 

The government have produced guidance on Enabling safe and effective volunteering during coronavirus (COVID-19). This guidance aims to help organisations and groups understand how to safely and effectively involve volunteers during the pandemic. 

This guidance complements other GOV.UK guidance on volunteering and helping others safely during the pandemic, which are aimed at potential and existing volunteers. 

Salford CVS has created a Risk Assessment Toolkit which we have shared with their kind permission. 


6. Test and Trace 

Test and Trace is a key part of the response to COVID-19. Below are links to local council information on how to access a free test.

Do not attend a testing centre if you are showing symptoms. If you have symptoms, please book a PCR test at or call 119

Test and Trace Information for VCFSE Organisations

Test and trace means testing people for coronavirus and then tracing the people an infected person has come into contact with. The key role for organisations is to ensure that they follow government guidance including ensuring conducting risk assessments and acting on them to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Below is the Government Guidance about maintaining records to support with this, and resources to enable you to create a QR Code Poster: 


7. Governance and Decision Making 

Coronavirus has impacted every organisation in different ways. It is crucial to ensure that any decisions that are taken by your Board are made in line with the procedures laid out in your governing document. 

Business Continuity Planning 

  • You should think about business continuity planning (planning to keep your group and your key activities going). NVCO have produced a document on Organisational Resilience which can help you think this through. Download NCVO's Organisational Resilience checklist 

  • The emergency contact details for your team and members 

  • Having processes in place to allow home working should the need arise. If your building is closed or your team have to isolate themselves how will you continue to operate? 

  • How you support members / beneficiaries by phone rather than face to face 

  • What difficulties and issues will arise if your team are off sick, and how will you manage them? 

  • How you will manage expectations of members, beneficiaries, and stakeholders including commissioners? 


8. Other Useful Resources 

Supporting materials (including posters) 

Support for community businesses and jobs 


Contact us 

There is lots of very detailed and regularly changing guidance available. Different buildings and activities will need different considerations and adaptations to reopen and continue to operate safely. This information is a starting point only and will be regularly updated.

Please contact us on 0161 339 2345 or email if you would like support for your voluntary, community, faith or social enterprise organisation. We can discuss your situation and support you in doing what's right for your group.

Our COVID-19 page includes general information and advice for residents.