Advice And Guidance For Community Groups During Covid

Stay at home protect the NHS save lives

Updated 5 January 2021

Following the Government announcement on the evening 4 January, England has been placed in National lockdown: Stay at Home. See the National Lockdown Guidance here

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. 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. 

Under the new restrictions there is an exemption from gatherings limits: 

  • support groups of up to 15 participants – formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support, where it is necessary for these to take place in person. These cannot take place in private dwellings. Under-5s do not count towards the 15 person limit for support groups 

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 

The new restrictions set out details of venues which can remain open. In particular: 

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. 

  • 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 

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.  

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 

6. 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. 

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 

  • 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 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