Advice And Guidance For Community Groups During Covid

Updated 30 November 2020

From Thursday 5 November national lockdown restrictions replaced the local restrictions in Greater Manchester. 

The guidance on this page is written to support local community and voluntary groups to make informed choices about their group, activity, or building under COVID-19 restrictions. This page includes key points for consideration for groups looking at how they can operate during the pandemic, and makes reference to restrictions and sector specific guidance throughout.

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

We have worked alongside local partners to identify best practice to safely operate. We will continue to update this page with other useful resources and information on a regular basis.

1. Running a support group

In the first instance check the new restrictions here on the government website and the guidance referenced below.

Taken from Section 3 of the guidance:

3. Where and when you can meet in larger groups

Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support - but they must take place at a premises other than a private home. This includes, but is not limited to, support to victims of crime, people in drug and alcohol recovery, new parents and guardians, people caring for those with long-term or terminal illnesses, or who are vulnerable, people facing issues relating to their sexuality or gender, those who have suffered bereavement, and vulnerable young people, including for them to meet youth workers.

The guidance above states 'Support groups that have to be delivered in person'. If you deliver a support group as described in the guidance, we would strongly recommend that you carefully consider the decision to continue to operate a support group, given the current infection rates in Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside.

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 development@actiontogether.org.uk for a call back.

2. Restrictions on venues

The government have updated their guidance for venues in England. 

Under Section 3 of these new restrictions, support groups are able to continue at certain venues including: Libraries, Community facilities, Places of worship. However as outlined above, we strongly recommend you carefully consider the decision to continue to run a support group, particularly if your members fall within the clinically extremely vulnerable category. If you need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team:  development@actiontogether.org.uk

3. Keeping you up to date

4. Guidance for 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.

  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

The current guidance states that:

Community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities as set out below Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services - for example for people who do not have it at home - and for click-and-collect
Places of worship, apart from for the purposes of independent prayer, and service broadcasting and funerals

These businesses and places will also be permitted to be open for a small number of exempt activities, including:

  • education and training (for schools to use sports, leisure and community facilities where that is part of their normal provision)
  • childcare purposes and supervised activities for children (in community centres and halls, and places of worship; and supervised activities for children in indoor sports and leisure facilities)
  • hosting blood donation sessions and food banks (in community centres and halls, places of worship, and libraries)
  • to provide medical treatment
  • for elite sports persons to train and compete (in indoor and outdoor sports facilities), and professional dancers and choreographers to work (in fitness and dance studios)
  • for training and rehearsal without an audience (in theatres and concert halls)
  • for the purposes of professional film and TV filming (in retail, entertainment and leisure venues, as well as visitor attractions)

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.

5. 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

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

6. Involving Staff and Volunteers Safely

Click here for guidance for the Christmas period.

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.

7. Test and Trace

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:

8. 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
  • We have also produced a checklist for smaller, grassroots, volunteer-led groups. We would encourage you to review and complete the document before contacting us. We can then provide the best support for you. Download Action Together's COVID-19 guidance for volunteer-led groups
  • Some continuity issues to think about may include:
    • 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?

9. Other Useful Resources

Supporting materials (including posters)

Support for community businesses and jobs

Contact us

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

If you would like support for your voluntary, community, faith, social enterprise (VCFSE) organisation, please contact us on 0161 339 2345 or email development@actiontogether.org.uk if you would like to discuss how we can support you during this confusing and difficult time.

Click here for dedicated coronavirus information and advice for residents, charities, and community and voluntary groups in Oldham, Rochdale, and Tameside.